Swords and Software

A First Look at Braid

By Daniel D'Agostino, 2010-06-10

Recently, I attended a short course on game development. We were taught about indie games (among other things) and shown examples of those that stood out among the rest. One of these was a game called Braid.

The course eventually ended and we were all back to our everyday lives. But when Braid was once again brought up during one of my gamedev team's regular meetings, I knew I had to try it.

Braid looks like a simple side-scrolling platformer, such as Super Mario. It is actually meant to look and feel like Super Mario, and intentionally brings back some of the ideas we are all so used to - jumping on enemies, killer plants coming up from pipes, and the classic "I'm sorry, but the Princess is in another castle."

However, Braid is far more than your usual Mario clone. The point is not simply to reach the end of the level, but to collect pieces of a jigsaw puzzle by cleverly solving small puzzles in each level. If you don't manage to get a piece, you can simply move on and carry on with the game.

The key feature in Braid that distinguishes it from the rest is the manipulation of time. In a manner reminiscent of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, you can rewind time. But unlike in Sands of Time, you can rewind as much as you like. Indeed, rewinding is not just a comfortable way of undoing mistakes that lead to death - many puzzles require you to manipulate time in an uncanny way, and learn how to use objects which react differently to your manipulation of time.

All this is presented in a beautiful and colourful world, and although it takes a bit of time to get used to manipulating time, the controls are actually very simple, and keyboard hints are always available so as not to confuse the new player. The story, although somewhat simple, excites one's mind and provokes the question that makes a fictional game or movie so compelling: "What if...?"

Braid deserves great praise for being a somewhat original game. In a similar fashion to Portal, Jonathan Blow (the man behind Braid) has managed to create a game that is not just another platform game, but a totally new and breathtaking challenge even for the experienced gamer.