Jonathan Blow's Braid had a lot of things to say. I got it and played it about the same time as Portal a few years back. Needless to say, both were great experiences, and impactful in their different ways. Besides being a well-drawn and well-thought-out puzzler with well-chosen music and words, Braid asks a few interesting questions and speaks to some uncomfortable truths and ambiguities in being human. It doesn't offer many answers--spiritual or psychological--but even the asking is valuable and beautiful.
1. Did I Enjoy This?
Yes, in the general sense. As I mentioned, this game is a quality game. Braid is a platformer in three dimensions: vertical, horizontal, and temporal. The mechanics and the dynamics they create are by turns weird and wonderful and the puzzles are a little bit insanity inducing. There is no crossing the threshold of death, only rewinding when you reached it. I have to admit that I used a guide on two or three of the puzzles because I got too impatient. The music was sourced from folk artists on the Magnatune music store, and fits the game's atmosphere well. The music, in a nice touch, flows backwards when time does, and it's well-chosen for that as well. Whether I'd call Braid a fun game depends on how widely we cast the net on that term, but it's safe to say I enjoyed it in the general sense.
2. Was This a Valuable Experience?
Yes. As a gamer and game designer this is a great piece to play if you want to examine the mechanics as metaphor concept.
Notably, where most games begin with World 1, Braid begins with World 2. That 'first' world begins with a series of meditations about hurtful words and taking them back. In World 2, things are reversible. In World 3, you discover things like keys that travel back through time with you, and doors that stay unlocked even after you undo the opening. Almost every world brings a new piece to the system. The literary and mechanical meditations on time, space, possibility, permanence, sin and forgiveness ring true to life.
I mentioned questions earlier. Here are a few that Braid pokes at, some for the player and some for game designers:
- Is there value in moments when a player is, in a way, stripped of agency and forced to rewind? <
- How can game mechanics help players to reflect on their human experiences?
- How does forgiveness happen? If we could undo our bad actions, but keep the wisdom of experience, should we? Every time?
- What if my perceptions about reality were wrong? What if I am not the person I thought I was? How do I move on?
3. Would I Recommend This?
In case I hadn't made this obvious: Yes. If you enjoy beautiful games and enjoy or can tolerate puzzles, definitely yes. I don't necessarily have a mood recommendation for playing this game. I think you could enjoy it when happy or when sad. The game may be somewhat fairly said to be a bit pricey. I recommend going to a source such as Steam (DRM) or Gamers Gate (DRM-free) if you'd rather not get the $20 DRM-free version from the official site, as each of those sites will be around $10 pricing.
If anyone has comments or questions about what the heck I'm saying, I've got this nifty thing called a "comment box" set up on each page of this here blog, and will also be putting this on some of those "social media" sites, and I'd be happy to hear from you.
Where Does One Find This?