So I picked up Donkey Kong for the Gameboy recently, and I was going to blog about that…but then I realized no one here has blogged about Braid, and since that’s what inspired me to give DK a try in the first place, I figured I should write about that first.
Don’t worry; I’m not going to get into that whole “is Jonathan Blow full of himself” thing. The way I see it, he’s just the next in the long line of Dennis Dyacks/Peter Molyneuxs/David Jaffes — creative guys who probably talk too much — so it’s best to focus on the game and ignore the guy behind it. Nor am I going to talk about the game’s plot; it’s not for everyone, but even if you don’t like it, it’s nice to see someone trying something different from standard video game fare.
Really, I just wanted to recommend it to anyone who has ever enjoyed the puzzle platformer genre — that is, games that generally focus on environmental puzzles and can ultimately be summed up with the question, “How do I get from Point A to Point B?” Think Zelda‘s dungeons or Ico and you’re on the right track. (This could make for an interesting tangent pondering why “art games” like Braid and Ico all seem to be puzzle platformers, but I’ll spare you…for now.)
[[image: ar_081508_braid_01.jpg:Hey, this looks familiar:center:0]]
Braid may not have the depth or scale of a Zelda, but it’s one of the best pure puzzle platforming titles I’ve ever experienced, period. The game’s time manipulation mechanic gently encourages the player to experiment and play with possible solutions without worrying about death or consequences. Above all else, it invites you to take as much time as necessary to think things through and solve the puzzles yourself. The game is completely aware of its internal rules and logic and never alters them, but it constantly forces you to use them in new ways in order to collect everything. By the time you solve each area, you can (or should be able to) lay out logically why you took each step to solve each puzzle. There’s no blind luck, and no puzzle so convoluted that you can’t solve it if you don’t stare at it long enough.
Not to imply that the puzzles in Braid are easy; on the contrary, they’re usually pretty tricky. Perhaps the worst thing about Braid is that it’s so well designed you can’t blame anyone else but yourself when you get stuck. Stick with it and solve it on your own, though, and the resulting rush of endorphins is one of the best feelings a game can produce.
Of course, the weird Mario references and 2D sidescrolling definitely didn’t hurt my appreciation for it, either. I’m a sucker for that stuff. And despite some of the other things he may have said, Blow’s comments about Braid being “a game that values your time” are accurate, and pretty nice. Anything you’re stuck on you can immediately skip and come back to, with doors everywhere leading from the hub and each puzzle, so that you’re rarely backtracking at all. Much like how Portal — another favorite in the genre — was short and sweet, so too is Braid. It doesn’t feel the need to pad things out or weigh the player down with sidequests, with the only additional challenges being a speed run unlockable after the game is beaten, and collecting stars that do nothing and can literally take hours to get (universally regarded as Blow commenting on the people that “need” to find every secret in every game). So yes, perhaps there’s a certain amount of pretension in Braid, but in terms of pure puzzle platforming, it really does stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of them. Definitely give it a shot.