Xbox Live Arcade is brilliant. Ikugara, Rez, Worms and Uno have sucked up hours of my time, even though I’m unable to reach level three of Ikugara. However, what the Live Arcade has missed so far is quality original games, instead relying on old classics to prop up the service. Braid has come along in a gallant attempt to buck that trend.
Braid is a 2D platformer, with time manipulation puzzles in a similar vein to Viewtiful Joe. The difference is that while Viewtiful Joe limited your time manipulation in power-ups and had pretty basic time puzzles, in Braid you’ve got unlimited power to rewind the world around you, and all of the complex puzzles rely on this ability. For instance, early on in the game you are presented with an inescapable pit and a key which is immune to your time rewinding. You can jump down to get the key, but can’t get out. So you jump down, retrieve the key and rewind to the time you weren’t in the pit.
What Braid is great at is at making you feel special. Delivering eureka moments where you solve a puzzle in seconds that had been vexing you for the past hour. It genuinely changes the way you think, and some of the puzzles and solutions are ingenious. A world where moving forward makes time flow forward and moving backwards makes time flow backwards is worth a particular mention, along with the brain melting puzzles that come with it.
The background graphics, with their beautiful hand-painted look, and the lovely music are highlights, but there are problems with the game. The controls aren’t brilliant. The jumping feels loose and the movement spongy. The character design is also a bit rubbish, looking out of place against the backdrops and scenery. Some of the puzzles rely too much on platforming and can be fiddly and frustrating, too. Plus 1,200 points is a little steep.
Despite these reservations, I’d recommend Braid. It’s intelligent and fresh and the joy of solving the harder puzzles is well worth overcoming the niggles for.