When Braid was first released, it was advertised as a platformer which allows you to turn back time. I thought: "So you can backtrack if you lose a life, what's the big deal?", and skipped it. Boy was I wrong.
Braid is a brilliantly designed puzzle platformer about the manipulation of time in several different ways. Manipulating time is not only a tool that lets you backtrack from mistakes, it's also an integral part of most puzzles. There are areas in the game where some parts of the environment can be "rewound" in time, while others are resistant to this effect, and you have to rewind time in the right way to solve the puzzle. There are areas where you can put a part of the map, selectivey, into slow motion, and again you have to do this in specific ways in order to solve the puzzles. Another area makes use of a "time echo" of your character that must be used to solve the puzzles. Altogether, the game takes a seemingly simple concept (time manipulation) and turns it into an abundance of original, interesting, and often quite challenging puzzles.
The puzzles are loosely connected by a story that is told upon entering each of the game's worlds. The story does not have a narrative, but rather presents thoughts and memories in a non-linear way. It also centers on a feeling of loss and (possibly) regret. This is very different from usual, generic stories in other video games, and has left some players irritated. Personally, I welcome games that present new story ideas, and unusual ways of telling them. Obviously, the story's main theme (loss) fits well to the game's main mechanic (turning back time, which may help preventing loss), so I felt that it enhanced the experience by providing yet another perspective. In any case, the story functions just as a backdrop, and can easily be ignored by those who don't like it.
Many of Braid's puzzles are extremely well designed. They seem impossible at first, but can be solved with thought and dexterity, which feels tremendously rewarding. The game does become quite difficult towards the end though, and may be too frustrating to finish for many players. Thankfully, the game allows you to skip many puzzles and get back to them later, so it's unlikely to hit a roadblock that halts one's progress completely.
The game's artwork is in a painterly style, with beautiful animations. The graphics look as if they were painted for a book, but are more detailed than comic book art. The game scales well to large displays, I can play it on fullscreen on a 1920x1200 display with no problems.
Braid uses a quite, smooth, soundtrack with instruments that are unusual for platformer games (e.g. violins). The soundtrack reinforces the slow, thoughtful, and slightly melancholic tone of the game.
There is no voice acting.
Braid's interface gets the job done. It is a bit inconvenient that some menus don't accept mouse input, but that's a very minor complaint. A bigger problem is that the controls (arrow keys, space bar) cannot be customized.
The menus use the same art style as the game (with "painted" depictions of keyboard keys) and integrate well with the rest of the game.
EASE OF USE:
Braid is very easy to pick up, but quite hard to master. There is no manual, but the in-game tutorial is sufficient to teach the game. Throughout the game, new gameplay elements are explained as they become available. Unintrusive popups remind you of the keys that need to be used for entering doors, adding pieces to a puuzle, etc.
The game tries to guess the language you want to play in, and offers no in-game option to change the language if its guess was wrong. I still wonder why so many developers implement different languages in such an inconvenient way. It obviously does work for those users for which the game guesses right, but others need to do Internet searches and file hacks just to play the game in the language they like. For Braid, I had to create a specific shortcut, and add the option "-language english" (without quotes) to the command line.
Braid can handle different user profiles, but offers only one save slot per profile, which can be inconvenient. However, this rarely poses a problem, since most areas in the game are accessible quickly no matter after you have reached them at least once.
OTHER THINGS OF NOTE:
The game has little replay value once you solved all the puzzles, but doing so requires quite some time. I also heard of "special feats" that can be accomplished and that yield special rewards, but I haven't found them yet, so I can't even say if they exist in the PC version of the game.
The game comes DRM free, which is always nice.
Braid's originality, brilliant puzzle design, and unique atmosphere are worth five stars, even though the game's usability could be improved.
Review Date: 2012/Sep/30
Program version: unknown
Progress: about 60% finished