Braid – A Beautiful and Engaging Game
This week and next I thought I would make a bit of a departure from most of my posts and write about video games. First up is one of my favorite indie games, Braid by Number None, Inc. and designed by Jonathan Blow. Available for Mac, Windows, Linux, PlayStation and XBox, it is a platformer that involves solving puzzles along the way to advance through the plot.
Braid is set apart from other platformers and puzzlers by both the design details and the way that it plays with the notion of time and sequence. First, the design choices make for a beautiful game from start to finish. Each level looks like a watercolor painting brought to life, which makes sense given that over a year was devoted to the artwork and it represents the combined efforts of an illustrator and a webcomic artist. The unique way that the game deals with the passage of time not only complicates each individual level, but also offers a thought-provoking look at how we think about time both in and out of games, particularly once players have unlocked all of the game’s content.
Players control a character named Tim through six different worlds over the course of the game. Each level requires the player to complete a jigsaw puzzle before moving on, but these puzzles are just one small piece of the complete picture. In order to make their way through the level to get to the puzzle, players must first navigate complicated geographies, with each world offering a slightly different way to interact with and manipulate time. Eight stars are scattered throughout the game to be collected, adding an additional challenge for players who opt to pursue them. The game itself makes for a challenging and enjoyable experience, but it is when the game is completed that its true power is revealed. Though I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone who opts to play it, suffice it to say that there are competing theories about the exact meaning of the end of the game, all of which are more thought-provoking and impressive than the average video game. No matter what type of game you typically prefer, I highly recommend giving Braid a try.