Though it still feels like I got the required amount of relaxation this weekend, I look back on all the stuff I did (or played and watched, to be more specific) and almost feel like I couldn’t have. Throughout the weekend I’ve watched two movies, beaten one game, played through a good amount of another, spent a good portion of time with my girlfriend, and even got some work done on some web / game stuff I’ve been meaning to do.
Every now and then a game comes along and takes you by surprise. I had the pleasure of experiencing this a few days ago, and I feel that my horizons as both a gamer and a developer have expanded because of it.
The harbinger of my elation goes by but a single name: Braid.
By now you’ve probably heard a little bit about Braid here or there – it seems impossible not to. After only a few days on the XBL Marketplace, Braid became the highest rated game on XBL Arcade, and entered the exclusive list of top 10 all-time highest rated games for the Xbox 360, which includes titles like Grand Theft Auto 4, Gears of War, and Bioshock.
While notable in itself, this is quite an accomplishment considering the game was made by only a small team of indie game designers and artists, on an infinitesimally smaller budget than any of the other AAA titles it’s contending with.
So what’s all the hoopla about? At the outset, it’s simple enough – Braid is a 2D platform game where you traverse an assortment of levels to find and collect jigsaw pieces. Delve a bit deeper though, and the game quickly sets itself far apart from most other platformers you’ve played. Time, and the manipulation of it, plays an important role in the narrative of the story, and more importantly, how puzzles in the game are solved. Braid’s development team went to great lengths to craft smart, unique levels that take advantage of this element of the game. Each chapter of levels offers a different take on the way time affects you and the environment, with each puzzle more devious than the last. And even though most of the puzzles seem to have only one or two possible solutions, each one will leave you with a feeling of deep satisfaction for solving it.
At this point, I could stop writing and you’d have a pretty good idea of why Braid is a good game, but I really feel that merely describing the game for its amazing technical presentation isn’t fully doing it justice. There’s a lot more to Braid than that. The entire presentation is mentally stimulating.