One Good Level and Meh
Braid makes me feel a bit stupid. People have always held it up as games as art and praised the story.. and I just really can't see it, but maybe there's a higher level where it stops being nonsense. Essentially Braid is 5 levels, which consist of a couple of puzzles around a mechanic. Before each level there's a flavour text about 'the story' except it's very flowery and not-cohesive. This is where I feel like I might be being stupid, because I can't make any real sort of narrative out them. They will also describe (in prose) the mechanic for that level. But that mechanic won't really be exploratory of the subject at hand at all. Flash games like In the Company of Myself and One and One Story have mechanics more relevant to the story. The lover will run blindly to you and you care enough to try and help her avoid the pitfalls she'd just run straight into. Or she runs away and you feel what chasing her feels like. In Braid you have a wedding ring that slows down time because wearing a ring slows down social situations apparently. One or two of them work, the basic idea of rewinding to fix mistakes and maybe two others worked but there was nothing of story value at all in the others and linking them felt shallow. Even the good ones (except the exception) didn't really work that well because there was no context to put them too and they quickly became puzzles unless you tried really hard to imagine the story working. The puzzles themselves were pretty good, not exceptional, but fun and in general only a few reflex/time puzzles with some great harder puzzles for the adventurous. The art design was probably the second best thing of the game, it looks gorgeous, but it also gives no context of setting or metaphor and makes the world even more dilute. Finally there's one very good level, towards the end after a swamp of non-story there's an excellent level. Slightly predictable but genius (and it broke it's own rules a couple of times). This is what the whole game should have been like. However the whole game was not like it, so it had no set up, the reveal at the end of the game had no meaning because there was nothing to put it against. Maybe if I'd been clever I'd have got something from the pieces of flavour text. But they felt pretentious. There was two minutes of genius, the game was longer than that.
The game is titled Braid. The game has the basic stylings of a platformer. You run, you jump, you bounce off of the walking mooks. You collect the puzzle pieces,
and occasionally, you miss and die. and you put the pieces together.
Each world is divided into levels: each level has new, varied landscape, and a new puzzle or three to solve. Each world operates on a different theme. Immutibilty, Association, Hesitency, Division, as I would call them. Every level will teach you at least one new way that these concepts irrevocably alter the world around you. If you want every piece, you have to learn.
On the basis of a platformer, Braid is a marvelous game. The puzzles are fresh, and straddle the line between insane and intuitive. What you're doing makes no sense, except that when it's done, it did. Even more interesting is how much the game rewards experimentation. If you're stuck, try everything you can think of. When you finally figure out what to do, you might have missed that tiny window of opportunity, can try your solution. And then you might die will succeed.
Much more importantly is the story of Braid. Obviously, there are spoiler issues with telling the tale, so I won't. The story is revealed masterfully, influencing gameplay mechanics in creatively appropriate ways. As for the plot itself, suffice it to say ideas and philosophy will make you view the world a little differently.
Stripped down to it's core mechanics, Braid is a very original, well made and entertaining platformer. Viewing it in the scope of the grand ideas it will reference and force you to consider, in probably new ways... It is a thought-provoking work that could shift or shatter your paradigm.
I definitely recommend playing Braid. It's solid gameplay, and a story that can't be told properly, only experienced in the original medium. Reading or watching the story wouldn't be enough. Playing the game alone would be nice, but forgettable. Doing the two simultaniously is a delight.