Braid, the brainchild of the (in)famous indie game designer Jonathan Blow, is a puzzle platformer that uses time manipulation as its primary mechanic in addition to the standard running and jumping. By pressing a single button, the player can reverse time to avert death, manipulate entities in the world, and experiment with... Read All Having just completed Braid for my blog (www.backlogkiller.com), I thought I would transfer some of my comments over here to Cheerful Ghost. If you haven’t finished the game and don’t want to have anything ruined, I guess you should skip this post. Although, there’s really not that much to ruin since the entire game is mechanics and puzzle driven.
Braid, the brainchild of the (in)famous indie game designer Jonathan Blow, is a puzzle platformer that uses time manipulation as its primary mechanic in addition to the standard running and jumping. By pressing a single button, the player can reverse time to avert death, manipulate entities in the world, and experiment with different solutions. Although this sounds simple, the introduction of new elements such as monsters or objects immune to time control complicates things greatly. Using time reversal and properties unique to each world, the player must control the main character (Tim) to collect puzzle pieces and rescue the enigmatic princess that was lost in the past.
Throughout the game, the player is fed small bits of story through strange blocks of text that hint at the identity of the Princess Tim is looking for. This enhances the somber mood of the levels and adds enormous gravity to the metaphor the mechanics of time manipulation work to build. The concept of going back to correct your mistakes and take another path through life is universal and lies in everyone. As a way to represent the desire to recapture a lost love, career, or youth, Braid is very effective and quite touching in my opinion. Unfortunately, the game squanders this chance by making a baffling narrative choice I cannot even begin to understand.
The ‘Princess’ in Braid is actually the secret of nuclear weapons. Tim is a scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project that brought about the age of nuclear bombs and the cold war. Even though the metaphor of time makes sense in terms of the desire to put that genie back in the bottle, it is absolutely ridiculous (in my opinion) when slapped on the game. What could have been a poignant and relatable concept is blown out of the water by the torpedo of grandiosity. I don’t understand why this was done other than to say ‘video games can be important’. Importance can take all shapes and sizes. I cannot relate to developing of a weapon of mass destruction, but I sure as heck can relate to wanting to recapture something I’ve lost in my own life.
It is easy to see why Jonathan Blow is such a controversial designer. The brilliant game design makes me very hopeful for his new project, The Witness, but it also worries me about what direction it will take. Many great stories have dealt with personal conflicts that give them an even greater impact which may have helped Braid. Despite this, I enjoyed the game and was only mildly let down by the ending since it was such a pleasure to play.
Read my full thoughts here: http://www.backlogkiller.com/2012/11/36-braid-game-myth-legend.html