Man, you wait ages for a good XBLA game and then two come along at once…
So how do you reconcile the fact that, at first glance, Braid looks like any other quick and dirty XBLA platformer with the frankly daunting 1,200 point (£10.20) price? Obviously the reviews help, as does the fact that this isn’t PSN and so a free demo is a given, but I still think it’s quite a big psychological barrier for people to overcome. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is.
If you’re finding yourself hovering over the download button, biting your lip, I implore you to take the plunge. This is one of the best indie games I’ve played in a while, and although it might still be on the pricey side, it’s a brilliant little game, full of neat touches and homages, as well as some great ideas of its own.
The influences that Braid carries most overtly is certainly Mario, and not just in the way that it’s ‘inspired’ every platform game ever. There are moments like this, which becomes an amusing running gag, a Donkey Kong sequence, and early enemies that are in no way Goombas, but the structure of the game allows it to switch from one idea to another at a moment’s notice, and it’s done in a way that allows you to skip a more challenging puzzle and come back to it when you want, never blocking your A-to-B progress.
I suppose if you have to boil Braid down to one key mechanic, it’s the ability to rewind time, which ends up somewhere between the the simple safety net of Prince of Persia – in fact that’s almost exactly how it works at the start – and the full-blown USP that it was in, say, Blinx. Each world uses it slightly differently, whether it’s introducing objects that aren’t affected by your temporal tinkering or another ability entirely. I could explain more, but the fun of it is working out how the latest addition to your repertoire can help you reach the next puzzle piece.
It’s been ages since there was a new 2D platform game, and I honestly can’t remember the last one where the puzzles were so fundamental, so something like this has been overdue. Treated as a platform game, which the clever structure allows you to do, you can blow through it in no time at all, but in ‘solving’ it (the game’s Achievements even make this distinction), you’ll be at it for hours.
At least go and give the demo a try. It’s a beautiful (check out the great feature on the art design here), intelligent, and original game, certainly one of the best original XBLA titles, and we need to support stuff like this to stop it getting lost behind another cheap shooter or board game.