Take a trip back in time with this retro-referencing indie game
Braid first appeared on Microsoft's online store for the Xbox 360 last year, before making its way to PCs. You won't find a physical CD version on the shelves of your local high street shops, but many of the big-name game download sites are currently selling the game for less than a tenner – try Steam, Impulse or Gamer's Gate, for instance.
On the surface, Braid is a classic platform game and features many of the genre's standby themes. Your character, Tim, is lumbered with the age-old task of rescuing a princess from a castle, while gameplay essentially involves navigating two-dimensional sideways-scrolling environments horizontally and vertically, jumping over gaps, climbing ladders, collecting keys to open doors and avoiding or killing baddies.
The game is certainly influenced by – or is possibly even a comment on – lots of classic retro games, referencing everything from Super Mario Brothers to the original puzzle game itself, the jigsaw. But it does so with an original and sometimes wilfully obscure twist.
Braid's main quirk is that it allows you to muck about with time. At first this just means that you can 'rewind' time to avoid an in-game death. But each level takes the time/space mechanic and tampers with it to present the player with a fresh challenge. In some levels, certain objects become immune to your rewinding ability, for example, while in others you need to work in co-operation with a 'shadow' Tim left over from the previous rewind.
Each challenge demonstrates an astonishing level of depth that the game's otherwise simple structure belies. Soothingly beautiful music and artwork are all part of the experience, and serve as a reminder that games don't always need flashy 3D graphics and a pumping surround soundtrack to be great.
To say that Braid is a masterpiece would be to overlook its obvious flaws. It's very short, even considering its budget price. It's also probably not everyone's cup of tea. Some people may just find themselves frustrated by the harder puzzles or annoyed by the game's self-conscious artiness.
That said, there are very few releases that can match it for originality, creativity and sheer playability.
There are very few games that can match it for originality, creativity and sheer playability
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