Here’s the short version: you should go play Braid. It is amazing.
Braid is a brilliant independent game developed mostly by one man, Jonathan Blow. At first glance, you could easily mistake it for yet another 2d sidescrolling Mario clone. But it goes much deeper than that. You play as Tim, who is questing for his princess. The story of their relationship is revealed as the game progresses, and their relationship has a surprisingly mature and adult tone. The story takes some major twists and turns, and is open-ended enough that it practically demands critical thought and interpretation of what happens. It’s the kind of story that sticks with you and completely draws you in to a mood and tone.
Tim can manipulate time. As you journey through the game, this ability is necessary to solve puzzles. Each puzzle is extremely creative, and some require twisting your brain into severe knots to solve. Players could blaze through this game in just an hour or two, as the puzzles are almost entirely optional. But that would be robbing yourself of the vast majority of what Braid has to offer. I spent about 5 or 6 hours on the game total, taking my time. Some puzzles I solved as soon as I looked at them, and others took an hour on their own. Most fell somewhere in between, and solving each one brought a huge sense of accomplishment. This is alternately a very frustrating (in a good way) and rewarding game to play.
The creator maintained a blog chronicling the development process, and it makes for fascinating reading. I want to point out his post identifying the game’s haunting soundtrack in particular, since I fell in love with the music during the game. Each track is available as mp3s from Amazon for $.89 each.
Braid costs $15, and is only sold as a downloadable game for the Xbox 360. A PC version is forthcoming at a date yet to be determined. Some people have taken a bit of umbrage at that cost, which is more than for all but a handful of previously released Xbox downloadable games. But Braid is art, and I like knowing that I’m supporting an independent developer with something new to bring to the gaming world. I got far more than $15 worth of enjoyment out of it.
Braid plays like no other game I’ve ever had my hands on. Play the free Xbox demo, and I’ll be surprised if you’re not hooked.