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A triumph of game design, Braid mixes 2D platforming gameplay, ingeniously crafted puzzles, time manipulation, and a melancholy story open to multiple interpretations, beautifully packaged in stunning hand-painted artwork. It’s not an incredibly long game, it doesn’t have a multiplayer mode or online play, but what’s here is more than enough to suck you in, keep you engrossed, and make you really use your brain.
Designed by Jonathan Blow with artwork by David Hellman, Braid took Xbox Live by storm in 2008, winning numerous awards from gaming magazines. It was later ported to Windows, and Hothead Games brought it to the Mac. The puzzles and story are the same, and the Mac’s keyboard controls couldn’t be simpler: arrow keys to move, the space bar to jump, and the Shift key to rewind time.
The gorgeous paintings, haunting music, unique story, and even humor (children of the '80s will appreciate all the Super Mario Bros. references) make Braid more than just a video game. It's a work of art.
Just because you're progressing in the game doesn't mean you'll know what's really going on.
That rewinding-time mechanism is the game’s foundation. Each world starts by introducing a time-manipulation ability that you use in the world’s levels to collect inconveniently located puzzle pieces. The puzzle pieces are hard to get to, and figuring out how to access them can keep you confused for hours. Luckily, you don’t have to restart a level if you die or just screw it up somehow--thanks to the time-manipulation tricks, just rewind to a point before disaster and try again. The soothing music and the sense of satisfaction you get when a particularly tricky problem finally presents its solution kept our blood pressure low enough to keep playing--for the most part, anyway.
You can continue on to the next level without collecting every puzzle piece, and return later on to a level that’s got you stuck. But you do have to find all 60 puzzle pieces in Worlds 2 through 6 to unlock the final level, World 1. Why are they out of order? That has to do with the game’s enigmatic story line, which deals with love and loss, forgiveness and redemption, and possibly the creation of the atom bomb (seriously). We don’t want to give anything away--and the plot can be interpreted a few different ways--but after you’ve finished the game, Google “Braid ending” to read some eyebrow-raising theories. It’s mature for its headiness, but not necessarily inappropriate for kids, who might skip the story entirely and just play the levels. We’d feel comfortable letting a 10-year-old play.