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I wouldn't shoot a Vietnamese guy without reason nor would I stab a scientologist for being insane. I like knowing who my enemies are and why they are my enemies. There has to be some justification for why I need to lay these guys down and not just being told "this is your enemy, attack" as is the formula for just about any FPS thats not good *coughArea51cough*. Braid is a completely different story though, and for once I don't mind bouncing off the heads of little cowardly lion looking heads. What the fuck are these things? I don't know and I don't care. The only real enemy in this game is yourself. You'll find out why in a bit. I think I may have analyzed it a bit more than I really needed to, but so is life. Read on.
Many gaming sites, including 1UP, have called this game pretentious. There's some merit in that slight dig but Braid does have an interesting story none the less. You will no doubt get what's going on within the first minute of gameplay however, it's how the story unfolds that makes it all worth your while. Can video games be viewed as art? To me an artist is someone who creates a work, whether it be in the form of music, interactive media, film or even art itself, that is then made available for others to consume and share their reactions and experiences of the piece. Braid is an interesting work of art. Artists tend to use their talents as an outlet to vent or to tell a story, from anything like using lies to tell the truth to a simple poem about a trip to Six Flags with a significant other. Braid pushes the boundaries of what to expect from a story in a video game by making the story so self referential that the game could do without it and still stand alone on the merits of the gameplay itself and vice versa. I feel as tho Jonathan Blow, the developer, has crafted Braid as a means to express regret and find closure to a relationship gone sour. The connection between the story and gameplay, to me, is more symbolic than it is to actually give meaning to why you are where you are and doing what you are doing. Books are laid out before you prior to entering any of the levels, describing and setting an overall mood for the world you are about to explore. Upon reaching the end of each world you come to a castle in which you are told "Sorry but the princess is in another castle". Sound familiar, well it should because it's an obvious nod to the king of all platformers, Super Mario Brothers, yet all the same referring to the absence of the story's "princess". As I mentioned before the story and gameplay can each hold their own so it's nice to know that the story can be totally ignored by simply walking past the books, incase you prefer your EMO in your Postal Service records rather than your video games.
Try to remember everything you learned from Super Mario Brothers, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and the mistakes you make in everyday life, now put them all in blender and watch 'em spin 'round to a beautiful oblivion. What do you get? A rendezvous and now I'm through with you. Seriously tho, much of the symbolism I get from Braid comes entirely from the gameplay. Every level with in a world consists of finding the proper way to retrieve a piece or pieces of the bigger puzzle. Much like life, it throws you a problem and assumes you're willing and capable of solving it with no tutorial whatsoever and nothing but your wits and ability to learn from your mistakes. In a sense, think of the story as a friend conveying his problems and the gameplay as him saying "if only I could turn back time." To focus strictly on the gameplay for a sec, you soon realize that the manipulation of time is the core of the game. Pressing X will allow you to rewind time up to the point to which you originally entered the room. Pressing the left trigger/left bumper or right trigger/right bumper allows you to change the rewind and forward speed respectively. As with almost any platformer, unless you're CAPCOM, jump is mapped to A. You may notice you start off in World 2 and if you can overcome the times when you feel like you are staring at the wall, the ending will explain and more than make up for it. You'll find yourself at times thinking that it's impossible to reach that last puzzle piece but believe me you will kick yourself in the ass for not having figured it out sooner. If you get to a point where you think "oh I just need to come back later after I unlock the double jump ability, or another time power" then invest your hard earned cash in making your own time machine to get back the time you spent playing this. It will make you feel stupid, but make you love it all the same.
Don't let anyone tell you differently, this is a platformer end of story. Timing is essential, you bounce off of your enemie's heads to kill them and also to help you reach higher ground. Fiery and bottomless pits, wannabe goombas and fireball canons are here in spades. The game even does boss battles, and they are anything but conventional. As with every single Live Arcade title there is a demo available. Try it out and see what you think. Don't let the first couple of puzzle pieces trick you tho, later in the game your patience will be tested. The further I got the more I wanted to play. To avoid spoiler territory yet still reference the gameplay you'll encounter later in the game, I'll only say the following: I'm sure that from the moment in which you open that palm sized case, look her square in the eye, and flashes of all the memories those sweet innocent hazel eyes have shared with you, to simply waiting for that scrambled thought to become a coherent audible one, is represented and implemented flawlessly. Like I said, EMOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! But for you macho ass YOU-WOMAN-ME-FUCK bastards, skip the story.
Graphics and Sound
The art style is simply fantastic. After you acquire all the puzzle pieces you can go back and put all the puzzles together to form some rather interesting works of art. I won't let Blow of the hook for his choice in character design tho. Tim, the protagonist, looks like the love child of Carrot Top and an english muffin with grape jelly. I constantly ran him into fireballs and fiery pits simply out of spite. If Braid was a horrible game I'd be ripping on poor old Tim for years to come. Lucky for you Tim, Braid is FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC! I'll have some tea and crumpets with you anyday. You buttfaced fuck.
Imagine yourself kicking it with Delores O'Riordan of The Cranberries, while she's yodeling away in one of those outdoor showers set in the middle of a huge hilly dark green grassy field, overcast, yet sunny in the far off distance, like those Ricolla cough drop commercials. Now just take out the cough drop dudes and that's the soundtrack for you. Relaxing, right? Then you remember you're playing as Tim and you just wanna set all english muffin making factories ablaze. FUCK THIS GUY. Why couldn't I be the cute little dinosaur.
Play it. It's Sick.
Braid is available on XBLA for 1200 Microsoft Points, was developed by Number None Inc. and published by Microsoft. All screenshots courtesy of 1up.com. Until I setup my screenshot device I'm hoping they don't mind. Rumor has it the PS3 Firmware Update will allow for CNTRL+PRNTSCREEN screen capture. Yet that only half solves the porblem. Oh well.