First of all, you must be aware that I would not consider myself a ‘gamer’ by any means; however, I did spend a considerable amount of time in my childhood playing around on various flash video game websites. Most of these games were simple and easy to get the hang of, requiring minimal commitment on the player’s side. In opening the game Braid for the first time, I was immediately reminded of those ephemeral and ultimately forgettable games from my middle school years. But Braid stood out significantly from any of these other simple platform games in that it took this familiar concept of moving through a two-dimensional world with relatively few controls or abilities to maybe like four or five new levels. It both poked fun at this game genre while simultaneously achieving within the genre new feats that I myself had never seen before.
Braid’s most obvious spin on this old genre is the loosening of the representation of time within the game. The player has the ability to manipulate time itself and uses this to help the protagonist progress. While this player ability might seem rather trite, Braid incorporates it very elegantly in a way that kept me constantly intrigued with the advancement of each level. It reminded me a lot of the game Portal in that a ton of challenging puzzles come out of a rather limited set of rules and game mechanics.
Additionally, Braid’s use of narrative to enhance and complement the gameplay itself further indicated a mastery of the genre. While I do think that the narrative was a bit cheesy, I think we have to give the writers a bit of a break considering how small of a scale with which they were working. Braid put forward quite blatantly the themes of passage of time, forgiveness, ‘magic’ in a relationship, and wanting to undo past mistakes. However hackneyed or possibly even vapid these themes can be, I was still astounded by how the narrative and gameplay complemented each other so well, as I had never really seen that done in a game before. These themes are evident in the game from the very beginning when you first realize you are able to undo mistakes with the simple press of a key.
With its countless nods to the game’s ancestor Super Mario, Braid seems to be incredibly aware of its place within the narrative of video game history while at the same time pushing its genre to the next level in very interesting and intriguing ways. While acknowledging how little I know about the whole of video game history, I still was pretty blown away by what Braid accomplishes when compared to other games of its type.
– Logan W (logangaming)