Yeah, just like everyone who completed Braid, I felt smart for figuring out the unconventional story. Then I felt not so smart when I realized the actual meaning of Braid beneath the surface (I won’t spoil it here). The game is praised for it revolutionary use of theming and “time-bending” gameplay mechanics. However, I came back to Braid after beating it once before (not with the all of the stars though…are you nuts?). This time around I knew what was coming, so there were no surprises. I realized that I was having just as much fun the second time around; let me explain why.
Some games play you. It gives you an objective (an input) and then you go to it (the output). It may be an overbearing tutorial or an uninspired fetch quest, but some games will give you the runaround to keep you busy. However, Braid does it right!
Firstly, the controls are explained while only minimally breaking the 4th wall. Instructions are contained in small floating icons and embedded into the landscape in a way that isn’t unbelievable in a world with rabid, walking lion faces.
Next, you will notice that you are in a continuous world. It doesn’t feel like you are fast-traveling to different sections of the game. The environment somehow flows seamlessly from abandoned house to an ethereal metaphor-land. Lastly, like a good movie or HBO series, things are slowed down. The character moves slowly and precisely. There is no need to take the player off guard to create a challenge. The challenge is clearly presented and the player can study the landscape and retry as many times as he likes, yet still need to use every ounce of concentration to win.
All artsy accomplishment aside, Braid never deviates from the fundamentals of great game mechanics. It teaches you how to play and presents a fair challenge where the player is responsible for his success or failure.