Think You Know Puzzles? You Ain’t Seen Nothing!
Braid was one of those “twice-over” games for me, meaning that it’s one of the few games that got its digital claws in me deep enough that even after finishing the story mode (and simply not being up to figuring out all the puzzles – honestly, I tried!), I felt compelled to return to it some time later for a second try. This time, however, I made a pact with myself: Puzzles, this town ain’t big enough for you and me!
Seriously though, let’s be honest. This is the kind of game that isn’t made for any reason other than sticking to it ’til every last puzzle has been resolved, and the full story has been revealed. And man, if nothing else, Braid has some of the brain-bendingest puzzles I’ve ever seen!
It’s sad that when I think of Braid, part of my mind will probably forever flash back to Soulja Boy. Yes, unfortunately I have seen that video of the rapper losing his shit because he simply can’t get over Braid‘s time rewinding/forwarding gameplay mechanic. I mean, yeah, it’s kind of a cool idea and all, but it didn’t tickle my funny bone to the same extent as his; it maybe I simply lack the right sense of humor. Though I’m pretty sure that Jonathan Blow, Braid‘s creator and designer, didn’t particularly intend it to be a comedic tour de force…as evidenced by the dark themes and mature tone of the story. Just sayin’.
Naturally, the true depth of Braid‘s puzzle gameplay goes far beyond simple time manipulation. Taking into account positions of various enemies and objects in the environment, as well as your position relative to them, even accounting for which items/creatures are immune to your time manipulation, and how the two groups will interact with each other once you decide to turn the hands of time, takes quite a bit of tinkering and finesse. I was often convinced that I’d found an unsolvable puzzle, perhaps a programming oversight, only to find its solution to be deceptively simple once I’d stumbled upon the trick it relied on.
These tricks – one and all based in pure logic – are the real meat of the game. They’re what makes the difference between simply getting through the game and getting everything out of the game. And for the second time this year, my son was an invaluable help in cracking some of these riddles. Several times I was ready to beat my head against a brick wall in frustration, when my son saved my sanity…and probably my controller from being put through the TV screen – and I do not have that kind of money! Thanks, Son.
But beyond providing a bonding moment for us (far from it, in fact) Braid‘s story is the kind that makes you scratch your head in wonderment about what the designer is alluding to, what allegorical connections are probably going right over my head at the end of each scene. Not to mention the metaphor-heavy finale, unlocked by solving all previous puzzles. I don’t think I need to be ashamed to admit I googled the ending afterward; it’s not something I normally do, but it seemed appropriate in this case. (One of the only other times I’ve done that was after completing BattleBlock Theater recently, though ironically for a quite different reason, namely the sheer ridiculousness of that ending!) Though, to be honest, I’m not sure doing a bit of research on it made it any clearer to understand. It’s that deep!