Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if game developers hadn’t been so eager to embrace the third dimension in games. While 2D platformers ruled the eighties, by the nineties 3D was all the rage. So instead of focusing on games with better artwork, music and gameplay, developers struggled to deal with things like movement and the camera — problems which still around today.1 I wonder what the world would have been like if all that effort had been focused on making brilliant 2D games.  One of the stars in this imaginary world would be Braid.

You might not have heard of Braid. If you don’t read an indie game blog, or check xbox live for the latest arcade games, or live in a house with obsessed gamers, then you probably haven’t. It’s a 2D platformer, loosely modelled on Mario,2 in which you can rewind time. Being able to rewind time is such a liberating experience. No more worrying about precise jumps — if you miss, just rewind back before you jumped and have another go. This means that it is almost impossible to screw anything up. You can always rewind back past the mistake.

This ability isn’t just to make the platforming easier. There are plenty of puzzles which need solving in order to collect all the puzzle pieces. Most of these are excellent puzzles and I found great satisfaction in solving. I liked that the puzzles showed how your powers are used rather than using a tutorial, although there were a couple of puzzles that relied on a game mechanic that you didn’t know existed and didn’t follow logically from the rest of the game. In a game about rewinding time where there is no real life example to follow, this seems unvoidable, but annoying.

The detailed backgrounds are fantastic, as is the beautiful music, although when you’ve been looking at the same puzzle for half an hour, it gets on your nerves.  Having the music keyed to the speed of the game is a nice touch,3 and adds to the poignant story.  I won’t give any details about it for fear of spoiling it.

While I wouldn’t give up the third dimension because of games like Resident Evil IV, I do like to imagine a world in which everything is flat.

  1. I’m looking at you Sonic Team.
  2. I’m trying not to hold that against the game.
  3. I was disappointed that there was no secret message when hearing the music in reverse.

3 Responses to “Braid”

  1. Looking forward to playing this one; I’ve been putting it off as if I were to play I’d have to contend with people looking over my shoulder all the time, which I hate in puzzle games.

    Having done exactly that to you when you were playing Braid I feel something of a hypocrite.

  2. At least you hadn’t played it when you watched me. I’ll know the solution to all the puzzles and will find it hard to sit still and not make condescending remarks about how long you take to solve each puzzle.

  3. My favourite thing about Braid is that it’s finally given me a reason to say “you’re not thinking fourth-dimensionally!” Mostly, to myself.