Braid Retrospective Review

Braid Title Screen

Most of the game is a lot happier than this...

The side-scrolling platformer is a genre that in the Indie scene could be put alongside the phrase ‘dime a dozen’. As one of the easier videogame genres to make, it’s often the entry point for new studios into the world of videogame production. So, if developers make a game in this field, it’s got to stand out, otherwise it’ll end up in the digital ‘reduced to clear’ bin. Number None Inc however are no strangers to Indie game development, having released a string of titles before ‘Braid’, their surreal twist on the tried and tested formula. Two years after IGM’s prevous review, is it surreal enough to keep people interested?

The storyline, a cross between a Medieval Mario story and the workings of a pretentious university student, will interest and detract in equal measures. There’s enough meat on the bones of this ‘recover the princess’ rehash to keep people interested, but it does come across as being rather uninspired, especially compared to the rest of ‘Braid’.

Believe me when I say that things go up fast once you go by the lamentable plot – while ‘Braid’ has all the traditional trappings of the genre (colorful landscapes, loads of platforms, even Mario inspired pipes) the title has one major trump card. Integral to the completion of the game is the ability to reverse time, allowing for manipulation of platforms, movement of key items and avoiding the never-present game over screen. While it isn’t made explicitly clear while playing that this ability is key, once you realize just how handy a tool it is, the game becomes less frustrating than it initially appeared. While it is possible to simply just move from level to level with ease, the real goal is to gain all the jigsaw pieces in the levels to help complete pictures that help player character Tim recover parts of his past with the Princess. This is where the real difficulty of the game lies, and a high skill with the reverse time feature will be needed to gain the best endings.

Graphically it may very well be one of the best side-scrolling platformers to be released in the last decade. Beautifully lush visuals help to create a cerebral world that is only enhanced by the folk orchestral music that defines the bizarre worlds that Tim must visit. While the forefront objects are clear and extremely well textured (with the moving shine in Tim’s hair being a subtle example), the backgrounds are styled as though they were paintings in a art museum and are just a joy to look at.

Ladders, brown creatures and a Pipe - Remind anyone of someone?

There’s a part of me that really doesn’t want me to like ‘Braid’ – it’s Mario for art students, treading a very fine line between inspired and plagiarism. Despite that, this game has won me over – unlike other platformers released by Indie developers, there’s charm to this game, and there’s enough innovation to keep fans of the genres plugging away for hours. Even after two years of release, there still isn’t another platformer that’s quite like this. But whatever you do Number None Inc – don’t tell Nintendo!

[review pros="Sublime visuals, innovative time reverse feature" cons="Close to a Mario Clone" score=72]




There are 9 comments

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  1. Lee Weedall

    You really would have been better off saying nothing than some of the nonsense you spouted in this “review”, which clearly shows you played level 1 and then thought you’d seen everything. Why, for example, is there no mention of the other time mechanics that you get to use during the game; time travelling in the same direction as you, shadows replaying your actions, and the ring that affects only the area around it?

    Why do you claim that Number None released anything before Braid? Why do you think the game is only 2 years old? And most importantly, why the constant comparisons to Mario? Yes, there are deliberate nods to Mario, but they are merely in the form of in-jokes. The plot is not about rescuing a Princess, but is much deeper than that. Admittedly, this is something that only becomes clear if you actually bother to complete the game. It is massively obvious that you didn’t come anywhere close to that. How do I know? Because completion of the game opens up the speed runs, which is something else you neglected to mention.

    There is nothing wrong with not liking a game, I don’t care about your score. (In fact, I didn’t even notice you had given the game a score until I had already started typing this response.) But what is inexcusable is giving an opinion that is based on assumption. Your review is tantamount to disinformation, as it tells people about a totally different game to the one named.

    Bad form.

  2. Kyle McColl

    Hey Lee,
    Sorry you didn’t like the review – I wanted to clear up some of the points you made though if I may.

    1) Recently IGM writers have been told to make articles only around 500 words long. While this is a reasonable word count, as if often the case, bits will end up not making the cut. The initial time reversal feature seemed the most important since it’s the introductory power, and will ultimately make or break whether someone will enjoy the game and play on. Trying to cover all the areas of a game in such a small word count isn’t all that easy without coming across as vapor and generic.

    2) Number None Ic have released game sbefore, though perhaps not on the same level as Braid. Previous projects included Happycake, a Transformers tyled game, along with several prototype titles including Painter and Raspberry. The latter two can be downloaded for free from Jonathan Blow’s website and were all made before Braid’s release.

    3) The two year old part was a complete error on my part! When I was writing, I accidentally put the time when the previous review on IGM was done, not the release date of the game. Since it was meant to be a a retrospective feature, I though it better to put that date, but forgot to rewrite the sentence. Thanks for pointing it out!

    4) Once again, word count and personal opinion are factors here – I could go on about the plotline but simply put, readers of a review only read for so long and need a quick impression. The game comes across like Mario for art students (plotline included) so that’s why I said it. It was the best summary I could come up with for the game, and I stick by it. Nothing wrong with disagreeing with me though :)

    5) My opinion was based on playing the game and what I felt people would ultimately get out of it. Like I said, I was working to a new word limit and felt this was the best I could do with a short word count while covering all the bases. In hindsight, I coould have mentioned more about the speed-runs, other time trial features but as a reviewer, you’re not expected to mention every single part that a game offers. That’s why you buy a game – reviews are meant to be a guide saying here’s generally what you can expect and is it worth your time or not. If you covered every feature and explained it etc, it would be a lot longer.

    I hope this helps somewhat with explaining the points you made. Once again sorry you didn’t like the review.

  3. Chris Newton

    Lee,

    Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read our article. You are more than welcome to visit this site at any time and comment on anything that you would like to comment on. However, using your words, “But what is inexcusable is giving an opinion that is based…” a volunteer writer’s evening work. Kyle is not a paid writer, therefore I think it is out of line for you to bash him.

    As a matter of fact, I in turn challenge you to write a better article review for Braid under the same constraints that Kyle was held to. You get 500 words, I need images, and I need by next Friday. So if you accept my challenge, you would need to submit to me your final draft by Wednesday night so I have the proper time to edit it. Regardless of what you write, I will publish it on IGM and we can compare the two articles.

    You can submit your article to my personal email address: cnewton@indiegamemag.com. I would appreciate your notice of accepting my challenge. I would also appreciate it if you would apologize to Kyle for the tone of your comments. What you said is perfectly fine. How you said it was not nice and we don’t want to have a negative attitude floating around this site.

  4. Lee Weedall

    That Kyle is not a paid writer is the crux of the problem, here. The old adage “If you pay peanuts you get monkeys” entered the lexicon for a reason.

    Ordinarily, I would politely decline the challenge, for this very reason. I fail to see why I, or anybody for that matter, should give away quality work. However, check your inbox. I am prepared, even happy, to take this on. The official acceptance is there, along with a couple of questions for you.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank both of you for your responses. I was quite angry at the time I read this review, and was perhaps a little bit harsh. I will gladly apologise for the bluntness of some of my words, but the sentiment behind them still stands. This review is a very poor piece of work. And some of the explanations given in response to my feedback verge on the ridiculous. To list the prototypes that Jonathan Blow worked on as full games that were released by an as then non-existent company? Please, games readers are not stupid. And Happycake was a collaboration that merely included Jonathan Blow, and was in no way a Number None Inc. game.

    I also take exception to the condescending tone of your explanation as to what constitutes a review. Suffice it to say that we have very differing views on this one, although your definition is not even consistent with what you have done here. If, as you say, a review is to tell people what to expect then telling them that Braid is a Mario clone is doing them a most heinous disservice. Because it isn’t one. It barely even qualifies as a platform game. And had you ventured beyond the first world, you would know this. Unless it is just entirely co-incidental that the screenshots, which you yourself provided Mr. McColl, are the title screen and the third sub-section of the second doorway in the first world. Or, both taken extremely early on in the game. This is why I maintain that you are not reviewing the game from experiencing it all, but from an initial impression garnered from the opening section of the game alone.

  5. Chris Grant

    Kyle, This is a superb review you have written up. You know your gaming obviously from the review you have submitted. Please ignore the comment from Mr Weedall – Sir I think if you have nothing positive to say then keep it to yourself. Kyle has done a superb job and I think he’s a credit to the Indie gamer mag!

  6. Mike Gnade

    Just to clear the air and be forthcoming – Kyle does get paid for his work with IGM. Chris is right that most writers work on a volunteer basis, but there is a contingent of people that we pay for their work.

  7. Chris Newton

    I reside in the United States and so does Mike, therefore IGM is both headquartered and lead by Americans who have pledged to protect the freedom of speech. I don’t think it is appropriate to tell Mr. Weedall to be quite just as I don’t believe that it is appropriate for him to be hurtful to Kyle. I have received Mr. Weedall’s acceptance and offered him a little insight behind the scenes, which I really hope that he enjoys after today’s experience. I have also reminded him that his deadline is Wednesday for his Braids review. He will be held to the same IGM Standards that Kyle and the rest of our staff are held too, meaning, that if his content is bad, it will be sent back to him to be fixed. I will also offer him the same editorial protection that I provide to the IGM writers.

    Lastly, please tell everyone you know to check back in next Friday to see what Mr. Weedall has submitted. I sincerely am looking forward to it. :)

  8. Chris Newton

    Sorry, I missed an important point above. Kyle is getting paid? *goes to see him about getting a small loan* LOL

    @Lee: I have learned something very important about this sector of the video game industry in my short time here at IGM. That statement about getting monkeys for pea nuts is absolutely not true. It works well in other, larger industries, but not here at all. I have managed two previous websites, each utilizing volunteer writers, and the level of devotion and loyalty that this staff has dwarfs both of the previous sites combined. These guys are lovers of indie games. They have a passion for this niche that is unbelievable and it is quite refreshing to be honest with you. The problem is that in order to write in this industry, you must write for peanuts because that is all there is to go around. We are writing about small guys who make games because they love it and then look for funding afterward. The same guys who get a second job to buy a server or advertising. So there is not really a ton of money in this industry … yet ;)

    We will fix that problem though.

  9. Mike Gnade

    @Lee-

    I wanted to let you know that even though I completely defend Kyle’s opinion about Braid and the quality of his article. I do not agree with it either (see my review back in 2008: http://www.indiegamemag.com/braid-review/). I think comparing Braid to Mario is misleading since the level structure and gameplay are so different. It IS a platformer and the enemies did always feel too Goomba-like, but it’s time mechanics are very unique. If I were to do a retrospective review of Braid, I would actually score it higher because of the lasting impression the game left. The story is superb and while the game is short – better to be short and leave you wanting more than going on for too long.


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