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.
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]