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Braid is an unusually difficult platform game. Being able to undo your mistakes by rewinding time sounds like it should help, but when you hit the difficulty wall Braid doesn't do enough to get you on your way again.
As I sat down, completely tired out from a training ride on my newest bike, I was really looking forward to playing the latest addition to my XBLA game collection, Braid.
It looked like it was just my thing, nice and simple. A for jump, B for use object and forward and back to run. When the game started it looked kind of sinister, a bit like Limbo - maybe I should have guessed I was in for something a little more challenging.
But as I started moving all the colours changed from blacks and fiery reds to lighthearted, cartoonish hues. The mood of the game felt perfect for sitting back and relaxing, but still giving my brain a little bit of a workout.
All was going well for the first few minutes, but then I began to get a strange feeling of having been here before, in a strange way. It slowly dawned on me what was giving me that peculiar feeling.
The first castle with a dinosaur saying 'Sorry but the princess is in another castle' could have simply been an homage to the Mario brothers, but as the game went on it felt more like a copy than anything else. Snappy plants coming out of green tubes, monsters you jump on to get rid of, evil little jumpy things that are a bit harder to get rid of - after a while, I began to feel frustrated at the lack of new ideas.
It's all very clever, but left me feeling a bit like an outsider on the joke.
The trick Braid is trying to pull here is that although it plays like a Mario game there is one big difference, you can rewind time at any point. It uses this to change how you have to approach each level. Sometimes your movement left and right also rewinds time.
It's all very clever, but left me feeling a bit like an outsider on the joke. I find Mario games hard enough without this brain stretching time travelling element. This difficulty got in the way of my favourite part of platform games - collecting sets of things. In Braid you collect puzzle pieces.
The fact that I was desperately trying to get all of the puzzles pieces and not succeeding was annoying to say the least. I like my games to challenge my mind in the way my bike challenges my body, but I couldn't believe how complicated I found many parts of Braid.
Some pieces were easy to get hold of and others were a little harder, that much I expected. But then there were the pieces that are nigh on impossible. Maybe it's just me who found this game so exasperatingly difficult at times. I struggled so much that in the end I abandoned some puzzle pieces completely.
As I went from world to world, it was all a bit too taxing for my tired brain. I wanted to get all those puzzle pieces but in the end I just ran through the game to see the different stages and read the story. Perhaps if the puzzles pieces had played a more integral role then I would have been more interested in carrying on my piece-collecting quest - but they didn't seem to really matter.
I found Braid a little too precocious for its own good.
I did quite like the boss levels. Although the earlier ones weren't difficult at all - I felt like I was cheating by being able to constantly rewind and undo everything I'd just done - the extra effort required to conquer the later bosses made them more enjoyable.
Although at times I found the ability to rewind in Braid a bit of a cheat - like those earlier bosses for example - I think that in general it was a really useful tool, and defined the game's individuality more than anything else. At certain points I found the way you had to rewind to progress was very clever. Collecting keys out of deep pits and then rewinding to escape, but keeping hold of the key, was a nice touch.
But certain worlds within the game tried to use rewind features in different ways. I'm not sure it works here. My brain would protest, having learnt to play Braid one way, when it was asked to use the rewinding in combination with new elements that were unaffected by time or introduced a time lapse echo of my movements. It sounds complicated when I explain it, but you should try playing it. Brainache!
I know there will be some people, who play games a lot more than me who will love Braid. But I just didn't love this game. Although the storyline is quite interesting, the music stood out and each world had a real sense of atmosphere, the gameplay itself was simply too hard for me to really enjoy it.
Whereas Limbo helps as much as it hinders, I found Braid a little too precocious for its own good.
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