Braid tells the story of Tim, a man searching for a princess snatched away by an evil monster. Although the events framing the action remain deliberately vague, occasional text preambles nevertheless indicate that Tim is hoping to reconcile – or better yet erase – a mistake he has made.
Tim's adventure is an exploration of themes, which sets it apart from other trite “save the princess” affairs. Braid deftly uses a single game play mechanic to express ideas of forgiveness, decision, and place. The pragmatic end of saving the princess isn't the goal; it's the emotional discoveries made along the way as perspectives gradually shift and come into focus.
As a game, Braid is a fairly straightforward puzzle-platform affair across six areas, each with its own variation on time manipulation. One world lets you rewind time at will, another has time advance and rewind as the player moves forwards or backwards, etc. Each variation is alluded to in the area's introductory text, which is the only kink in an otherwise immaculate interweaving of narrative and game play.
It's fitting, then, that Braid's overarching narrative is as sophisticated as its core game play mechanic. The paragraphs framing the narrative are out of sequence, reminiscent of the film Memento but with a more human touch. Saving the princess becomes a metaphor for the lengths to which one goes in order to repair what's been damaged, for how learning from a mistake never comes without the sting of the fault.
Unifying Braid is an aesthetically lush and beautiful style, with vivid brushwork art and soothing acoustic melodies. The feeling of being lulled to sleep permeates the entire experience, which compliments the dreamscape design exploring fresh perspectives on a familiar tale. From beginning to end, Braid never ceases to charm, and its fascinating narrative makes it all the more attractive.
And yet even after three years, Braid remains as alluring as ever, perhaps in part due to its closure (or lack thereof). Like the relationship between Tim and the princess – indeed like the relationships of anyone - Braid may come to an end, but it never resolves. What conclusion could be more appropriate than that?
Braid is available on PC, Mac, Linux, PSN, and XBLA for $10.