Braid


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ArtbegottiWhen you read something, you usually retain some sort of information from the words you've seen. After a few seconds or minutes of reading, you've amassed a bit of knowledge and can find ways to apply it. But what if the flow of time wasn't linear? Best of Casual Gameplay 2009What if you could obtain that knowledge, then go back and use it in situations long before you started reading? This is one of the key concepts Braid, a puzzle platformer created by Jonathan Blow, is built upon. With a deep, intriguing storyline, gorgeous watercolor backgrounds, enchanting music, and the unique ability to manipulate time, Braid is built from dozens of unique puzzles (no filler material) that will challenge your ability to think laterally while inspiring your philosophical mind to search for meaning with every object you encounter.

As you begin the game, you'll notice how Braid feels like your ordinary platformer. Run, climb, jump, and bounce off the heads of enemies, all in the name of collecting a puzzle piece. The story even seems to involve rescuing a princess! However, the significant twist (and oh, what a twist it is) is... time. BraidAlmost every puzzle in this game requires you to manipulate time to some extent, whether it be through trial-and-error or altering the speed or direction that time flows. Holding down the [shift] key will move time backwards, letting you undo an action (such as dying) to let you have a new perspective on what you've just done.

Part of the journey Braid takes you on is the thrill of discovering how time moves uniquely in each world. That much said, we'll try not to spoil too many of the twists for you, but we will offer you this advice: with probably 99% of the games you've played in your life, time has marched on steadily, and there's been nothing you can do about it. The clock has always ticked down, the bonus points have slowly decreased, and the desire to keep moving just for the sake of moving has plagued you. If you want to succeed with Braid, don't let this happen. The one mechanism you've never been allowed to tamper with is now your biggest tool for solving each puzzle. Think of how time can be used in that world, and how it can be applied to each specific task. If all else fails and you get completely stuck, take a break. Time is on your side, after all.

Jonathan Blow's puzzle of time won't just twist your mind with its new style of mental gymnastics, but features enough gorgeous eye-candy to leave you craving more. Each pixel is coated with pure awesome and served with a warm cup of stunning. The music and sounds not only serve as a soundtrack for your adventure, but almost become a manipulable toy by themselves, able to be twisted as you play with time. However, one of the truly astonishing aspects of this game is the deeply involving story, which sweetly lures you in at the beginning, and blows your mind as you travel onward.

BraidJohnBTo say that Braid is breathtaking is a massive understatement. If it doesn't change the way you think about games as tools of expression, you're missing out on more than half the experience. In creating Braid, Jonathan Blow knew that a video game would be the only suitable medium to tell the story. Why? Because games are interactive, they create a unique bridge crossing the gap between player and game. Reading or watching movies is a passive experience, whereas games are active. Blow played with this in a number of ways, toying with the player in such a way that the interaction between you and Braid becomes a story (and a game) on its own.

One of the biggest points of discussion in Braid is its story, and there are as many theories on its meaning as there are people to play the game. What has Tim done that he regrets so much? Who is the princess, what does she represent? And what's this about an atomic bomb? After completing Braid for the first time, I went back and replayed the entire thing with a friend, picking apart every little sprite and event, watching enemies spout from cannons and wondering if their direction or position carried a deeper meaning. Of course it was all just speculation on our parts (and a little presumptuous, too), but how many games burrow themselves into your mind that deeply? How many spark such long, deep and engaging conversations outside of the game itself? Very, very few, and for that alone, Braid deserves high praise.

BraidOn the surface, Braid's story is about regret, mistakes, and learning from each one. The ability to manipulate time is something all of us have wished we could do. Imagine going on your first date with the ability to reverse time! In Braid's case, not only are we erasing mistakes we have made (stepping on spikes, falling off a platform, etc.), but we, as players, retain the knowledge of making the mistake when we repeat the action. All the regret of losing a life and restarting a level is gone. Braid also plays with a number of gaming conventions, particularly those made famous by the Super Mario Bros. series, to make you think you'll experience a classic video game scenario (rescuing the princess, anyone?) before turning everything on its head. It's "wow" from so many levels.

Each puzzle in Braid is unique, there's no copy/paste filler material, so instead of memorizing how to pass a certain obstacle and applying that knowledge later on, you only learn how to play the game, which means manipulating time and allowing it to manipulate you. The different time mechanics as you progress through the worlds — from simple rewinding to shadow characters and so on — can also be interpreted in the light of the mistakes/regret theme of the story. What if you could just take a step backwards and undo what you just did? The unique nature of the puzzles led me to believe there had to be some sort of meaning encapsulated within each. The final, greatest puzzle in Braid is its story, and that one, I'm afraid, isn't meant to be solved.

If you're in the mood to be intrigued by a game, Braid is for you. If you want some fodder for the next "games are/aren't art" argument you find yourself trapped in, Braid is required playing material. Don't use a walkthrough for this game, just play through it, experiment, and enjoy the thrill of working out the puzzles on your own. When you reach the last level, it will be one of the most emotionally stunning moments you will ever experience in a game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Note: Braid's music is a collection of songs from a number of independent composers. Check out the soundtrack on the official Braid blog. Also, if you're interested in Braid's story and its various interpretations, this story FAQ summarizes some of the themes and meanings.

Walkthrough Guide


(Please allow page to fully load for spoiler tags to be functional.)

We've just finished a complete walkthrough for Braid showing you how to get all the puzzle pieces, and the extra text in the epilogue!
The walkthrough can be found here

65 Comments

Woah. They finally did this on PC? I was begging for this before I was actually given a 360 for my birthday - first thing I did? I bought Braid. Such a good game.

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The Mac download and demo links seem to be swapped.

Also, thanks for leading me to learning there is in fact now a Mac version!

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sjdhalkjfgs Author Profile Page May 31, 2009 7:20 PM

I played the demo when the game first came out on Xbox 360, and it seemed pretty cool. But it doesn't seem to want to work for my computer.. I downloaded and installed it, but when I try to play it just brings up a black screen. Oh well.

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Kevin: Oops! Thanks for pointing that out. Fixed. :-)

Braid was one of my main reasons for buying an Xbox 360 back in the day. I knew a PC release would eventually happen, but I wasn't sure when, and to be honest, I didn't want to wait for a game I was already to pumped to play. My purchase was not in vain! I still go back and read bits of the story today, ponder on it a bit more...

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Can anybody point me in the right direction to get to

Strange castle?

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Anonymous May 31, 2009 10:56 PM

My only disappointment with this game is

that the only time the puzzle pictures are used as a function to pass the level is in World 2, with the ledge that appears next to the spilling wine glass. You can't pass the level unless you figure out that you can jump on the puzzle-ledge. I was looking forward to more of that, perhaps each picture had something new you would have to use in order to pass the level. Like maybe a picture of a braid-goomba that you would actually have to jump on to bounce up to another puzzle piece/ledge. Or maybe even something with time, like a clock that must be turned back. But, yeah, putting that puzzle piece ledge in the first level and then never bringing it back felt like they didn't finish the idea. Too lazy, or just a money-hook for the demo that you don't see again.

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I'm a huge fan of braid, and have played through it a few times, although I haven't

although I haven't... are you sure you want to know?

Well, I haven't collected

all of the

you really shouldn't click the next spoiler unless you want to ruin a completely hidden part of the game

I haven't collected all of the super-hidden stars

It is a pleasant game to play through on my Xbox, If you have a 360 you can pick it up on the XBLA.

I like all the little shout-outs to Mario, but this game certainly stands on its own.

If you like platforming games at all, you should give this a try.

The ending has two possible interpretations that you can read about posted around the internets. Good stuff.

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I have heard about this game for quite a while now and have been intrigued by sheer enthusiasm people have had by juxtaposing art with gaming. Seeing screenshots of the game, I was a little bewildered at how a game that looked like that could be so...for lack of a better word, conversational.

Since playing the demo, I ended up purchasing the game and have fallen in love with the detail in puzzle gaming as well as the game designers sociological insights.

I have read a lot of dialogue on this site regarding whether games should get "too deep" as some people pose it, but I personally only really enjoy a game when they will allow myself to question my current personal beliefs on how life plays out.

I haven't finished the game, have avoided the spoilers, and from what I hear, the ending shouldn't disappoint.

Thanks, Jonathan Blow, for a game that achieves more than just allowing the player to zone out for awhile.

And thanks jayisgames contributors, for always sticking up for these games.

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It's also worth noting that this is also available through Steam and XBLA, and on both of those they have Achievements/Steam Achievements, be it very rudimentary ones.

I almost bought a 360 for this game, but stopped myself when I heard it was going to be released on Steam. Good to see both that it's available through more distributors and that there's now a mac version! =D

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I played the demo when the game first came out on Xbox 360, and it seemed pretty cool. But it doesn't seem to want to work for my computer.. I downloaded and installed it, but when I try to play it just brings up a black screen. Oh well.
Posted by: sjdhalkjfgs

I got the same exact error. I can hear some very nice music but the screen is totally black, and looking at the system requirements nothing obviously looked wrong. Anybody got a good guess as to what this is?

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It puzzles me why reviewers say there is no copy/paste/filler in Braid. It's a claim made by the developer but when you see the same level layout for the 2nd, 3rd or 4th time the last thing you'll be thinking is "no filler". Granted there will be another twist that changes the solution but imo it's incorrect to say there isn't any at all.

It's like when a band releases a new record, they always say "no filler".

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Michael June 1, 2009 4:18 AM

Honestly, in my many years of gaming, I've never played a game as clever or as deep as Braid is. The story blew my mind, the ending was absolutely stunning, the music is top notch, and the art is fantastic.

I can not give this game high enough praise because, in all honesty, this game represents everything I love about playing games.

From what I've figured out, the game is a metaphor for a relationship, which, in turn, is a metaphor for the development of an atomic bomb. The creator of this game likens the obsessive pursuit of accomplishment to that of an abusive, obsessive lover. When, during the end when you discover that you are the "bad guy"... just... oh my. I literally sat for 10 minutes straight trying to reassemble my psyche.

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Coldfrog Author Profile Page June 1, 2009 5:12 AM

If you think the pit and other areas are "filler" you kind of missed the entire idea of it. Besides, you said it yourself, there is a new solution to what looks like an old problem. However, that's precisely the reason why the level isn't filler. Anyone could take a string of blocks and just repeat them over and over ad nauseum, but to make you see two things that look similar but are actually radically different is a mark of ingenuity on the part of the creator. Making the unfamiliar out of the familiar and then making the observer reform his views of the world is one of the basic principles this game exhibits, and if you don't get even a bit of satisfaction out of learning a new way to do an old task, then this probably isn't the game for you anyway.

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richmcd Author Profile Page June 1, 2009 5:46 AM

I can't fault the gameplay, but surely I can't be the only person who thinks the writing is actually pretty poor?

Unintelligible symbolism isn't the same as being insightful or philosophical. I didn't enjoy reading any of the pre-world books but kept going because I assumed they'd acquire new meaning in light of the ending. But hardly any of them do. Which doesn't make it seem 'deep' to me so much as a mess.

Still, like I said, can't fault the gameplay.

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Splurgy June 1, 2009 6:04 AM

Alas! If only my computer could run it. :/

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richmcd Author Profile Page June 1, 2009 6:47 AM

Also, it seems the game was only

about the atomic bomb

to the extent that it said it was at the end. Any attempts to reconcile the content of the game with the apparent message seem to come up pretty short. The ambiguous text and opaque symbolism get you half way to squeezing the metaphor onto the game but you have to leave so much out (all the Mario references, for example, and most of the pre-world text) that it's hardly convincing.

It seems equivalent to my saying that this post was actually about eating a giraffe. Just because I say it is, doesn't make it so.

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"Unintelligible symbolism isn't the same as being insightful or philosophical"

I have to second this. Braid had some clever puzzles (and a few cruel, unfair ones!) and I did enjoy the "magic time potion", but the text spoiled the mood for me, kind of like an overwrought monologue in a star wars movie.

It's too bad, because the basic mechanics seemed interesting, despite the fact that the unifying theme is actually

space

, not time! :)

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I feel that saying there is no copy/paste in braid is a bit misleading, as some of the later levels are literally copied and pasted from earlier levels only viewed through a different gameplay mechanic. I'm not complaining about it though, in fact, I think it's brilliant. But to say there's no copy/paste is simply not true.

On a separate note for those who've finished the game, does anyone else agree with me that most people misinterpret the ending?

And I don't mean that people think it's just about a girl, I'm talking about how everyone seems to think it's about just the atom bomb. I think it goes far beyond that.

Tim, I believe, takes on the symbol of a scientist or an artist. Here I view art and science as the pursuit to understand something or to discover something unknown. So really, Tim can be viewed as just a person (ANY person) searching to understand a thing. This is important because it views Tim as any one of many people rather than only the character Tim.

I think this claim is supported by the text in the epilogue, especially the bit about how he "scrutinized the fall of an apple," "cut rats into pieces," and "implanted tungsten posts into the skulls of water starved monkeys." I'll confess, I don't know what specific event most of these refer to, but I do believe that they all refer to different scientists in the course of history, rather than only Tim. The atom bomb is a scientific discovery, yes, but it's only a part of the larger whole.

But I think this is best demonstrated by the caste at the end which is built of level icons. I feel the writing in this segment begins to refer to the player of the game as "he." The castle being made up of blocks from the game, he is beginning to understand something, but hasn't come to it's complete understanding yet. The player is an artist or a scientist, the player is someone intently seeking knowledge.

So is the game about the atom bomb? Yes. But the game is also about so many other things. Generally, it is about the pursuit of Science or Art, and not about any specific element of either.

I hope I'm saying all this clearly, it's a bit muddled in my head, so it's sure to come out muddled in writing.

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This is a wonderful and very original game.

Jonathan wrote a (rather technical, but very interesting) article on game development a few years ago:
Game Development:Harder Than You Think

Jay, fyi, when I tried to buy the game through the link on JiG the affiliate ID wouldn't pass through since I'm not registered with GreenHouse. I just got a 'session expired' error. You may want to double-check that.

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Anonymous June 1, 2009 4:02 PM

Yes, I agree with Richmcd that the writing is quite poor. It stands out as excellent simply because it is better than most games that are not text-adventure; that doesn't mean it's particularly good. I would say it is probably an intro to expository writing class level (the English university class that everyone is required to take, even non-majors). But, still, it is quite an interesting story idea.

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Captain_404: Most games introduce you to a particular puzzle mechanic and proceed to re-use that mechanic a dozen times over, dressing it up in different colors each time. Braid doesn't do that. The hunting levels may look the same, but the puzzle is completely different.

As for your points about the story:

I think you're spot-on about Tim representing the person questing for something. That "something" here is represented by the princess, the cliche damsel in distress that always seems to be in another castle. When we reach the end of the game (which is really the beginning of the story, as we know) we see a castle built out of icons. Those icons are the things we experienced. The castle is built from our experiences. The princess is in another castle. The princess can be found by gaining other experiences.

richmcd: Sure, that's one way to look at it. :-) There's no answer to any of it, just speculation. The game isn't about the writing, though, it's about the game, the player, and the writing. The text is there to add a little meaning to what you're doing, and I thought it was interesting to apply the books to the worlds they preceded as well as in context of the whole. Remember: Braid is a game because you play a game, not just read it. I think what you spoiler tagged is yet another metaphor, as those references so often are, and if you'll recall the ending:

where everything is turned backwards, literally, then the atomic bomb stuff is really the beginning and every thing else comes after.

Of course, I also admit I thought a little too hard about the meanings, but isn't that what you're supposed to do? Is it any different than the people who see so much symbolism in, say, The Last Supper?

CowboyRobot: The link doesn't contain an affiliate ID. I'm logged out of Greenhouse and all the links work for me.

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richmcd Author Profile Page June 1, 2009 6:04 PM

I agree that the books should be there, for all the reasons that you list. I just think they could stand to be better written, so I don't sigh when I'm reading them and feel like it's a chore.

I accept that the last level is really the beginning of the story but looking at it that way the story has no conclusion at all. To be satisfying as a plot, there ought to be something special about the books in world six, or the end of world six. As far as I can tell, there isn't.

Now I'm not saying that games need to have any kind of plot or fantastic writing, but this game is being praised for those features when they seem to be wanting.

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Daar, the reversed music scared me. and I don't like to be stressed and scared, so I quitted. XD

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greenfourth June 1, 2009 9:56 PM

I doubt this is very spoiler-ish but I'll tag it anyway. I seem to be having difficulty with the epilogue:

As I'm running through I'm touching all the books and the green ones don't say anything. Normally I wouldn't question this. But the very last books, the two by the icon-castle, DO say something. Is this supposed to happen or am I missing bits of epilogue?

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Um... not sure how you guys can even comment on the quality of the writing considering how little of it there is. It's not awkward, misspelled, or grammatically incorrect. The most I can say is that it's a little melodramatic.

richmcd: you mentioned that the Mario symbolism becomes awkward when you try to fit a coherent story on to the entire game. Actually, I think the usage of classic video gaming tropes in this game serves to make a small statement about what makes gaming such a compelling endeavor for so many people:

Basically, the idea of performing similar tasks, world after world, with minor variations and stepwise revelations every time, mimics the essentially human endeavor that is artistic or scientific discovery. In a nutshell, Braid manages to remind us why we love gaming so much. It's about games as much as it is about science, romance, or art. Captain was dead on when he expanded the application of the themes of Braid to all of science. I think it seems contrived only when we seek to limit the story to EITHER the atomic bomb OR the Princess as elusive lover. If we recognize in Braid the universal notion of a possibly unwinnable pursuit, it becomes a very neat expression of that fundamental idea, tying it into science, romance, and gaming. In doing so it deliberately elevates games to the status of other human artistic endeavors, becoming the evidence for its own thesis. Sweet.

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I never felt like reading the books were a chore. Actually, Blow divided the text into books to help prevent that, as most gamers would probably ignore required cutscene/intro text. They're optional in that you're playing a game and have a degree of control over what you do. You aren't forced to read the books, which is kind of part of the charm.

I don't know why some people think the writing in the game is bad. Is it because it's writing in a game? If it were in a book would it be considered better? The writing was emotionally descriptive, it grabbed my attention, it held it, it made me want more, and it made me think about things afterwards. That's my definition of good writing. I've read modern day novels that weren't nearly as good.

You're right, the story given by the texts doesn't really have a conclusion, but that's only if you look at the words separate from the game. The game has a conclusion, and Braid is a game, not a novel, so I wasn't wanting anything further from the text when I finished.

greenfourth: The green are triggers for reading the red books. Check the spoiler.

The red books are affected by time, the green ones not. You'll notice there are certain spots where you'll hear singing when you walk by. Keep a red book open and try walking there, you'll get some additional text. Then you'll drive yourself mad analyzing the red texts and their difference in comparison to the green books. :-D

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Also, I thought I'd share an article I wrote about Braid's story shortly after I beat the game. Everything was much fresher in my mind, then. :-) Massively huge spoilers ahead!

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richmcd:

"I accept that the last level is really the beginning of the story but looking at it that way the story has no conclusion at all. To be satisfying as a plot, there ought to be something special about the books in world six, or the end of world six."

That is BS. Braid's does not need a conclusion when the story is placed in chronological order because it does not adhere to the model of traditional linear storytelling.

"It seems equivalent to my saying that this post was actually about eating a giraffe. Just because I say it is, doesn't make it so."

This is also BS.

Hints that the princess is not a person are scattered throughout the game. There are many layers to the story, and it seems like you barely ventured beyond the superficial literal interpretation of the text, which is why you feel blindsided by the ending.

By the way, did you even find the hidden books and reveal the full story? The preface to each stage are merely experiences from tim's life, highlighting his obsession, and to hint at the theme of each stage.

Braid IS very well written. It does a wonderful job showcasing the potential of the interactive medium in storytelling. It takes quite a bit of work in game to unveil the many layers of the story. If you don't spend the time to think and just take what you're handed at face value then the story will seem confusing and disjointed.

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Captain_404: "I feel that saying there is no copy/paste in braid is a bit misleading, as some of the later levels are literally copied and pasted from earlier levels only viewed through a different gameplay mechanic."

No, that kind of copy/paste is purely superficial. It's like saying Blackjack and Texas Holdem Poker are copy/pasted versions of each other because they use the same cards.

It doesn't matter if the levels resemble each other visually; changing the game mechanics changes everything.

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richmcd Author Profile Page June 2, 2009 7:06 AM

JohnB: I'm certainly not biased against the writing because it's in a computer game. I'm constantly telling my friends how computer games can be well written and forcing them to play Last Express at gunpoint.

But I didn't feel any of the things you felt when I read those books, and whilst there are certainly some terribly written modern novels, I'm not sure I've read a modern novel which has the same kind of writing in it that's been as bad. If the same writing were in a book I doubt the book would be published, at least not without some serious editing. At the very least it's overlong.

yifes: I wasn't blindsided by the ending, I didn't feel anything. I guess it's possible there was more to discover

I didn't find all the stars, for example

but I didn't care enough to want to. I'm all for having parts of the game which you aren't forced to experience and you have to search for, but if what you do have to see doesn't incline you to find the extra stuff then somethings gone wrong. In this case it was terrible prose.

And whilst I appreciate there were plenty of hints that the princess wasn't a person that is emphatically not the same as a hint that she was the representation of the atomic bomb. What in the game even remotely hints at that before you're explicitly told the fact in the last level? There's a pretty large set of things which aren't people which also aren't the atomic bomb.

Also, regardless of the quality of the writing, it doesn't do a thing for interactive story-telling, as far as I can tell. The story and the game are about as separate as you can get. There's no way to alter the conclusion or even the path of the plot. I don't really see what you can mean.

I appreciate that this game has been a good catalyst for people thinking about things they might not usually think about. I'm all for that, but that's not the same as the game actually saying anything interesting, informative or revolutionary about those things. Just that it reminded people that such issues exist.

I just think it's just sad that somewhere between terrible computer game writing and these art games, we've missed out the part where computer games tell good, exciting stories in a well-written way.

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richmcd Author Profile Page June 2, 2009 7:09 AM

Hmm, I misread what you said. You said "interactive medium in story-telling". I've been spending so much time reading Emily Short that I thought it said "medium of interactive story-telling". I guess there is a difference. Even so, I stand by the point that the story and the game are really kept well apart until the end.

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Richmcd has an interesting point: people seem to get way more excited about the "art" of video games when the games metaphorically illustrate a concept than when they place the player in a position to have a hand in telling the story. There are two different types of storytelling here, and they're not really on a gradient. Perhaps Braid can't really be said to have a "story", since that word usually has connotations of characters and a plot. Tim is a character, yes, but the game doesn't really represent chronological events which comprise a story. Tim doesn't even really interact with other characters, since

the Princess turns out to be multiple things, and certainly not the same type of thing as Tim.

The text before the levels helps to guide your interpretation of the actions in the game, which together with the music and art create a mood and communicate an idea, but not really tell a story. In a way any "story" is made up in the way the player's concept of what the game is changes over time, but this is very different from other types of storytelling.

That other kind of storytelling focuses on plot and characters, and is perfectly valid as well. I feel like the first time I encountered that type of storytelling (effectively done) was in FFVII. Even though the writing in that game sucked, over time you really got to know the characters, how they interacted, and you came to identify with their epic journey. This is a more traditional example of games telling a story.

Maybe the reason why people get so fired up about stuff like Braid is because that type of game is just more clever. It takes a significant amount of lateral thinking on the part of the developer to construct a metaphor that encompasses every aspect of a game. Whereas in FFVII the gameplay facilitates the story, allowing the player to advance it, in Braid the experience is a little more zen: every action you take doesn't tell you something new, but it puts you in a certain mood, a certain place where you are ready to accept the next thing the game is going to become. Of course, just because this is so cool doesn't mean we should forget traditional storytelling.

By the way, I heartily reject the notion that part of disagreeing with someone on the forums is calling their premises "BS" before arguing with them. If you take the name-calling out, your point isn't affected and you immediately become less rude. Name-calling is BS. :)

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Brilliant!

For the first time in ages I can't even read this page because there are too many spoilers and the reward for the puzzles is one of the purest I've had for years!

Jonathon Blow, many many many congratulations.

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in_dubio Author Profile Page June 2, 2009 10:41 AM

Braid is unbelievably unbelievable. As soon as I saw this game, I thought 'this is JIG material! Why haven't I read about this yet'?

Braid is unique in it's originality and purity. Very nice review, guys!

I finished the game without any help. The learning experience was remarkable. You really have to start 'thinking with Braid', the way you had to learn to 'think with Portals' back in the day.

I literally couldn't sleep well after the conclusion in the final level. Heartbreaking.

Casual gaming community; congratulations on your new love child!

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New hatred : people who talk about how the writing is terrible that dont understand literary critique. Bonus? When the piece in question addresses how the pursuit of academia/intellectual excellence destroys the things you love.

And thats Braid; The analogy of the relationship holds true; the protagonist destroying his relationship trying to keep it pure and perfect and refine understanding and harmony, the second-remove analogy of science and the pursuit of knowledge taking the protagonist from the contemplation of apples through to the more violent and emotionally charged subject of hammering tungsten into monkey brains.

and _thats_ why its a masterful piece of writing; I see a good few of you managed to get this, but ugh, the person who felt like they needed to //statusdrop/ englishmajor into their point was pathetic. (oh you're an english major? GJ, Sparky. have a donut)

Braid says : you were having fun. The world was pretty and simple and you were lucky, but you had to pull it all apart, and now its apart, and ruined; a constant tug of war between Art and science, between lovers, between the desire to keep things safe and the things we do to keep them safe (see also, the bomb, the relationship with the princess) These themes play into current social concerns, such as loss of political freedoms for greater security, and the More Guns = More Peace global approach right now.

for me, even the Mario references tied into this; they drag you back in time (ha, again) to when a game was just a game and didnt have to make sense or have an overarching plotline or teach you or tell you a story or moralise at you. Braid says (to me, at least) On the surface, we are the good guy, we miss our princess. Then it deepens that, saddens the story, and references an earlier, simpler time, when that was all we knew.

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richmcd Author Profile Page June 2, 2009 1:58 PM

Hmm. I feel I ought to defend myself but I'm a bit confused. I don't understand what you mean by "people who talk about how the writing is terrible that dont understand literary critique." Since you don't seem to elaborate on what you mean I'll just have to ask. What do you think I've done that's invalid and what could I do to rectify it?

I guess I could quote examples of prose I thought was bad. I think a sentence like "Her benevolence has circumscribed you, and your life's achievements will not reach beyond the map she has drawn." is just overwrought. It just reads like someone trying really hard to impress with 'good writing', and so fails to elicit any kind of positive response from me.

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Good storytelling isn't necessarily in the words themselves but in the affect they have on the listener/reader (context, etc). You can stand and recite Hamlet without stirring an emotional response in an audience. Perform it, however, and something will happen. In Braid's case, the words are only a small part of what's telling the story. The process of playing the game is where the real plot comes through, the words are just bits of kindling thrown in to stoke the fire.

For example:

the final "boss" level tells a story and doesn't use any words at all. Here you discover that Tim isn't innocently searching for the princess so much as he is relentlessly pursuing her. The moment when you reach the right side of the stage and everything is reversed was very powerful.

First of all, rewinding time was not about undoing mistakes, it was about making them, and as you watched Tim undo everything you had just done, you interpret his actions (YOUR actions as a player) in a completely new light.

When you read a book before walking into a level, it's trying to set your mind in a certain mood for the level to come:

"He knows she tried to be forgiving, but who can just shrug away a guilty lie, a stab in the back? Such a mistake will change a relationship irreversibly, even if we have learned from the mistake and would never repeat it."

Now, step through the door, see what you think.

in_dubio: We wanted to wait on Braid's review until the Mac version came out, that way more people could get in on the discussion. :-)

Heff: I love the last paragraph of your previous comment. Good insights!

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richmcd Author Profile Page June 2, 2009 4:01 PM

JohnB: You can't have it both ways. You seem to want to downplay the writing but also show how it's integral. It's not that I'm taking the writing out of context, I really do understand how it's supposed to combine with all the other elements. I did what you said; I read the books then I went through the door and played the game. It just didn't work for me; the writing actively diminished my immersion in the game. But I imagine it wouldn't have done if the prose hadn't been so overwrought. The passage you quoted is a good example of how I think it's been overwritten.

As for your spoiler:

Umm. If you mean the last level, there are words. Theres a conversation that means one thing in one direction and something totally different when it's reversed (although I guess it pays not to think too hard about how it wouldn't work if they were actually talking in sounds, rather than written words). Anyway I rather broke the reversal thing in the last level by working it out too soon. I read so many rubbish crime novels that you can't trick me with a "potentially misinterpretable" conversation like the one between the knight and the princess. Of course it didn't help that there were so many quotes floating around (on the Braid website no less) about how the last level was something special, so I was actively on the lookout for something. I wish I had been surprised, but unfortunately I had the whole of trying to do the last level (which was rather difficult) to ruminate on the reversal that I was about to see. This spoiled the effect rather. Also it isn't really clear to me where the character of the knight fits into any interpretation of the game.

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I'm downplaying the writing's importance as writing, but trying to show how important it is as a part of the whole. You seem to be saying the writing itself is bad, but my point is that it's only bad if you look at it by itself, almost like taking words from a comic book and saying they're poorly written without seeing the accompanying pictures.

Here's a question: how would you suggest the writing in Braid have been handled?

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As a game, Braid is wonderful. Puzzle-platforming and brain-bashing at its best.

But since the discussion settled on the "true meanings", and whether or not it is really about

atomic bomb

well, here's my take.

I think the designer cheated. He deliberately made it ambiguous and "open to interpretation", seeding various clues here and there, planting red herrings, pulling you along for the ride and making you feel there is a sense behind it all, somewhere just out of your grasp. Yes, he did it masterfully, but I don't appreciate it. If you are forcing me to read big blocks of text (which you cannot even read in entirety before you get all those nearly-impossible-to-find secret stars), then fess up and tie the loose ends. Sure, it is fun to spark a discussion and make people argue about "what it all meant", but people also like getting a reward after finishing a daunting task, and Braid doesn't offer one. What it does is heaps and heaps of schizophrenic "hints" which can be used as grounds for any given interpretation.

I'm not saying that the author should have made the "meaning" obvious and out front for everyone to see. But it would be nice that there actually WAS an interpretation which - once found - would nicely fit like a jigsaw puzzle with all the visual and textual clues and whatnot. But there isn't one. I know some people will yell loudly that they "got it", but the sad thing is - there's nothing to "get". Give any kind of interpretation, the game will offer some pointers that it's the right one (and loads of others which will have nothing to do with it unless you seriously overstretch the metaphors). Don't get me wrong, Braid is a wonderful, wonderful game, but ultimately - as far as the interpretation goes - the Emperor is naked, no matter how loudly the crowd praises his new clothes.

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Also, if it wasn't very obvious, I kinda agree with richcmd.

Ambiguous doesn't equal deep. Ditto for fancy writing. The fact that the "final" level tells a story completely without words just shows that you DON'T need words to tell a story and make an impact. I would have love if the game relied solely on visual clues, which are already abundant, and perhaps I would settle with the openness to interpretation much more easily.

But the designer chose to include loads and loads of text passages which ultimately sum up to a schizophrenic mess. Sure, if you dig a while you are bound to find something meaningful, but it still doesn't make it deep. I could say that Jayisgames.com is a personification of modern society which tries to escape from harsh realities into a completely pointless world of short-term virtual entertainment, but that would just be me overthinking stuff and getting more then a little bit pretentious.

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"He deliberately made it ambiguous and "open to interpretation", seeding various clues here and there"

I agree! It's very similar to what the writers of Lost do, but they have hours upon hours to re-seed questions and, ultimately, answer them. We love asking more questions, trying to figure out meanings, plot details, etc. Intrigue is a powerful thing.

The jigsaw-like meaning you are searching for in Braid is there, we just have to not look so hard:

Tim is going to rescue the princess, he seems to honestly be looking for her, but really he's obsessed, and the only person she needs to be rescued from is him.

Everything else is us over-analyzing the details and assigning meaning to things that probably weren't meant to have one. :-) A lot of things are deliberately left open and up for interpretation. Add layers of meaning as you see fit!

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I loved this game, but I don't think it's perfect by any means. At the beginning, I found myself wishing they had hired a consultant who was an english major, actually. So I agree with richcmd, the writing is not great. In a game where so many other things about it are excellent, it stands out as the weak link.

As the game progressed, I was able to get past the style so that the writing did enhance the game for me. In the end, I decided that tho it seems written by an over-reaching (but intelligent) 19yo, that's actually the character that you are playing in some ways. And since the game is about the immaturity embodied in questing for Princesses, the 'unpolished' or overwrought writing ties in with that. So, in the end, the writing worked for me.

Also, I decided that I prefer that someone is trying to be earnest in their communication, even if at times that becomes hackneyed, cliche, or overwrought. In BRAID, I felt like I was reading the diary of a self-important young man. It was very personal, and convoluted, and yes, overwrought. For me, that made it embarrassing, but convincing. At times, I wanted to say, "TMI, Tim!"

I do see that the questing for Princesses has analogues in the development of the bomb, and I appreciate that the developer was inspired by thinking about the how those scientists must feel, but I think it is a stretch to say that the game is ABOUT those scientists or their regret. For me, the game was more about regret itself and concepts of progress/achievement, than anything else. As a useful separate layer, I felt the obsessing over the 'lost-romance' had resonance for me, so it worked in both plot development and as a symbol for other things.

The game mechanics don't really lend themselves to explorations of the guilt specific to A-bomb developers, and only sometimes to the 'romantic' storyline. They are, however, very concrete meditations on time, regret, learning, progress, error, perfection, and I thought that was great.

Mistakes are concrete learning tools rather than punishable offenses. Not only is there a beautifully human lesson there, but it made gameplay so much more rewarding than frustrating.

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Dr. Worm Author Profile Page June 3, 2009 3:10 PM

Braid or World of Goo...Braid or World of Goo...I CAN'T DECIDE WHICH ONE TO BUY! GAH!

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Also also:

Anyone pick up on the view that:

The four pictures are a cliched/iconic representation of the downfall into alcoholism?

which tied in neatly with the ending, and the epilogue books, and how the text changes when you "hide" from it, behind rocks.

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@heff,

this is exactly what I'm talking about. It is so easy to find an interpretation and then a subset of the game's hints (both visual and textual) that supports it. In your case

sure, you *might* say that four (three..ok, two) pictures show a downfall into alcoholism. But you can also say that the first two pictures present two opposite persona - one that is having a time of his life at a laid back party and one who is boring himself to death on an uptight party. However, both of these interpretations aren't backed up with the rest of the pictures. What's alcoholism got to do with a sad guy at the airport or a guy checking out his old childhood room?

And you say it ties "neatly" with the ending and the epilogue books. Well.. it doesn't. Again, it ties neatly with just a small subset of ending/epilogue, and only if you want it to and stretch things a little.

Also, there's a significant crowd on the web who will argument how the game is about

the atomic bomb. And sure, the game isn't exactly "subtle" about that. The city in the initial screen is obviously in flames with just a hint of mushroom cloud in the background. The skycrapers seen from the attic resemble Manhattan quite a bit. Finally, the red books in the epilogue aren't just using terms connected with the a-bomb development, they also downright contain copy/pasted quotes! However, ignore those clues and the rest of the game has absolutely NOTHING with the a-bomb whatsoever.

And THIS is my biggest gripe. The game can be about whatever you want it to be about. Some people like this. I myself find it lazy - instead of coming up with something clever, the designer just decided to put hints about various thought-provoking stuff then sat back and said - "here, I made this beautiful mess, now you figure it out". Personally, I prefer puzzles and riddles with one solution to those with no proper solution but dozens of those that vaguely "feel right".

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I don't want everything tied up in a neat little package for me, I like a healthy amount of intrigue and open endedness. In my mind, forcing a rigid story/conclusion onto someone can be lazier than letting me come to my own decisions. It's easy to make a story that goes from A to B to C, not as easy to create one that makes you question whether A comes before B or if it even exists at all.

Sure, Braid may be a little too open ended in this respect, which makes some people uncomfortable, and yes, you can sit here and claim a salt shaker on the table is awe-inspiring and filled with meaning, but there isn't anything encouraging you to do so. I don't think anyone could play Braid and go "Oh, nice, a story about a princess. The end." When you feed yourself into a story, it becomes more personal, not a cold and separate tale someone else forced you to swallow.

elemeno: A nihilist approaches!

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It's not that I don't appreciate open-endedness, far from it. It's just that sometimes less is more. There are many Flash games, lots of them reviewed right here on this site, that are simply a joy to decipher and search for hidden meaning.

If Braid offered just a handful of hints and relied on atmosphere and visual clues I would love to hop on the find-an-interpretation train. However Johnathan opted for an overload of information effectively creating white noise which amounts to.. well..something resembling a pretentious and confusing mess. Like an amorphous mass which can resemble a lot of things but in reality is nothing but a blob. Finding familiar shapes in the blob can be a fun mental exercise, but CREATING a blob is really not the same as sculpting a masterpiece, init?

Again, I'm just talking about Braid as an art piece which defies an interpretation, something that tries too hard to sell ambiguousness as depth. Braid as a game/interactive medium/whatever is beyond terrific and I eagerly await the next thing Johnathan Blow has in store for us.

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Any reason there's no rating for this game?

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Huh. Interesting. I was talking to artbegotti just yesterday and we mentioned the rating. We both thought it was there. It's yellow because of the mild cartoon violence and a single instance of slightly harsh language... all the way at the end of the game. :-)

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This game is one of the best games I've played in a long time (lol) but I can't buy it for some reason....every time I hit the confirm purchase button it says my session is expired?

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Those of you unaware (ie, not on steam), and it should at least be mentioned here.

Spoilered for effect.

If you havent seen yet, there is a level editor to the game, as seen on Braids blog

http://braid-game.com/news/?p=576

Suggested you take a course in engineering though before you work with it, as its a largely confusing thing.

However the things you can do, you can change pretty much everything, from a tweak to a cloud to the entire artistic style.

Also, I think that the game is

The Pursuit of an unobtainable goal, and the lenghs you go to when such does not want to be obtained, when placed on its head.

I also agree with a lot of the Theories including the Basic

A-Bomb

Theory.

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That's right, I completely forgot about the level editor! I seem to remember finding a forum thread with a few custom levels. Time to hit up Google and find that again, I'd love to see what people have done with it...

Also, for anyone interested in Braid's artwork, Gamasutra has an excellent article detailing the process behind turning watercolor visuals into a playable landscape:

The Art Of Braid: Creating A Visual Identity For An Unusual Game

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Wyndclaw Author Profile Page June 7, 2009 3:29 AM

Aw. Mah. Gawd. This game is epic in so many ways. I LOVE this game, reminds me of the Prince of Persia series, except it puts a whole different spin on things. When I discovered that

I was the bad guy

I was so shocked that i couldnt think straight for a good 10 minutes. Thank you, Braid, for truly changing the way i will look at everything.

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We've just finished a complete walkthrough for Braid showing you how to get all the puzzle pieces, and the extra text in the epilogue!
The walkthrough can be found here

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All I get is a black screen,and music with the windows demo download.
Any help?

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freshlyshowered Author Profile Page July 10, 2009 6:08 AM

For those who thought they finished the game :

there is a second ending which involves collecting 8 well hidden stars - you cannot get them all if you have finished the game already, you will need to start over since (continued in next spoiler)

to find one star you cannot have assembled one of the jigsaw puzzles

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VERY, VERY Angry Person. September 20, 2009 5:52 PM

What kind of discussion is this? Three people, THREE PEOPLE have already asked how to solve the black screen+music glitch, and not a SINGLE PERSON has even TRIED to offer a solution! Honestly. I've gotten better help from an old sock than from any of the comments here on how to solve this.

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Angry person: there is no response for those questions because we don't know why this issue happens. It could be happening for different reasons on each computer. If you need technical support please visit the site where you bought/intend to buy the game.

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Thank you. At least somebody tries.

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Great discussion on Braids story. I for one found it to be great and I agree on many points made but

my interpretation of the last castle is a bit different. I thought it was more the characters end of his pursuit. He goes through this chase, which he sees as a rescue. Some of the text suggests that the pursuit weighs on him and tears at him. I saw the castle as the character moving on. He's left the Princess in his thoughts and thats where she will stay. He is building a new castle. His new pursuit. As for the game starting at the end and going to the start. With how the last level ends,you seeing that you're perspective has been wrong all along, this would be the character reflecting on what he has done and starting the process of letting go. World 1 seemed rather empty comparatively. Maybe it isn't the beginning of the first story. Its a new beginning all together

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As regards problems getting the game running, have you tried downloading the latest DirectX from MS?

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I just finished playing braid. It is now one of my favorite games all-time.

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Suffice to say I think this is the ONLY game that has EVER BLOWN MY MIND! Awesome! Loved it. Worth it, totally worth it.

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