Braid is an incredibly pretentious and deeply moving video game with an incomprehensible, ambiguous story and highly original gameplay mechanics. Or, if you're in a hurry, it's a Mario-like platformer where you can, like, mess with time, man.
Braid like most platformers, is about a person (well, in that, it's not like other platformers, because you're not a cute animal with a sassy sidekick) who runs around, climbs ladders, and jumps from platform to platform. In Braid, however, you can press a button and rewind time whenever you want, even after you die.
Not content with making you the Master of Death, later levels in the game give you a ring that can slow down time wherever you place it, a world where time only moves when you do, and, creepily, the ability to make shadow versions of yourself.
Braid is a puzzle game, and you collect puzzle pieces for every puzzle you complete. Every puzzle is different, and you have the option to actually run through the game without solving any of the puzzles. This way, you can bypass a puzzle that's troubling you and continue it at a later date. This is excellent, because a lot of the puzzles in Braid are mind-numbingly hard, and this prevents you from using a golf club to turn your computer into a small heap of plastic and motherboards.
Unfortunately, to make it to the game's final world, you need to collect all 60 puzzle pieces. Because, apparently, people not blessed with genius don't deserve to see the ending.
There is no doubt that Braid is hard. No matter how good you get, you'll eventually get stuck on one puzzle or another. Apparently even the designer realized how hard the game is, because he created an official walkthrough for people who got stuck. What a swell guy.
This is a pretty considerate thing for Jonathon Blow to do, really. Let's face it: we're not all of us Einstein, and solving puzzles regarding time is hard, because it requires a form of thinking we don't usually experience.
So, you boot up the Official Braid Walkthrough on the game's website. After guiding you through the extremely easy first level, the walkthrough informs you to "Continue on to the next puzzle pieces, and..."
You thought it would be that easy, idiot? Well, FUCK YOU. Seriously, not-geniuses, the door is over there. Get the fuck out.
Braid took nearly three years to develop; after Blow created the game, he spent an eternity making it perfect before releasing it. So much so that the game won the "Innovation in Game Design" award at the Independent Games festival in 2006, but wasn't released until 2008. Of course, when the game was released, ecstatic reviews soon followed.
Reading some of these reviews displays an interesting trend:
Braid's special talent seems to be not reversing time, but rather getting game reviewers to fall to their knees and weep with unbridled joy while simultaneously creaming their pants. Also, some of the reviews seem to have been written in a very odd frame of mind:
It seems likely that many game critics have confused the game of Braid with the effects of LSD. We half-expected the research department to dig up a review saying, "This game fills you with an unnatural warmth unlike any you've experienced before. Also, your hands feel really weird and those chicken tenders you were munching on go from good to INCREDIBLE."
Braid's story is presented by a series of books containing wordy ponderings at the beginning of each level. At the simplest level, you're a guy named Tim who seems to have lost his girlfriend, but the story goes deeper than that; it's very open to interpretation, and Blow himself said that the story was "something big and subtle and resists being looked at directly." For players that had finished the game, he stated, the story would provide a "longer-term challenge."
Translation: The story is deeply weird and nigh-on impossible to interpret, and the epilogue elevates it from a basic love story with philosophical pretentions to a David Lynchian mass of indecipherable allegory.
Translation's translation: This game is really fucking weird and you should just ignore the story if you want to maintain your peaceful life.