I was sad when she left me, but that's in the future now. My regrets are water flowing backwards under the bridge. I have been moved and removed, I have chased something and found it. Braid is tripped, and it's one of the most amazing games ever made. It belongs to the "new canon" of process-intensive titles that utilize interactivity to the reinforcement of their aesthetic souls.
Braid is the story of a lost love, an inescapable goal, time travel in an age of sorrow, a never ending explosion through memory. Braid is the story of Super Mario after he ate the wrong mushroom and turned impressionist; the text begins with a cadence that puts you into an adoring trance:
"Tim is off on a search to rescue the Princess. She has been snatched by a horrible and evil monster.
"This happened because Tim made a mistake."
Like Super Columbine, Braid is a game that critiques games at its starting gun. Mario was a breakthrough for flow, it brought 2D platforming into its pure, commercial prototype, it operated masterfully on the emotional plane. Braid is the mirroring breakthrough for "phantasm", for gameplay that challenges who-you-are. It ironically commands you to "Hunt!" before moving into a cerebral contemplations. It takes the damsel-in-distress motif out of its evolutionary roots and throws it under a warped light of hurried confession. It operates on the metaprogramming circuit: each world a different cosmology, a different way of looking at how time caused the self. You'll go over movements the way you'd go over memories of a shattered relationship, playing things over in your head, trying to solve what she meant or why you said that.
You will not find the Princess, because she's in another castle, and when you do you won't catch her, and when you do she won't be what you were expecting. She has abandoned you, and it's your fault. The end will offer to change your understanding of justice, of your own place in the universe, of why you act and play things and why you're wrong... sometimes. And then the true end will give way to a rare elite of obsessive searchers who'll find the stars, and then when you read the text you'll get it. The constellation will be fulfilled, the pulsing drip of the painted world will calm you with a quintessential sunset.
Jason Rohrer said that other than he, only Ledonne (of SCMRPG), Rod Humble and Jon Blow were making games that really use the strength of the medium to do something wholly new. Not to exclude anything, but he's right about those games. This game is as important as Spore, though Spore will definitely set its milestone in a more monolithic fashion. But size is irrelevant to a deep and unique feeling, and it's on that basis that I put these games together on the same level. Go to a friend's house, make whatever accommodations you need -- get a Xbox 360 and play Braid.
The puzzles are deep and satisfying, each one a unique pretzel, salted or sugared, always delicious. The progression of lighting in the successive worlds, the rewind of the violin, the repetitive deaths, the surfing through possibility space, the shadow and the ring; this is me spoiling everything and then rewinding and changing the words. Remember when the Portal trailer ended with "Now You're Thinking In Portals"? Be prepared to start thinking in directions, weighted circumferences, reversions, parallels; tie it in with a meditation on personal responsibility, dank and laced with beautiful sadness. To build a transhuman experience of appropriate size, we will need a great many games. But what we've got now feels like an acceptable start.
N.B.: Normally, it is our policy not to review console titles. But, you know... It's Braid.