There is no tutorial for Braid. There is no how-to, no walkthrough, and nothing more than a simple introduction of which keys to hit when you want to move. In fact, when you first start up the game it takes a few seconds to even figure out what you’re doing. How could a game like that be any fun?
The fact is, Braid is a blast to play, even though it breaks all of the rules. It’s also one of the more addictive games out there, and now it’s available on the Mac App Store. Not only is it inexpensive, but it’s a great way to lose hours of your day, all while rolling time backwards.
Feeling lost yet? Don’t worry, we’ll explain after the jump.
To understand Braid, you first need to understand the background of the game. Braid borrows heavily from the Super Mario series of Nintendo games, and in some respects, plays very similarly.
There is a protagonist – Tim – hunting for his princess, who is lost somewhere in the game world. He has to find her, but in his way are a series of levels and puzzles that he has to solve, as well as puzzle pieces to collect. But that’s not what makes Braid so different.
The big difference is time manipulation. Anything in Braid that has green sparkly lights around it is resistant to time. That means no matter how much you rewind, the green sparkly object isn’t going to do anything other than what it was doing before. Wait, rewind?
Arrow keys move Tim left and right, up and down, spacebar jumps. But the last key that you use is really the big game changer for Braid, and what makes it stand out from the rest. It’s the shift key, and it rewinds time.
You never really die in Braid, you just fall down. In fact, the first time you do fall, you’re prompted to hit the shift key. This rewinds the game until before you hit the character, and you can try all over again.
So if you’re up on a ledge and about to jump but get hit by a bad guy, you can rewind it back and get a mulligan to try it again.
The Time Shifting Dynamic
This is where things get tricky. In fact, it’s tough to describe without actually just walking you through a video of the thing, so let’s use an example from the game. You’re standing above a pit, and at the bottom is one of the bad guys.
You have to grab a key from him, and the key has green sparkles around it. You know there’s no way to get out of the pit, but you need the key to get to the door. How do you do it?
Actually, it’s quite simple. Jump down into the pit and grab the key. Hit rewind, and the key comes back out of the pit with you. Why? The key is impervious to time, so once it’s yours, it’s yours. Now just open the door, and you can go on your way.
This dynamic is used a million different ways in Braid, and you can play it differently each time as well. Rewind back to the beginning of a level if you’ve screwed up, for example. Regardless of what you choose to do, the rewind mechanic makes Braid different than many other platformers on the market today.
Ode to a Plumber
Braid reads and plays a bit like a love story to everyone’s favorite repair man, Mario. There are no names for the bad guys in the game, but you’ll often see them referred to as Goombas on forums and walkthrough sites.
It’s also a very basic platformer, a concept which, if not completely attributed to Super Mario Bros, is definitely the game that popularized the concept. In fact, there are even a few levels that look like Mario games.
Although at times it plays like Mario, it’s definitely not Mario. The time dynamic keeps on shifting the way you play with each level, becoming more and more difficult.
In the later levels, every move you make dictates the movement of the entire screen, and in other levels you have to play it right from the start or just restart the level. This isn’t your typical game.
This game is a blast to play, but it can be equally frustrating. Because there is no guidance in the game at all – no FAQ, no mention of time shifting, nothing – you’re left to fend for yourself.
In my case, that meant looking around on game sites to figure out what I was doing. That was very frustrating for me at first, but somewhere along the way I figured out how everything worked and from there, it was all over.
Hours passed and I was trying again and again to figure out what I needed to do to get by, having fun every minute. Ultimately, the only thing I see wrong with the game is the lack of direction. Otherwise, this is a time-soaker that you can easily lose a few hours playing.
If only you could just rewind life by hitting the shift key…