Braid, Anniversary Edition review — New paint on a masterpiece



I’ve thought about Braid a lot since its original release in 2008 on the Xbox 360. At least for me, it signaled the beginning of indie games going mainstream. This humble, short 2D platformer was getting the kind of praise from critics and players usually reserved for the biggest, most expensive games.

It deserved all those accolades. And now Braid, Anniversary edition shows why this time-bending sidescroller is still so magical.

Back in time

Braid is a 2D puzzle platformer with a focus on time mechanics. This starts as a simple rewind button, but levels begin to expand on the premise with more complex ideas. For example, one world only has time move forward as you walk to the right. Walk to the left, and it rewinds.

It’s classic and ideal game design. You introduce an interesting idea and then find ways to expand it with new mechanics, levels and themes.

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The puzzles themselves also escalate perfectly. They start relatively simple and grow in complexity, yet (for the most part) don’t ever get so complicated that they become tedious.

Toad?
Toad?

Playing Braid for the first time in many years was fascinating. I’ve beaten a lot of games. Some of them, I can’t remember anything about the next week. Here, I was recalling solutions to puzzles I haven’t beaten in at least a dozen years.

That’s a testament to just how I enjoyed the game back on the Xbox 360. But even if I did remember a puzzle solution, I still enjoyed the execution. Even without all of those time-based mechanics, Braid is also a solid platformer.

New coat of paint

Good platforming and puzzle design is only a part of what makes Braid special. So much of its excellence comes from its audio and visuals. The aesthetics have a painterly, other worldly quality. It helps give Braid this solemn, eerie feeling.

This Anniversary Edition retools these aesthetics a bit. At first, I bet you wouldn’t notice much has changed. But with the push of a button you, can switch between the new and old graphics/sounds.

Puzzle pieces play an important role in the game.
Puzzle pieces play an important role in the game.

First, I’m glad that the game is still preserved in its original state. Second, these changes do make Braid an even more beautiful experience. Again, this isn’t some huge change, but the new art does offer better details

The changes to the sound are more dramatic, as you now have more ambient noises. Many of Braid’s musical tracks also now change as you progress through the game, better matching the growing darkness in the game’s tone.

Anniversary Edition also offers developer commentary. This is extensive stuff. Basically, you move around new levels that create doors to specific areas from the game. Then you can listen to commentary from Braid designed Jonathon Blow and others about the original game and the updates in the Anniversary Edition.

These commentary rooms even offer new puzzles of their own. The discussions can go surprisingly deep into the complexities of game, art and sound design. Even if you don’t think you’d be interested in all of it, you should definitely explore the commentary at least a bit.

More puzzle than boss.
More puzzle than boss.

Weaved together

The updates here aren’t so big that they make this feel like a different game. I’m glad they aren’t. The retouched visuals and sounds are more of a thoughtful second pass than a reimagining.

Anniversary Edition cements Braid as a seminal gaming moment. And while the new commentary offers a lot of insight, this package is much more than a museum piece. Braid is still one of the best puzzle platformers you can ever play.

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Braid, Anniversary Edition releases on May 14. The publisher gave GamesBeat a Switch code for this review.



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