Review: Braid, Anniversary Edition (PS5) – A beautiful revision of the indie classic

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It feels oddly surreal to be reviewing a classic like Braid in the year 2024. If we were to go back to 2008, when it was first released on Xbox Live Arcade, the video game landscape would look a lot different than it does today. Braid, along with other indie classics like Super Meat Boy and Fez, reshaped the entire indie gaming industry and inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of games in the years following its release. It proved that indie creators and their passionate products could thrive on digital storefronts while still holding their own against the AAA releases of the day. In the years following its release, Braid has become one of the most notable indie games of all time. Indie Game: The Movie. Although it never saw a sequel, Braid, Anniversary Edition gives fans of the original an excuse to revisit the world on modern platforms.

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For those unfamiliar with Braid, the game is a puzzle platformer that revolves a lot around the use of time. You play as Tim, a man who sets out to rescue a princess captured by an evil monster (one of many not-so-subtle references to platforming tropes). Aside from the initial setup, the story is largely interpretive. At the beginning of each of the game’s six worlds, there are several story books that provide some light narrative elements in terms of the larger story in the game, however much of the story is left up to you. Depending on your preferences, this can be a positive or a negative, but it adds another layer of mystery to the world you’re dropped into.

As you would expect, the goal of each stage is to solve the puzzles in front of you to reach the end of the level. This requires a combination of solving puzzles, stomping on enemies and using your time travel abilities. Instead of lives and checkpoints, Tim has the ability to rewind time by holding down a button. This mechanic, combined with the expertly crafted puzzles, is probably what made Braid stand out so many years ago. Making a mistake is not a punishment, but an integral part of the puzzle solving process.

Each of the worlds in Braid also uses unique time-themed mechanics. Sometimes time will move just by doing it, other times the rewind will create a shadow clone of yourself to help you solve the puzzles. These are often the primary tools you’ll need to collect the game’s main collectibles: puzzle pieces. Most stages contain multiple puzzle pieces that can usually be hidden behind a complex puzzle. Despite what they may look like, these puzzle pieces are not optional and must be collected to access the final world of the game and the end of Braid. Some of Braid’s puzzles are incredibly obtuse or monotonous (looking at you, fickle World 4 companion), and without a dedicated in-game hint system, these puzzles can be incredibly frustrating. Unless you’re a master at solving puzzles, you’ll probably need a guide to help you see everything Braid has to offer.

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While the core gameplay of Braid is identical to the original release, there are some changes along with the Anniversary Edition. Most notably, the game has received a complete graphical overhaul. Visual fidelity has come a long way since 2008, and with this remaster comes a more vibrant, hand-painted look. However, if you prefer the original style of the game, you can switch between the new and classic graphics on the fly with the press of a button. Having this ability constantly available is always a nice touch for such a major remaster and highlights how much has changed between releases. In addition, much of the game’s audio has been improved, with remixed tracks and improved sound design, complementing the graphical improvements quite well.

In addition to the graphical upgrade, the Anniversary Edition also includes a playable commentary system. After beating the game (although this limitation can be bypassed), Tim will enter a new hub world that will allow him to enter a door to revisit the game’s levels, now with the ability to play the developer’s commentary while you tackle them again. In over 15 hours of commentary, Jonathan Blow and other guests discuss game design, atmosphere, sound, and the intentions behind each puzzle. For aspiring game developers and game design enthusiasts, this comprehensive look at Braid is spectacular. You can even play the entire game with hand-picked segments of developer commentary – something great for replayability.

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For casual fans who may not be interested in the design class, there are also a few new levels to explore. Most of these are built into the hub of the commentary world, with a few samples of alternative level designs, but there are also 13 completely original levels and a new set of puzzle pieces to collect. Since the game is already so short (around six hours if you’re a seasoned puzzle fan), these added levels are a nice bonus, but they won’t increase the overall play time.

Conclusion

Braid is undoubtedly a classic that revolutionized the indie gaming scene, and still has enough unique ideas to make it worth playing today for the first time ever. However, whether or not the Anniversary Edition is worth it will largely depend on your experience with the original. For newcomers, the improved graphics and additional levels make this a definitive edition worth buying. Similarly, aspiring game developers will find plenty of love and advice poured into the game’s comprehensive comment system.

However, for those who have already experienced Braid, unless you fancy another visit, there may not be enough new content to justify the double dip. Whether it’s the original or the Anniversary Edition, Braid is still a game that everyone should experience at least once.