Some thoughts on Braid

I just finished Braid. It took just the forenoon – it is a pretty compact experience. It is good but there are some things that bother me.

One thing is that it is really hard. It is a very special KIND of hard. We’ve encountered this also when designing levels for Excit: if you push the puzzles very far, they will increasingly start depending on bizarre and arbitrary details and special cases of your game mechanics. From the perspective of the author, it might seem like you are “exploring” some kind of deeper, emergent functions of the system. It might be especially interesting for authors with an analytic mindset and background. From the perspective of the player however, it sometimes seems very frustrating and even unfair. It is disarming being beaten by somebody on his very own game, especially if he used rules the you weren’t really aware of. I believe Jonathan Blow crossed the line there a couple of times. As Yahtzee put is so very directly: “That, Jonathan, is what we call a ‘Dick Move’.” While there certainly is an audience very fond of that kind of puzzles (see Asshole Mario), many people may not enjoy the game because of this. I’m afraid it is especially the kind of people, who would otherwise appreciate the remaining values of the game (like fellow blogger Corvus for example).

Which brings me to the second problem. People have been yapping about it everywhere and it is true: The final sequence is really cool and creates an awesome plot twist. I also enjoyed the epilogue and texts in the books in-between. They were well written and included some very intriguing thoughts. However, apart from the final sequence, the rest of the game has only very little to do with the story. Adding insult to injury, the choice of visual style is questionable if you consider the story. It seems like Braid is actually two games. The first game is a very tough puzzle jump & run. The second game is an experimental, story-heavy, non-competetive, less objective-driven one. What the two games are trying to archieve is mutually exclusive and I believe it would have been better not to combine them.

I will write a more detailed post on Game Design Reviews. Regardless of the two problems (or maybe BECAUSE of them) the game is very intriguing and interesting. It is wort trying out for yourself.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

One response to “Some thoughts on Braid”

  1. axcho

    Hmmm, and I wonder where Jonathan Blow got the idea that story and challenge in games are inherently conflicted… ;)


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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