Superficially, Braid is just a competent puzzle/platform game—something like Super Mario Bros. meets Lemmings. Like the majestic onion, however, the sweet goodness of Jonathan Blow's Xbox Live Arcade title is found in its layers.
In creating Braid, Blow has taken the standard run-jump-run template seen in every platformer for the last three decades and stacked upon it increasingly intricate, polished levels of nuance, one on top of the next. While Braid's first world simply asks you to navigate from point A to point B, world two demands you reverse time using a simple one-button mechanic. Subsequent worlds add even more quirks, such as shadowy body doubles, motion-activated timeflow, and a number of other intricacies that are both cleverly implemented and carefully integrated into the overall gameplay. Thankfully, though it sounds complex, Braid is entirely controlled by three buttons and a joystick, and gamers of any experience level will find the world immediately accessible.
If Braid was merely a collection of cleverly designed physio-temporal puzzles, it would be rad enough, but Braid is nothing if not dense: The story is the sort of maudlin sweetness you'd expect from Morrissey on an opium bender, and the game's aesthetics and sound complement my namedrop perfectly. It's hard to explain how Braid looks, but imagine a sleepy René Descartes drinking spiked Kool-Aid and painting landscapes rife with ugly hedgehogs and adorable bunnies who sound like mewling baby cats.
After completing Braid, I can't quite decide if the game is too short or if it's just so enjoyable that you're always left wanting more. But while the level design and downloadable nature of Braid make it an excellent candidate for future expansions, when I asked Blow about add-on content, he told me there never will be any, saying, "Adding more limbs would just be wrong!"
Even with the specter of withdrawals once the game concludes, Braid is a must-have. To dredge up a cliché: I may not know art, but I know what I like—and I adore Braid.