I... finished... Braid. This is kind of hard for me to believe, but it is true. My obsession with time travel helped drive me forward, but so did the elegantly crafted puzzles, carefully designed to let you move on to others if any one became too difficult. As a puzzle game, it was wonderful -- simple, elegant, with surprises around every corner.
But that is almost irrelevant. Braid's power comes not from merely being a well-designed game, but instead from its shocking final level. Playing it was an astonishing experience for me -- I felt like the Bruce Willis character in the Sixth Sense -- absolutely dumbfounded to find that the world is not at all what it seemed to be. Videogames have tried to make social statements in the past: Seven Cities of Gold, MULE, Missile Command, The Marriage, Bioshock, and dozens more. But none has ever made such a deep, shocking, multi-layered statement like Braid. It uses its central game mechanic to force the player to confront the nature of memory -- how one uses memory to hide from painful truths, how one repeats memories over and over, thinking about how things would have been different with different actions, and how we avoid painful memories, twisting them into memories we can deal with, memories we can accept. And at the same time, all of this is put up against a question of the value of games, the value of striving. What happens in Braid is so multilayered, that I have a hard time picking it apart. But honestly, I think I like it this way -- I fear if I untangle it, I will spoil the elegant, powerful beauty of the braid.