What is time? Does the future come into existence, become the present, then vanish into the past? Or are all times equally real, only our perspective on them changing as we travel towards our destinies? And while we’re on the subject, why is it taking so much time to get a “Switch 2”? Not to worry: Braid, Anniversary Edition, with its tricksy temporal mechanics, is another exceptional game to make the time just fly by.

Originally released in 2008 and developed by then indie superstar-to-be Jonathan Blow, Braid was the poster child for the blossoming Xbox Live Arcade, the highly impactful online platform that provided a route to the console market for smaller developers. Alongside Steam on the PC side of the fence, where Braid also did gangbusters on launch in 2009, XBLA helped to democratise game publishing, and the two storefronts enabled Braid – and Blow – to rocket to fame.

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The 2008 indie game yearbook includes several high-profile cultural touchstones, like madcap knight party Castle Crashers, athletic leg-coordination simulator QWOP and sticky physics challenge World of Goo. Looking back, though, Braid still stands out. Perhaps that’s helped by Blow’s inclusion in 2012’s Indie Game: The Movie cementing its status as a milestone in the indie game boom of the late '00s.

So what was all the fuss about? Braid is a side-scrolling puzzle platformer whose early elevator pitch was “Mario with rewind”. Sure enough, at the press of a button, and without limitations, you can reverse time and undo any mistakes you might make. From that starting premise, just about every gameplay avenue is explored with a concoction of all manner of trippy puzzles. Alongside it all, the story interludes muse on the nature of time, especially the regret and remorse of protagonist Tim and his wish to turn back the clock.

To soothe you through the devilish difficulty, the graphics glow with colourful brushstrokes and the musical score slides by with folky piano and strings. Both have been upgraded generously for the Anniversary Edition. The visuals have been stepped up from the original 720p to the docked Switch’s full 1080p for one thing. It goes further than that though: backgrounds have been redrawn with greater contrast and depth, and more brushstrokes now move faintly while you play. Music has been remixed by game, film and TV audio experts to bring the solo violins and piano interludes more vividly to life. In the original, the sound effects were apparently originally bought for 99 cents a pop from some online repository. In this Enhanced Edition, new sounds have been added, while keeping the general idea of the originals.

Graphics, sounds and music can all be toggled between the new and old versions with a click of the right stick. The original still looks and sounds pleasant, if a little smushy on a modern screen, but there’s no doubt that the anniversary updates are welcome and well-considered. In handheld mode, where the resolution sticks to 720p, the difference is less significant, but the added graphical details and improved audio still make it worth playing in the snazzy new styles.

While the presentation benefited from a polish, the gameplay didn't need much changing, and it remains as tight as ever. Running and jumping is fun enough, and you move at a measured pace, but the Braid experience comes from holding 'Y' and seeing and hearing the universe revert itself right in front of you. Time be damned, 16 years later, this still feels fresh. The magic of undoing your mistakes is utterly captivating. The game doesn’t force it on you either – it just waits until you make your first mistake, then prompts you to press the button and find out what happens. Stepping away from the game, our brains were so attuned to the concept that we expected the real world to rewind at our convenience too. Sadly we found ourselves staring at a spilt cup of tea without a 'Y' button in sight.

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Puzzles are built variously around elements in the levels that don’t rewind: enemies can be repurposed as springboards or key carriers, a shadow Tim will sometimes run off and repeat whatever you rewound… the list goes on. Some are devious, but just about all are delightful, and the core mechanics demand pixel-perfect, split-second timing. Rapidly rewinding and tweaking tiny movements to fine-tune an action lets you feel like you're a superhuman player performing outrageous feats of skill. In the accompanying commentary track, we're told that it’s like playing a tool-assisted speedrun, which is very apt.

New for the Anniversary Edition, the commentary track is actually far from just a track: it’s a whole commentary suite, navigated in-game through a hub with doors labelled Design, Programming, Visuals, Sound & Music, and Playthrough. Each door leads to a set of other doors, and each of those lead to a playable section of the game overlaid with conversation between Blow, artist David Hellman, and various gaming figures, including Frank Cifaldi of the Videogame History Foundation and Lucasfilm Games graduate Brian Moriarty. In addition, there are monologues where Blow speaks alone as you play through different levels of the game: “So, you wanna design a videogame…” he begins. It’s impossible not to be drawn in if you have even a passing interest in game design, programming, art, or production.

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Each commentary item is triggered by an in-game icon that you must walk up to and activate, and doing so prompts a discussion about that specific point. The discussions are universally insightful and it feels like an incredible luxury to have so much to listen to. (Blow has noted there are over 15 hours of commentary – considerably longer than the game's length.) But as if that wasn’t enough – and this is where it steps up above and beyond your typical game commentary – the speakers highlight certain areas of levels by drawing pink circles around them while you play, and intersperse visual examples such as concept art, gameplay videos, etc. This then sits in the corner of the screen, moves around the screen to get out of your way, and can be maximised and minimised by pressing 'ZR'.

Searching desperately for something to complain about in this cornucopia of commentary, we noticed that the framerate does drop while a video is playing on the screen at the same time as gameplay and we did experience one crash. And to pick one more nit, the game's story feels a bit dated with its self-centred narrator and lack of attempt to integrate the narrator with the gameplay in a more detailed way (which is something Blow did intentionally and stands by). But we admit we’re clutching at straws here.


Braid remains a landmark equally for indie game development and puzzle platformers. The time control mechanics are mind-bendingly satisfying to play with and the puzzles are wickedly inventive. This Anniversary Edition is an exquisite expression of the original concept, with everything spruced up to perfection. And, even on top of that, it includes interactive creators’ commentary that sets a high watermark for in-game analysis and represents a new key text for anyone interested in how games are made. In short: this package is an all-timer.