People exhibit different reactions upon playing Braid. Some, like Soulja Boy, show a child-like appreciation for the unique implementations of time manipulation in the game. It's hard not to smile, or let out a laugh, when your character gets hit by a demented Goomba and you rewind -- only to repeat the same mistake. The gameplay is incredibly accessible, and does a great job of teaching players new tricks as they progress forward. Slight alterations of the time mechanic make Braid feel consistently new and fresh.
There are others, though, that delve much deeper into the tale that Braid weaves. There are numerous interpretations on various forums, all with different answers to some of the game's most challenging questions: What is the princess running away from? What is the main character's fatal mistake? What is the true meaning of the princess?
Braid provides a tale that's less conventional than most, offering gamers an opportunity to become part of the creative process. In many ways, Braid is the closest video game approximation to poetry, allowing players to shape the experience into a truly personal one. For many, Braid is simply a journey, a fun toy in which the story is inconsequential. For others, the game is simply a bizarre parody of the Mario universe, with cute visual nods to the original NES game (the princess is in another castle!). Others still will see it as a warning against curiosity and the insatiable quest for power. There are many layers to the game, each reflecting the thoughts and concerns of the player and, like in poetry, Braid offers many images and creative hooks that allow players to come to unique conclusions -- all of which are valid.
The profound impact of Braid is rather surprising considering its humble origins. Although it may be a small, short downloadable game, there's so much to appreciate about Braid's intelligent design. Braid accomplishes much more than most retail games even dream of, and easily deserves its spot in Joystiq's Top 10.
Next: Don't drink the water.