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There’s a moment during your experience of great entertainment when you realize it’s great. For me, with the new Xbox 360 Arcade game Braid, that happened when I accidentally figured out how to get the last puzzle piece I needed to complete World 2. Hit the clicky thingie to read on…

The general concept behind Braid isn’t new…it’s a 2-D platform game like Super Mario Brothers. And yet, it’s not. First, the game has a painterly style, which you can just barely make out in the image above. On-screen, however, it’s a soothing, undulating symphony of colors that lulls you into a sense of non-urgency. This false sense will later be trampled upon by the zillions of neurons that start firing in your head when you realize how much clever thought has gone into the creation of this game.

Then there’s the music, oddly enough cobbled together from online sources to create a cohesive auditory landscape that suits the game’s visuals and storyline.

And the storyline is a fair shake more complex than the typical platformer. While on the surface you could say it’s about the player hero rescuing a princess (which is true) and therefore the same story as about 186,000 other video games, it goes beyond that, deftly pulling us into a pained reality that so many of us have had the displeasure of experiencing ourselves: That of a love lost to our own worst enemy-ness.

Braid is also non-linear. Play through a level and if you can’t figure out a certain area, just move on and go back to it later. Not only is this a nice change of pace, but it’s a whole lot less frustrating than having to try the SAME THING over and over and eventually giving up and going back to play Burnout Paradise.

Controls are simple: Use the stick or d-pad to move. Press A to jump. Press B to interact with things like doors and puzzle pieces that you collect and then arrange within a frame in order to complete each level.

And then there’s the X button.

You see, in Braid, you never really die. When you make a fatal mistake, time stops. And pressing X reverses time. Go back to before you made that stupid fatal mistake, and try something else. But that’s just the beginning. Because you can reverse time like this whenever you want to, and not just when you’ve fallen off a cliff into a bed of spikes.

And on top of this, not everything in the world of Braid can be time-controlled as such, meaning that some things have a persistence outside of your time control. As a quick example, there’s a point toward the beginning of the game where you have to get a key to open a door. The key is in a pit too deep to jump out of. The door is easily accessible on the far side of the top of the pit…a quick jump will get you there. But how to get the key out of the pit and get back up?

You’ll notice that the key is glowing a strange glow that doesn’t appear anywhere else on-screen. This shimmering glow indicates that the item in question will follow you through time. Once you figure this out, the puzzle is simple: Fall into the pit. Grab the key. Reverse time. Since the key is a glowing object that follows you through time, you’ll take it with you as you reverse time and wind up at the top of the bit at the moment before you jumped in. Now just jump across and use the key to unlock the door.

As clever as this was, no, this was not the moment when I realized that Braid was something great…something more than just another pretty platformer. In the interest of not spoiling the fun, I won’t tell you when that moment hit me, but I will say that it has to do with the puzzle pieces you collect in your adventures.

You’ll just have to play it to see for yourself.

Even the supporting elements of the game are well-thought out. For instance, how many times have you clicked your way through boring storyline text just so you could get in and PLAY the game in question? In Braid, these story elements are presented as passages from a series of books. Stand in front of one, and its text appears. Not in the mood to read? Just keep walking. Such a great idea.

Braid was created by a guy named Jonathan Blow, who is a sort of self-professed serial ranter. One of the rants he links to from his website is about his thoughts on what’s important in games and why. That such a person created this game should come as no surprise.

Although I’ve only finished World 2, I feel pretty confident that if and when I finish Braid, I’ll have garnered a level of satisfaction from my many hours of gameplay that I don’t often get to experience. Because Braid is more than just another platformer. Braid is gaming greatness. And that never gets old.