Check out my full review on the VFH main site, HERE.
UPDATE (3/22/10) VFH Classic is dead:
The newest game for XBLA's Summer lineup, Braid, is a unique and innovative puzzle/platformer that focuses on the ability to manipulate time. The graphics and music are fantastic and pleasing, while the puzzles are mind-bending and will cause you to really think things through.
You start the game outside in the dark streets from the title screen, and go right into it, which surprised me a bit as there wasn't really a menu, so it was a cool little touch. Then you walk the streets for a second until you reach your house, which acts as the hub of the game and is the place where you access any of the five main worlds.
Each world is comprised of numerous “levels” which are very short and are simply little arenas that you play through until you reach the door at the other end to get to the next section. Each of these levels contains a number of puzzle pieces, of which collecting is your main objective. In fact, collecting these pieces is pretty much the only reason for playing the game, as you can literally walk straight to the door to reach the next section almost every time, without needing to think or avoid enemies. In other words, all of the puzzles the game presents are there not to reach the next level, but to get the puzzle pieces. When you get all the puzzle pieces, or even a few, you can put together that world's puzzle, all of which are very simple. When you do this, you officially complete the world, and a section of ladder is added to the house, which when completed with all the other puzzles, allows you to reach the attic for the final world and battle so you can view the true ending.
A nice Mario reference, with an even bigger one later on in the game. This dinosaur fellow speaks with you after each world. Why a dinosaur you ask? No f'ing clue...
The controls are very simple. You use the A button to jump, and the X button to manipulate time. That's about it. You also use the Y button to set up a time bubble, but you can only use that in one world. Each world adds a world-specific time manipulation device. The first world is standard, and only allows for the standard tool, which is the X button. When you press and hold the X button, you can reverse time, and you can speed up that time by clicking the L button, which comes in handy. All of the puzzles in the game rely on this dynamic, so figuring out exactly how to use it to your advantage is key. Obviously, aside from puzzle solving, you can use it if you make a mistake, like in Prince of Persia, however, you can use it as much as you like, which is very nifty, so even if you make a huge mistake and want to start at the beginning, you simply reverse time for a minute and start over. It is also good if you miss a jump or get hit by an enemy. You also don't really have lives, and if you do “die”, the game simply prompts you to press the X button to rewind time.
Of course, the game isn't as simple as just reversing time. There are a variety of factors to consider. For starters, if an object or enemy is glowing green, then it won't be affected by your time changes at all. That means, that if you rewind time, they will continue on their path or stay put if they are a stationary object, even if you moved them. There are also certain areas in which you can stand so even you wont be effecting by turning back the clock. And like I mentioned, certain worlds contain different rules. In one world, if you turn back time, a shadow figure will appear and redo what you just undid, so you must work together with your past self to solve puzzles. Another world gives you the ability to project a circle that slows down time of anything inside of it. Placement of this orb is therefore critical, as you can place it in front of cannons to slow down projectile fire or place it on an enemy to slow them down.
Quite the pickle you've gotten yourself into. Sure, that time bubble will slow down the cannon balls that go through it, but good luck with the rest of it...
It is really difficult to explain how the puzzles work and how the time manipulation is used in each case, although there are tons of ways to use these tools to your advantage, and understanding them all is very important to solving the puzzles. So, as opposed to trying to explain the puzzles, I'm going to attempt to take short video clips of several puzzles. These videos are very short and don't give away how to solve any real puzzles, but merely show little examples of how to use some of the powers. Enjoy, and no, there is no audio, sorry. And sorry for the poor quality. *Details of what exactly is going on in each video are posted in the video's description on YouTube.*
The game's story is presented in multiple books which are laid out on pedestals before each world. The main story is interesting and strange. The story books start off normal enough, telling of a princess, and how Tim is looking for the princess that he lost, but then later books veer in a different direction, talking of a contemporary man who has problems with his family and life, so it is confusing and hard to know if your character is Tim or some random guy and what exactly is going on. Then the ending is really strange and upsetting, but I won't give it away; very strange though.
When you walk over a book, the text is displayed over head. When you first start a new world, only the first door is accessible, however, once you get to a new area, you can go to that door. The number of pieces that still need to be collected are displayed above each door.
The graphics and music in the game are very awesome and soothing. The music is very pleasant and slow. It is simply a peaceful tune that plays throughout the world's, which is a good thing, as the puzzles will probably frustrate you. The main graphics are pretty basic and merely sprites for items and enemies, however, the background is very dynamic and has a artistic Eastern look to them. They are blurry, but look like water colors and are just really pleasant to look at and go well with the music, as the background flows with leaves and other floating objects. It is also a neat feature as the background warps and fades when you reverse time.
Overall, the game is really cool, with very, very clever and difficult puzzles that make great use of time controls, however, with a 1200 MS Point price, it is a bit expensive. The game features 5 worlds, but these can be run through fairly quickly, however, solving all of the puzzles and collecting all of the pieces will take you a bit longer, but once you complete them, there is no real incentive to replay the game, because you know how to do each puzzle, but there is a speed run mode to play through if you so desire. Also, there are secret stars scattered throughout the worlds which are very, very difficult to get and even find. Nobody really knows what happens if you get them all, as nobody even knows where they all are, so if you wish to search, that can easily extend your play time considerably.
Posted in cooperation with GamersPlatform