Tim is off on a search to rescue the Princess. She has been snatched by a horrible and evil monster.
This happened because Tim made a mistake.
Take Super Mario Bros., add a few unlimited time powers, put it in front of an animated impressionistic canvas, throw in some seriously mind bending puzzles and add a truckload of symbolism, and you have Braid. You control Tim as he searches for a Distressed Damsel, while stomping various odd creatures to progress through levels and collect puzzle pieces. Tim can rewind, create Doppelgängers, slow time, and manipulate special objects and enemies that are either exempt or particularly vulnerable to his control of time, depending on the theme of the level.Warning: The following tropes contain multiple spoilers that will essentially ruin the game for you. Do not read them if you intend to experience the game the way it was meant to be experienced.
This game provides examples of:
Abnormal Ammo: Some cannons shoot out clouds. Others shoot manheadsmooks.
In the epilogue, there are several books, some green and some red, and several locations where you can hear a woman's voice. Make sure a RED book on a given screen is open, then go to the place on the screen where you hear the woman's voice.
The text changes to the same stories, but in the perspective of unspecified females. A man rescuing a woman in Manhattan? The woman is being abducted. The atomic bomb being invented? A woman is expressing disappointment in humanity. A child jilted for not being able to go into a candy store? His mother is waiting until he's older.
Not to mention that you start World 1 at 1-4, and PLAY BACKWARDS to 1-1!
Anachronism Stew: Tim's home within the roughly-Victorian city contains modern items like a desktop computer and a stereo system, and the worlds he explores have a mixture of random architecture and technology ranging ancient Rome to the 20th century, with a big focus on castles.
Author Filibuster: Jonathan Blow has made it very clear that he equates most modern video-game stories to that of generic action movies, and that he wants to make a difference.
Oh, you mean in the same room? Ah — you see, when you rewind time, you retraced your steps to before you picked up that key or puzzle piece, so you also un-picked it up. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Damage Discrimination: Mostly avoids the "no infighting" rule — environmental hazards do not discriminate between Tim and his enemies which is a bad thing in situations where you are using enemies as, say, springboards to puzzle pieces, and enemies can Goomba Stomp each other. They don't go out of their way to fight each other, though.
Dark Reprise: For the soundtrack, "Tell It By Heart" (Track 8) for "Long Past Gone" (Track 5). Where "Long Past Gone" ends on a relatively bright note, "Tell It By Heart" trails off on the repeated notes of plucked strings. Inverted in the Jami Sieber album from which the songs originate, Second Sight, where "Long Past Gone" (Track 9) serves as the reprise of "Tell It By Heart" (Track 2).
Game Over: Averted, as there is no way to get a Game Over. Dying does nothing except freeze time in the game, waiting for you to rewind.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: Back-and-forth example: If you believe some of the theories out there, a large portion of the gameplay and story is tightly interwoven. If you believe other theories out there, then chances are they will tell you that 90% of the text before each world does not relate to the plot, nor the actual puzzles. Quite a paradox, eh?
Goomba Stomp: The only method of attack. Well, that and the occasional chandelier. There are also a few puzzles that involve letting a not-Goomba stomp you. That popping sound you hear is your freaking mind being blown.
Goomba Springboard: Crucial for completing some of the puzzles. You gain additional height by stomping multiple goombas, as well.
Inverted for one of the hardest puzzles, by keeping that one not-goomba bouncing.
The Law of Conservation of Detail: If you can interact with it, it's probably vital to figuring out a puzzle. In fact, the designer and art director specifically stated that they structured the graphics in such a way that only the important stuff stands out.
Confusingly averted in the last screen of the Epilogue. That cloud literally does nothing, yet it's so prominent. This probably spawned the most Epileptic Trees, as it's the only thing in the game that serves no purpose that's brought to your attention.
It doesn't help that for completionists, the cloud and its puffs will probably make them think of the cloud in the second level of the game that DOES move, much as it seems otherwise, and DOES lead to somewhere very useful, albeit at a very slow pace.
The Ending Changes Everything: For both endings. In the first, Tim is a stalker chasing the Princess. The secret ending implies that (it might be best to not click this if you haven't found the secret ending yet)
the game is an allegory for nuclear weapons development: the Princess is the split atom, and Tim is a scientist.
Time Master: Tim, at least within the realm of his imagination.
Title Drop: Twice, but with no clear indication to its significance.
Wham Level: World 1-1. Tim isn't actually a Knight in Shining Armor, he's a crazy stalker who the princess is trying to run away from, and the "horrible monster" is a real Knight In Shining Armor that is rescuing her from Tim. Yes, it's a Mind Screw.