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Video Game / Braid

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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 by Jonathan Blow. You control Tim as he searches for a Damsel in Distress, 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.

Releasing originally for the Xbox 360 in 2008 ports came out for PlayStation 3 and PC in 2009. In 2021 a new remake would release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch with updated graphics and even a developer's commentary.


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:

  • 100% Completion: More like 110% completion — the secret stars are so secret, there aren't any achievements for them!
  • Abnormal Ammo: Some cannons shoot out clouds. Others shoot mooks.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: The final world, and it generally requires tight timing. This has an implied justification to avoid a paradox, as well as to clamp down on the alternate view of what happened.
  • An Aesop: There are pages and pages that could be written on this. The most popular one seems to be "you can't undo the past".
  • Affectionate Parody: We have flags, castles, goombas, princesses, piranha plants, and the original level of Donkey Kong where our parodied hero originated. Someone really likes Super Mario Bros.. And undeniably the best example of all- "I'm sorry but your princess is in another castle."
  • Alt Text:
    • 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. This requires concealing Tim from the foreground and turning him away from the text in the center, as if he cannot (or doesn't want to) hear it....
    • The text changes to the same stories, but in the perspective of unspecified women. A man holding a woman close and guiding her through in Manhattan? The woman finds him overbearing and going the wrong way. The atomic bomb being invented? A woman (or female force) 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.
  • Anachronic Order: The first world is World 2, and World 1 is only unlocked after you collect every puzzle piece. 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.
  • Antepiece: The puzzles can be very complex and rather unwelcoming. But there is at least one part that tries to make a certain puzzle clearer, or more accessible, by having a simplified version of the puzzle just before it. Specifically, this is a puzzle about complex interactions between keys and doors, some of which are affected by your power, some of which aren't. There are two puzzle pieces: getting the first one can be done without thought or understanding, there are only two doors and one key. But there is a three-door-two-key puzzle that follows, which requires reflecting on the simpler situation. A picture can be seen here.
  • 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.
  • Auto-Scrolling Level: World 1-1.
  • Back to Front: The final level has Tim running along the princess as she escapes from a knight in shining armor. He seems to have kidnapped her, and Tim activates mechanisms along the way to help her escape. But at the end, time is reversed and then you see the true meaning of the scene: the princess was running away from Tim, and he was chasing after her. The knight was the rescuer, Tim was the villain.
  • Big Bad: The supposed villain in the final level, when you turn time back to its regular state, was in fact rescuing the Damsel in Distress from you. So you were the villain all along.
  • Bookends: The game ends where it began, back in the burning city. Some have theorized this represents how Tim is doomed to repeat his mistakes because he doesn't truly understand them.
  • Can't Take Anything with You: That key could be useful? Sorry, stays in the previous room. 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. Usually.
  • Causality Mechanic: The game features examples of this, mainly in World 4 (where the player's movement across the X axis determines the flow of time) and World 1 (where time moves backwards for everyone except the player).
  • 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.
  • Damsel in Distress: The Princess. At least, she seems to be.
  • 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).
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: The rewind power never runs out and can always be used to reverse death. In fact, if you want to collect everything, you are ''required'' to die on occasion.
  • Death Is the Only Option: Dying is required to get some of the puzzle pieces. You can rewind time to undo your death, so no big deal.
    • Only a genius or a cheaternote  can complete the game on the first try with only the minimum required deaths (zeronote ), much less completing the secret ending. With enough skill, both endings can be completed without dying. One of the stars, however, does require Tim's death to obtain.
  • Deconstruction Game: The whole point of the game was to deconstruct traditional platform game elements using the game's main theme in gameplay form; specifically, by making the player view things such as Goomba Stomp and Save the Princess in conjunction with the time mechanics, deconstructing linearity in 2D platformers.
  • Directionally Solid Platforms: The thin metal ones.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: Did you succeed in collecting all eight secret stars? Don't expect to be rewarded with a happy ending.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: For both endings. In the first, Tim is a stalker chasing the Princess. The secret ending implies that the game is an allegory for nuclear weapons development: the Princess is the split atom, and Tim is a scientist.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: The Bosses are defeated by creatively manipulating deadly chandeliers hanging on the ceiling. How many times can you drop one chandelier on someone, you wonder? As many as you want, if you mess with time.
  • Floating Platforms: Played straight with clouds and a few other gravity-defying objects.
  • Foreshadowing: The title screen. See that burning city in the background? Tim himself set up a bomb prior to the beginning of the game, as you slowly find out in the last levels.
  • Gainax Ending: The alternate ending will turn from Downer Ending into this the more you analyze the story. Donnie freaking Darko is more straightforward. Lampshaded by a certain video game reviewer who puts up a few guesses of who the "princess" is.
  • 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.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Collecting all the puzzle pieces in the game is required to get the resolution of the story.
  • Guide Dang It!: Most, if not all, of the eight secret stars. Including the existence of said stars.
  • Hero Antagonist: The man in armor whom the princess appears to escape from in 1-1 is revealed at the end to be a knight who saves her from Tim.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sort of — there's one puzzle that actually requires you to kill yourself in order to get the star. Of course, for Tim, Death Is a Slap on the Wrist, so it's not that much of a "sacrifice".
  • Homage: Just about everything is homage to Mario.
    • The "goombas" offer an alternative homage by being hedgehogs.
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: Quite a few puzzles require you to figure out how to open two different doors with the same single-use key.
  • Jump Physics: Being a platformer and all, it's only natural.
  • Killer Rabbit: Or rabbit with an identity crisis?
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The man in the final level. In a twist, he didn't kidnap the princess; he rescued her from Tim, who was actually harrassing her.
  • 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 (the cloud's non-function was confirmed by the creator two years after the game's release.) Nevertheless, the cloud probably spawned the most fan theories, 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.
    • It does kind of have a purpose; Jonathan Blow explained that it was there so the player could look out over the last stage and see their achievements throughout the game.
  • Leap of Faith: Present in World 2-4, the stage is even called Leap Of Faith. Of course, since Tim is in control of his own destiny, there's no fear in jumping down what looks like a bottomless pit. (Mind the spikes, though.)
  • Malevolent Architecture: Spikes, cannons, pits of fire...
  • Man-Eating Plant: There are some of these in a Homage to Super Mario Bros.'s Piranha Plants.
  • Meaningful Name: It's painfully obvious, but: the Player Character's name is Tim, and he can control time.
  • Mental World: The levels. Maybe. The creator of the game doesn't leave things clear enough to tell.
  • Mind Screw: Some of the puzzles, multiple layers of storyline, and methods of getting secret stars.
  • Mook Maker: The enemy-spewing cannons.
  • Multiple Endings: Two — the obvious ending, and collecting the eighth secret star. There is also alternate text in the Epilogue, if you can find it. It is possible to trigger the second ending just by being fast enough in 1-1. It's rather hard but doable.
  • Nice Hat: Lots of them can be found in the background of world 6 for some strange reason.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: After you've beaten the final level with time reversed, it plays through in the correct order, inverting its meaning.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: But you can just turn back time when you die.
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: Time travel follows slightly different rules in each world. One rule holds true for all worlds, though — Tim cannot fast forward into time he hasn't experienced personally.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Don't touch the World 3 puzzle until you find the star related to it.
  • Platform Hell: Subversion. The game would be this, if it weren't for the rewind mechanic.
  • Playable Epilogue: Tim runs around in the mess he created, according to fan speculation.
  • Portal Endpoint Resemblance: The worlds are accessed through doors located in rooms of Tim's house that are colored similarly to the worlds themselves. For instance, World 2, the Green Hill Zone, has light blue backgrounds and bright green grassy platforms, and is accessed through Tim's living room, which has light blue walls and bright green furniture and wooden beams. The worlds also tend to have other aspects of the rooms like furniture and accessories as large parts of the geometry and backgrounds in a Macro Zone manner. There are also jigsaw murals in the rooms that provide further visual tie-ins with the worlds — but because the jigsaw pieces needed to fill in the murals are found in the worlds themselves, you won't see the visual resemblance until after you've found the level exits.
  • Purple Prose: At the beginning of every level, you're treated to a particularly egregious case of this.
  • Rewind Gag: Played for Drama, where the final level, World 1, has time flowing in reverse for everyone except for Tim, accentuated by the music also playing backwards (which then plays normally when you use the time rewind mechanic). In order to progress through the levels, you need to Goomba Stomp the enemies, which results in them "undying" and walking along the path as if they had been spawned from a different cannon.
  • Scenery Porn: Over a year's worth of the time spent working on this game has been spent on backgrounds.
  • Self-Serving Memory: The final level introduces the Knight carrying the Princess down into the play field; any time the Knight speaks, it sounds like a demonic roar. The reality of the situation, with the Princess running from Tim and being legitimately rescued by the Knight, shows that this is in effect.
  • Set Piece Puzzle: Pieces scattered through each stage that unlock a ladder to the first world.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Jonathan Blow in an early PC Gamer interview stated one of the games' main influences is Infocom's Trinity.
    • Among the many alleged Trinity Test references, the first stage of the game is "Three Easy Pieces".
    • The quotes in the epilogue were made by physicists J. Robert Oppenheimer and Kenneth Bainbridge upon witnessing the Trinity Test, respectively "It worked" and "Now we are all sons of bitches."
  • Signpost Tutorial: The game uses free-standing signs that depict a button and the action that your character will perform.
  • Shows Damage: The boss.
  • Sour Grapes Tropes: "Wanting what you can't have" is a major recurring theme.
  • Speed Run: There's a TAS which completely tears the game apart. Fun features:
    • "Movement by Degrees" without the key. (By the way, the piece is behind a locked door. The floor is not impenetrable, though.)
    • Getting a non-green key, dropping it, reverses time to before he got it THEN forwarding time while on a green pad to after he dropped it so it's in an easily accessible area.
    • Kills the princess without getting all of the secret stars.
  • Spikes of Doom: Everywhere.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Tim himself, as it is revealed that he is the true monster that the princess is running from.
  • Star-Shaped Coupon: The eight secret stars.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: The books in the level hubs give little snatches of the narrative(s).
  • Time Master: Tim, at least within the realm of his imagination. Again: Maybe...
  • Time Rewind Mechanic: You can rewind time at any time for free while you attempt to figure out the tricky puzzle design of the game. Later levels also introduce additional mechanics, like items and moving objects that ignore your time reversal powers.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: You can manipulate time in many different ways depending on the world you're playing. Sometimes time will only go forward if you go forward, sometimes you'll have to create a time clone of yourself that imitates your past moves, other times you'll need to rewind a projectile's advance... Etcetera.
  • Title Drop: Twice, but with no clear indication to its significance.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Tim is not a good guy going after the princess in distress. He's a stalker who scared her off prior to the game's events.
  • Uncommon Time: "Long Past Gone", 7 measures of 3/4 then one of 2/4. Or maybe one of 12/4 then one of 11/4, or 6 measures of 3/4 and one of 5/4. Depends on how you split it up.
  • Villain Protagonist: Tim himself. In the end, it's shown that he was harrassing the princess, and that she was escaping from him. It's not that he was rescuing her from a knight in shining armor, as the player originally thought.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Some of the puzzles, such as the ones that requires you to jump into Spikes of Doom to retrieve a key and then rewind to pull Tim out.
  • Waddling Head: Basic enemies.
  • Waiting Puzzle: Taken Up to Eleven with one (thankfully optional) puzzle, where you have to wait two hours for a cloud to enter range of a secret.
  • Wham Episode: 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.
  • When All Else Fails, Go Right: Played with — straight at the beginning, subverted and zigzagged later. Interestingly, the ending cutscene that plays out in the correct chronological order has Tim and the princess moving to the left.
  • Where It All Began: World 1 is closely related to the burning city at the beginning of the game, and it's the final world.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: There are mistakes even Tim can't erase with his time powers, to wit...
    • Green sparkling items and creatures cannot be manipulated by any sort of time travel.
    • You can't fix attempting to use a green sparkling key on the wrong door by rewinding time. You can, however, reload the screen to reset the puzzle.
    • A secret star cannot be gotten if you solve the World 3 jigsaw puzzle too early.
    • Time can no longer be rewound once you achieve either ending.