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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.

Originally released for the Xbox 360 in 2008, ports came out for PlayStation 3 and PC in 2009. In 2020, a remake titled Braid, Anniversary Edition was announced for the 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. Please 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 as the secret stars are so hidden, there isn't even an achievement for collecting them.
  • Abnormal Ammo: Some cannons shoot out clouds. Others shoot mooks.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: In the final level, Tim is pursued by a fire wall. This has an implied justification in that time is flowing backwards. In order to complete the level, the player must restore the flow of time, so actions must be performed with precise timing in order to avoid a paradox, as well as to clamp down on the alternate view of what happened.
  • Affectionate Parody: The game features analogues to the flags, castles, goombas, princesses and piranha plants from Super Mario Bros., as well as the original level of Donkey Kong.
  • 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. Doing so will change it to the perspective of the unspecified women.
  • Anachronic Order: The first world is World 2, while World 1 is only unlocked after you collect every puzzle piece. Furthermore, 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.
  • 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: The final level scrolls automatically as you run away from a wall of fire.
  • 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, while Tim was the villain.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Tim manages to "rescue" the princess after catching up to her and even though he doesn't get to have her, she still died along with everyone else leaving only Tim alive.
  • 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.
  • Book Ends: The game ends where it began, back in the burning city.
  • Boss-Only Level: The World 3 level Lair has no puzzles outside of the Puzzle Boss itself. (There's another Lair in World 5, but that one has an extra puzzle in it.)
  • Can't Take Anything with You: Keys can only be used in the same room where they are collected, as they vanish when Tim travels to the next level.
  • Causality Mechanic: In World 4, the player's movement across the X axis determines the flow of time. In World 1, 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 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 game's premise is that Tim wants to find the Princess, who is being threatened by a monster. The final level reveals that the monster is Tim himself.
  • 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. This is 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.
  • 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.
  • Deus ex Nukina: The city is already burning when you run to Tim's house. The alternate ending implies Tim was responsible.
  • Directionally Solid Platforms: The thin metal platforms can be jumped through, but Tim cannot drop down from them.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: If you collect all eight secret stars, the Princess will blow up once you finally catch her.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: In the first ending, Tim is revealed to be 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. You can drop the same chandelier many times by messing with time.
  • Floating Platforms: Clouds are used as gravity-defying platforms that Tim must ride across the levels.
  • Foreshadowing: The burning city in the background of the title screen is the result of Tim himself setting up a bomb prior to the beginning of the game, as you slowly find out in the last levels.
  • 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.
  • Goomba Stomp: The only direct method of attack is to jump on top of the enemies. There are also a few puzzles that involve letting a not-Goomba stomp you.
  • Goomba Springboard: Jumping on enemies to reach higher locations is crucial for completing some of the puzzles. You gain additional height by stomping multiple goombas, as well.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Collecting all the puzzle pieces in the game is required to get the resolution of the story.
  • Guide Dang It!: Collecting the eight secret stars requires a guide due to how well-hidden they are.
  • 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:
    • The game's premise and the behaviour of the enemies are lifted straight from Super Mario Bros.
    • The "goombas" offer an alternative homage by being hedgehogs.
  • Human Cannonball: Some cannonballs spit out enemies instead.
  • 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: Tim can change direction mid-jump and reach higher heights by bouncing off enemies.
  • Killer Rabbit: One of the enemies is a rabbit that leaps at Tim while hissing like an angry cat.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: In the final level, the princess appears to be running away from a knight. In a twist, it's revealed he didn't kidnap the princess; he rescued her from Tim, who was actually harassing 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.
  • 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.
  • Level in the Clouds: Downplayed example. Chapter intros take place in clouds.
  • Malevolent Architecture: You will encounter spikes, cannons, and pits of fire along the way.
  • Man-Eating Plant: An enemy is a homage to Super Mario Bros.'s Piranha Plants, being a carnivorous plant that emerges from a pipe to munch on whoever is unlucky to get caught by its jaws.
  • Meaningful Name: The Player Character's name is Tim, and he can control time.
  • Mind Screw: Some of the puzzles, multiple layers of storyline, and methods of getting secret stars require you to either do or interpret something you normally wouldn't think of. For example, collecting the secret star in 2-5 involves leaving a key in a high area before using your powers to send an enemy to said area. You then have to carefully navigate both the enemy and your powers so you can open two doors.
  • Mook Maker: Some levels have cannons that spew an endless amount of Mooks, which act either as an obstacle or as a means of traversing through the platforms.
  • Multiple Endings: A second ending can be unlocked by collecting the eighth secret star or by being fast enough in 1-1.
  • 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: Tim dies in one hit from any enemy, 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 solve the World 3 puzzle until you find the star related to it.
  • Pickup Hierarchy:
    • Primary: Puzzle pieces.
    • Secondary: Keys.
    • Extra: Hidden Stars.
  • 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, the player can read books that melodramatically describe Tim's life up until then.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The implication that the alternative ending is actually a reference of nuclear weapons development with the Princess being the split atom and Tim being a scientist. Adding to this is the epilogue references the Manhattan Project.
  • Save the Princess: Tim's goal is to rescue the Princess from a monster.
  • 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 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 bosses lose one horn every time they are damaged. They die once the fifth horn is broken.
  • Solid Clouds: Some cannons shoot out clouds that can be walked on.
  • Sour Grapes Tropes: "Wanting what you can't have" is a major recurring theme.
  • 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 game has eight secret stars, which must be collected to unlock the alternate ending.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: The books in the level hubs give little snatches of the narrative(s).
  • Time Master: Tim can rewind time, at least seemingly within the realm of his imagination.
  • 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. Occasionally, 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, etc.
  • Title Drop: Twice, but with no clear indication to its significance. The first drop happens just after starting the game where the game's title is shown as Tim walks down the street.
  • 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 harassing 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 are just humanoid heads attached to two stubby legs.
  • Waiting Puzzle: One puzzle requires the player to to wait two hours for a cloud to get into range so you can collect a secret star.
  • Wham Episode: The final level. 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 who is rescuing her from Tim.
  • 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:
    • 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 puzzle too early.
    • Time can no longer be rewound once you achieve either ending.