warning: The following contains many spoilers about Braid. I, personally, feel that your enjoyment of the game will be greatly reduced by reading this ahead of time. You have been warned!
I finished Braid last night. I did cheat a little. Of the 60 possible puzzle pieces, I used a walkthrough to get about 10 of them. Each of the ones that I used the walkthrough for (and I did not do this until I had spent a good chunk of time trying everything I had learned up to that point and even afterwards (since you could revisit worlds) were puzzles I would have NEVER solved. For example, the puzzle piece that is accessed by moving around the giant replica of the puzzle in the level would never, ever have occurred to me. Someone of a certain type of mind would surely have realized that the puzzles would not exist in the world if they did not have a purpose, but I could not figure this one out. And the fact that most of the puzzles are one-offs means that you never do this again.
Since I never expected to play Braid I had read very revealing reviews about it and the podcasts I listened to also gave quite a few spoilers. For example, the often touted “Braid is a metaphor for the atomic bomb.” I don’t know if this is the case, but if it is, then creator Jonathan Blow is one heckuva story telling genius. Let me take a quick break to tell you that this game has affected me so much that instead of hitting backspace when I make mistakes on this blog post, I’m reaching for the shift key to reverse time. This game has certainly touched my mind in ways I have yet to fully understand. Returning to the “Braid is a metaphor for the atomic bomb” sentiment, I think Mr Blow certainly is far more clever than that. In fact, other than a quote in the epilogue and the fact that you seem to be chased by an atomic-bomb like fire in World 1, it’s dubious whether this is true. I think that Mr Blow put this in to totally mindf*ck with us, the players. And what a trip that is. I think it may even be a red herring. And if this paragraph doesn’t make as much sense as it should, that’s because I just finished playing the game and my mind is still trying to get back to the real world.
Braid rewards our expectations by having the final level be World 1. Just as I asked why Star Wars was starting with episode 4 when I first saw it, I wondered why I was in World 2 at the start. Now every level is running in reverse. This presents new and interesting puzzles, but I found these to be the easiest levels. At least until I got all the way to the final level in world 1. There I was stuck for about 5 or 10 minutes repeating the same fifteen seconds of gameplay trying to get past a little part that I knew was so close to the end. In the top, where the princess was running I could see a mailbox. Surely we were almost home. I had almost found the princess!
Then I finally make it to the end and suddenly I can only do one thing – hold shift and reverse time. And suddenly a very different picture emerges. When you enter this level, it appears that the princess is running away from an evil knight. And you help each other get through a series of obstacles by hitting levers for each other. Watching the level in reverse – except now it’s going the right way since all of World 1 was going backwards, you see that she’s pulling levers to try and impede your progress. And she’s running into the arms of this knight. You did something. Perhaps the action mentioned in World 2 that caused her Braid to hit your face.
And then comes the epilogue. And there are tons of green books that don’t convey any knowledge. I know there were some stars to get, but since I wouldn’t have known about those if I hadn’t used the walkthroughs, I made a decision to play without getting them as I would have done if I hadn’t consulted the walkthrough. And then after a few screens I end up at the final door. And this door takes me to an area just left of the opening credits. And there I am, my mind is thoroughly blown. It all makes sense now. That was World 1 and it’s why you were standing in the shadows just before entering World 2. This fact delights me in ways I can’t explain. And I return to the house.
I reread each of the green books in each room and I had a slightly greater understanding. But, like a piece of classical music or a painting, I’m left feeling that I don’t quite understand it all. I don’t completely get it. And I want someone to tell me what it means. What does it mean that at the end of the game, chronologically, in World 6 you still haven’t found the princess? And I can’t remember what that damn dinosaur said when I got there. And I want to know the meaning of the puzzles I constructed. They somewhat go together with the narrative of the green books, but perhaps they mean something even more. Or maybe none of this is the case and Jonathan Blow knew we would analyze it to death if he just make the writing obtuse enough.
Just to get it out of the way, I really enjoyed Braid. I didn’t mind that it was over so fast. I think raptr logged eight hours of playtime, but that’s not accurate. I left it on while I was watching TV with the wife. I’d say that the true number is perhaps closer to five. And I did cheat on those ten puzzle pieces. So perhaps it would end up being about eight hours all told. Definitely find for $5 and even a great deal at $15. You don’t play a game like Braid because of how long it’ll take. You play it to blow your mind wide open.
Finally, I get to the title of the blog post; at the end, fittingly for a game such as this one. The ending was so deep and trippy and mind-blowing that I might end up having a completely different or deeper understanding of the ending when I wake up or I might gain insight talking to other players. Or maybe I’ll never know more than I do now. So I’m leaving it open while acknowledging that I might never return to this topic again. One important thing – BUY THIS GAME!