The Meanings of Braid: Six Variations on Reality


This is the first of two essays about Braidhere is the other, wherein I discuss the game’s famous ending and the enigmatic Princess. You might also be interested in my fan-sequel mod-anthology, Braid: More Now Than Ever. I wrote this sequence of posts a full decade ago, much earlier than any of my other commentary on Braid or The Witness. There’s lots interesting stuff here, which is why I’m hosting it, but I don’t consider it a definitive analysis. While you read, feel free to dig into this spotify playlist of the game’s soundtrack + related songs. Someday it would be fun to produce some longplay videos, in the style of Examining The Witness examing the game in-depth to give my full exposition about each area – but in the meantime, this is still better than a lot of the Braid commentary out there on the internet!


Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I;
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

-Braid end credits, citing Christiana Rossetti

Hourglass icon.

Braid is a videogame about solving puzzles by jumping on things and manipulating the flow of time. Using these simple tools, Braid communicates many interesting ideas with fascinating interconnections. In this post, I’ll talk about the game’s opening, plus Worlds 2 and 3. In the next post, I’ll cover Worlds 4, 5, and 6, which feature Braid’s most interesting gameplay moments. Finally I’ll discuss the game’s ending (World 1), epilogue, and overall themes. Beyond just linking the gameplay, art, and story of each World, I’ve also tried to shed some light on the literal overarching plot that ties the Worlds together, and I express my interpretation of the core philosophical themes of Braid – two areas where other internet sources offer only simplistic accounts. Of course, these posts will make less sense if you haven’t played the game; worse, they’ll deny you of amazing things which you ought really to discover for yourself. As I just said, Braid is an absolutely fascinating game, so it’s well worth your time to buy, download, and play it yourself if you haven’t already.

Little Boy

Starting bridge screen.

Braid has no opening cutscene, not even a start menu. As soon as the game loads, you are playing. In the initial moments of the game, you are a man standing on a bridge, silhouetted against the fiery, golden light of what appears to be the setting sun. You cross the bridge and your figure is illuminated by a few streetlamps: you have orange hair, a blue suit, a red tie, and plenty of energy in your fast-paced jog. By now the background has settled into dusk, but in moments you enter your house, which consists of all the usual rooms a house should have, filled with furniture and objects that suggest a life rich with memories and interests.

That first minute of gameplay is, in a technical sense, the entire literal plot of the game. Tim is not some kind of mad scientist time-traveller living in a fantastical videogame world. Unlike the action-packed fantasy/sci-fi settings of most games, Braid is technically realistic fiction. It’s about a guy relaxing in his house after coming home from work.

This matters because it helps Braid establish a relevant, real-life tone. When I first played Braid over the course of several days in high school, I would come home from my classes, unwind in the familiarity of my living room, and then (playing the game) immerse myself in a series of whimsical thought experiments where time flowed in unusual ways. As our protagonist relaxes in his house alone, he’s doing the exact same thing! He’s daydreaming alternate realities, exploring their possibilities and drawing metaphorical connections between these strange worlds and his own real life. By drawing this connection, Braid is saying that this game isn’t an escapist adventure, a surrealist fantasy, or an academic exercise in ivory-tower theorizing – rather, it’s communicating something that’s meant to become an integrated part of your own real-world life.

In only a minute of gameplay, then, we have immersed ourselves in a comfortable, quiet, introspective environment. Thus, the first dream begins…

World 2: No Ordinary Castle

Tim's House.

The theme and feel of World 2 spring from a simple gameplay question: what would happen if you took a difficult, dangerous platformer like Super Mario Bros, and removed all penalty for failure? In Braid, the player always has the power to rewind time as far as they like: enemies walk backwards, objects fall up, cannonballs are sucked back into cannons. The player’s movements are also undone, allowing the past to be rewritten. Braid is a puzzle game, but in these early levels there are few serious conundrums. Instead, the ability to rewind allows players to learn from their mistakes in a forgiving environment.

Inadvertently fall into a pit of fiery spikes? No problem! Just rewind time for a few seconds, and you’re back on your feet. If you miss-time a jump, rewind and try again! Once this understanding clicks, normal platforming challenges become a walk in the park.

For players new to videogames, World 2 functions as a friendly, elegant tutorial. Meanwhile, Mario-masters will notice that once-frustrating demands –like pixel-perfect leaps, tricky acts of timing, fine midair control of a jump, even a suicidal “leap of faith” onto unknown ground– are utterly reasonable when death is no longer an inconvenience.

Green Hill Zone

World 2 Image, classic look

It’s silly to think of all of Braid as nothing more than a clever Mario homage. But World 2 really is just that: a design riff on the classic platformer, transformed by the gentle, carefree power of rewinding. These feelings are echoed in the whimsical art of World 2: bright green grass waves under baby-blue skies and a radiant summer sun. Back in the house, World 2 is associated with the living room, a place of first impressions, which contains a few cute symbols of erasure and forgiveness, like cleaning supplies and an etch-a-sketch toy.

The “story” of World 2, as revealed by cryptic snippets of text in the level-select area, is also in tune with the theme of this world: We are “off on a search to rescue the princess”, who has been snatched by a monster. But this only happened because our main character, Tim, “made a mistake”. The rest of the text entries focus on this idea, describing the princess “turning sharply away” and leaving Tim to resent the fact that “our world, with its rules of causality, has trained us to be miserly with forgiveness”. Of course, the main function of these entries is to explain this world’s gameplay themes, but the rudimentary story about Tim trying to win back The Princess will gain importance as we go along.

At the end of World 2, we meet a cute dinosaur who informs us that, just as Mario has taught us to expect, “The Princess is in another castle”. As we move on to World 3, still immersed in the friendly forgiveness of rewind, it’s easy to believe that Tim will succeed in his quest.

World 3: The Enchanted Forest

World 3 Image, perhaps 3-1?

World 3 adopts a tone more representative of Braid’s core: the whimsical exploration deepens to reveal mysterious phenomena, and the relaxing, contemplative atmosphere acquires an undertone of ominous melancholy. In lieu of World 2’s theme of forgiveness, a thick air of magic permeates this realm of “Time and Mystery” like the warm moisture of summer rain. World 3 is associated with Tim’s bedroom, where the sleepy magic of dreams swirls around a glowing mobile, flickering fireflies, and the surreal image of a model ship in a bottle. When all twelve puzzle-pieces have been assembled into a complete mural, they reveal an image of everyday alchemy: Tim sipping a glass of red wine, submersing himself in a warmer, softer, less rational and more human world.

A Little Bit of Magic

World 3 goomba king Image

Certain objects in World 3 are impervious to Tim’s rewinding: imbued with twinkling green sparks, certain keys, doors, platforms, and goombas (compact, porcupine-like denizens of the game world) flow eternally forward in time. This effect allows the first real puzzles of Braid to begin, as the player must stretch their mind to consider mystifying paradoxes and strange consequences implied by the rules of Tim’s dreamworld. The art style shifts to reflect this new tone: Tim has left behind the blue-sky summer meadows of early optimism and whimsical novelty. Now we are wandering in a deep forest dense with colorful foliage, symbolic of our deepening engagement with Braid’s time mechanics. It is overcast, and softly raining.

The first hints of Braid’s harsher tones appear in a level called “Irreversible”. The two puzzles here are the first which can be permanently failed: no amount of rewinding will bring salvation, so the player must exit and re-load the entire level to make a fresh attempt. Immediately following “Irreversible” come two more dark moments. In the first, Tim must momentarily commit suicide (by jumping into a pit of spikes), then rewind, to retrieve a key that opens the door to further progress. Later, Tim encounters a giant-sized Goomba, whom he must kill in order to progress. Despite a mild resemblance to Mario’s nemesis, Bowser, the Goomba King is not the monster that snatched away the Princess; in fact, a close examination of the background shows that he was relaxing in his own home before Tim came barreling through!

The text entries of World 3 offer a subtle counterpoint to the boundless optimism of World 2. Tim recounts how his obsession with rewinding mistakes to “cultivate the perfect relationship” began to feel like imprisonment:

He had been fiercely protective, reversing all his mistakes so they would not touch her…

But his efforts to please the Princess meant that he was condemned to distort his nature, editing his behavior to the point that he “could not defy her expectations or escape her reach.”

Her benevolence had circumscribed him, and his life’s achievements would not reach beyond the map she had drawn.

For Tim, it seems, even the perfection possible in World 2 is somehow unsatisfying. As we move through World 3 and on to World 4, Tim is searching for some way to jump outside that map of possibility. He demands “a hope of transcendence.”

World 4: Step By Step

Compared to the cryptic tale of princess-napping pieced together in previous fragments, the story of World 4 seems like it’s from a completely different game!

Visiting his home for a holiday meal, Tim felt as though he had regressed to those long-ago years when he lived under their roof, oppressed by their insistence on upholding strange values which, to him, were meaningless. Back then, bickering would erupt over drops of gravy spilt onto the tablecloth.

Escaping, Tim walked in the cool air toward the university he’d attended after moving out of his parent’s home. As he distanced himself from that troubling house, he felt the embarrassment of childhood fading into the past. But now he stepped into all the insecurities he’d felt at the university, all the panic of walking a social tightrope.

For better or worse, things soon return to familiar territory. Tim reflects on the ways he’s grown since childhood, and declares that,

This improvement, day by day, takes him ever-closer to finding the Princess. If she exists - she must! - she will transform him, and everyone.

The surprises don’t stop there. In a way, World 4’s uniqueness appears a little incongruous with the more “normal” Worlds 2, 3, and 5. But Braid is fundamentally a game full of surprises, and in that sense World 4’s explorative gameplay spirit and subtle narrative clues make these levels a particularly good microcosm of the game as a whole.

As we take our first step into World 4, we are struck by several obvious changes. Most immediately apparent, the shape of the first puzzle is identical to the first puzzle of World 3: a large square pit containing a single wandering Goomba. The art style has changed again: on one side of the screen we see the wooden structures and lush foliage of World 3, but the other side of the gap is bare rock and carved stone ruins. In the background, flakes of snow tumble down upon distant mountains. Later in World 4 we will see a few more familiar level designs, but colder now, devoid of the green grass that had adorned them in Worlds 2 and 3. Unlike previous Worlds, there’s no music or sound of any kind.

By far the most important revelation, however, remains beyond our grasp until we take our second step into World 4. In this land, time is directly tied to the horizontal spatial dimension: moving left-to-right gets the cosmic clock ticking, while moving right-to-left unwinds the world. This conceit is surely the most original gameplay mechanic in Braid, and the levels which follow represent the core spirit of Braid’s gameplay design.

Braid’s puzzles can be difficult, but they aren’t intended to test a player’s cleverness. They’re intended to guide players to explore and understand a physics-like set of rules. These playgrounds of experimentation tour players through the interesting, often initially unintuitive consequences of Tim’s time-bending abilities. For many players, the puzzles of World 4 in particular induce the most mind-boggling confusion, but also the most triumphant flashes of insight… the complex details of which I will not attempt to bumble through in this post!

X equals T

World 4 is also overflowing with allusions to real-world confluences of time and space. Braid continues the trend of Mario references with a puzzle inspired by the world’s first platformer, “Donkey Kong”, reminding us that, in almost every 2D platforming game, moving to the right is synonymous with game progress and therefore synonymous with time.

As usual, the game’s music plays according to whatever temporal conditions currently hold sway: a sweet left-to-right lullaby occasionally becomes a creepy right-to-left cacophony, and the world freezes into silence when the player takes their hands off the controller. In one level, a musical score is carved into the stone ruins, reminding us that written music, and indeed all writing, is the preservation of an ephemeral temporal phenomenon in a static, spatial object.

In other areas, carvings of stick figures at different stages of life –infant, child, teenager, adult, elder– express the universal human metaphor of time-as-a-journey. In the background, images of federal-style university buildings and childhood building blocks clue us in on the relevance of World 4’s text entries.

A Moment So Strong

The mechanical and thematic uniqueness of World 4 leave it feeling a little separate from the main line of Braid’s story, but subtle clues point at future thematic directions. A mindset of gradual improvement is introduced to contrasted with Tim’s growing fascination with moments of sudden enlightenment. Two carvings are sneaky indicators of a scientific theme: near the castle, the mathematical symbol Aleph-one refers to the infinite set of all ordinal numbers (which calls to mind the idea of the “arrow of time” and the abstract number-theory of Georg Cantor and Kurt Godel), while a necklace-wearing triangle in the first stage is a reference to the explanation and proof by Simon Stevin (a contemporary of Galileo) of how physical forces balance on inclined planes, an early step in the development of classical mechanics.

One final gameplay moment hints at a potential downside of Tim’s eager pursuit: the ending castle of World 4 is in ruins, but Tim cannot stop for the messenger that emerges. Instead, his desire for progress and self-improvement means that must continue his determined charge, leaving the castle messenger shouting futilely in the distance. All the while, the story of self-improvement that Tim tells himself in this realm seems a strictly provisional affair; a spiritual consolation prize cooked up to tide him over until the final day of “transformation”, his union with the Princess.

World 5: Two Roads Diverged

By the time players reach the fifth world of Braid, they have settled into familiarity with the game. The mechanic at work here –shadow versions of Tim that allow players to cooperate with themselves and combine the elements of multiple alternate timelines– is still fertile ground for puzzles, yet easier to grasp and not as strikingly original as earlier gameplay twists.

Like Worlds 3 and 4 before it, “Time and Decision” introduces the new mechanic (and a new art style) with a simple puzzle titled “The Pit”. As we’ve advanced through the game, the level design has become increasingly abstract, full of floating platforms and oddly-shaped structures. The art has matched this pace, abandoning the rolling natural landscapes of earlier worlds in favor of ornate hand-made decorations: wooden structures are inlaid with shining gold, while backgrounds are littered with soft carpets, pillows, curtains, and quilts. (Despite the luxury, every level appears to be in a state of imminent collapse, held above a layer of stagnant swamp water by rotting support beams and fraying cords. I’m really not sure what that means.)

Tim’s new ability to spin off parallel universes also fuels the art direction of World 5: scattered novels in the level art might be a reference to the familiar dilemma of choosing a single book to read from a huge library. In Tim’s real-world house, kitchen supplies reference the decision-filled nature of cooking, and a table set for two alludes to the fractal nature of conversation; in our world, potentially fruitful branches of discussion must always be trimmed into a single, linear path.

One Chance

As usual, the story-fragments in World 5 provide thematic connections between Tim’s hypothetical time-travel universes, the tale of the Princess, and real life. In “Time and Decision”, for the first time, we see the perspective of a character other than our protaganist:

She never understood the impulses that drove him, never quite felt the intensity that, over time, chiseled lines into his face. She never quite felt close enough to him - but he held her as though she were, whispered into her ear words that only a soul mate should receive.

But social ties aren’t strong enough to keep Tim from his pursuit of transformation:

Over the remnants of dinner, they both knew the time had come. He would have said: ‘I have to go find the Princess,’ but he didn’t need to. Giving a final kiss, hoisting a travel bag to his shoulder, he walked out the door.

On a surface level, these passages evoke a question familiar to anyone who’s been in a serious romantic relationship: is this the person I want to spend the rest of my life with? With an infinity of options and precious little ability to predict the outcome of any particular choice, making a life-changing commitment –a college, a career, or a soul mate– can feel terrifyingly arbitrary. But these two passages also frame a philosophical conflict that is central to Braid: the choice between an ordinary life of happiness and social comfort, or a dedicated, wholehearted pursuit of truth.

A Primer Aside


The mural created by collected puzzle pieces logically depicts two Tims, one of whom sits bored while another walks, enchanted, toward the mostly off-screen Princess. But why does this scene take place at an airport? It’s possible that this is a deliberate reference to the movie Primer (Jonathan Blow is a known fan of both Primer and Upstream Color, as am I). Like Braid, Primer is an intricately constructed time-travel story that explores the emotional and intellectual consequences of time manipulation, featuring characters determined to gain knowledge and control by pulling at the seams of the universe around them. As in many time-travel tales, going back in one of Primer’s machines implies sharing a few days with your past self. Much of Primer’s plot involves characters collaborating with or subverting the efforts of their past selves, making it particularly relevant to *Braid*’s “Time and Decision”.

The last conversation in Primer, an argument in an airport between the two former friends who invented the device, parallels the dilemma outlined in World 5’s story: one of the pair wants to stay behind with his family and prevent their earlier selves from ever discovering time travel in the first place, while the other harbors an ambition of flying to a far-away city, starting a new life, and continuing work on the revolutionary technology.


Although the puzzles of World 5 are of slightly lower intellectual caliber and lean more heavily on platforming skill, the emotional tone of World 5’s trials is particularly interesting. The timing and foresight required for self-cooperation is peculiarly difficult. World 5 can be brilliant, but it can also put your failures on display, make a mockery of your attempts to coordinate through fleeting windows of opportunity. Shadow-Tim is a tool designed to serve present-Tim, a state of affairs that forces the player to think in terms of manipulation and lobsided compromises.

One of the most memorable gameplay moments in Braid occurs in level 5-3, pictured below. Uniquely, this stage has no name, although levels 5-2 and 5-4 are titled “So Distant” and “Crossing the Gap”, respectively.

Earlier, I mentioned the conflict between happiness and the pursuit of truth. By this point in the game, of course, players are perfectly accustomed to trampling on Goombas who happen to be in a good position to boost Tim to the nearest puzzle-piece. Players have certainly accepted risk: they have fallen into pits of fire, been struck by deadly projectiles, and they have been murdered mid-jump by grotesque plants. A few puzzles have even required that Tim walk willfully to his own death, if only for a moment soon to be erased. World 5-3 is different.

Rather than explaining the solution in terms of control mechanics, I’d like to describe events unfolding as they would “really” happen, as if in a movie. Tim is moving forward through the strange world of Braid, hungering for mastery, knowledge, transformation. When he runs into stage 5-3 he immediately perceives the problem, but minutes drag by as the solution eludes him. He examines everything twice, then three times–his determination only growing, feeding off this new obstacle. Some part of him recognizes the way forward, but the rest of him refuses to admit it.

With gritted teeth, Tim finally forces acceptance upon himself. He sets his plans in motion with the cold resolve of a suicide bomber: I must do this.

Soon there are two of him, one on either side of the bridge. On this side the locked door –and behind it, the next essential fragment of his salvation. On the other side, the key to that door. Between the two Tims, a fiery chasm sends tendrils of smoke curling around a forest of jagged thorns.

“Jump!” Tim shouts to the far side. He plants his feet firmly, leans out, extends his hand. “I’ll catch you!“

The other Tim stands silent, loosely gripping the key, staring down at the abyss. He shakes his head. Then, in a soft, shaking voice: “No. It’s too far. Barely. I could… No.”

“This is the only way!” Tim roars, “You know this; you know how important this is!” His eyes gleam, fixated on the key.

Shivering, eyes darting between each thorn and crackling ember with a thousand frantic half-thoughts: “No. This is different.”

“Come on!” our Tim shouts at first, “What else do you want? To live in delusion? In ignorance? To be a coward, hiding from the world, and then die for nothing?” Then, eyes closed, exhaling, resigned: “You’re right, though. It is different, this time.” He readjusts his footing, leans another inch over the precipice. “But reality isn’t made for our convenience. Our preferences don’t count. Sometimes the truth will be hard, and we will have to accept it. Sometimes, we will have to make sacrifices.“

On the far side, eyes glance up. The two lock their gaze for a long moment. Shadow Tim takes a final breath. He pushes forward with a step, lets himself fall towards the edge for part of a second. Then the next step, against the edge itself, a single effort propelling him on an impossible leap.

It’s an even more impossible distance.

World 6: Beginning’s End

Choices, choices.

More so than the quirks of previous realms, World 6 is full of deliberately eerie, disorienting rule-breaks. It calls attention to its uniqueness from the very beginning: whereas Worlds 2, 3, 4, and 5 were titled “Time and Forgiveness”, “Time and Mystery”, “Time and Place”, and “Time and Decision”, World 6 is simply “Hesitance”.

Braid’s story elements have always been focused on connecting puzzle-game mechanics to real-life emotions and ideas. But in World 6, the Mario-style quest of previous realms is jettisoned to reveal a more realistic, straightforward reflection on Tim’s character. As a result, the Princess is mentioned only in the first entry, and she seems less like a literal person than ever.

Perhaps in a perfect world, the ring would be a symbol of happiness. It’s a sign of ceaseless devotion: even if he will never find the Princess, he will always be trying. He still will wear the ring.

This passage is an affirmation of the conflict established in World 5: the suspicion that happiness and “ceaseless devotion” to truth are often mutually exclusive. But while World 5 focused on binaries –the difficulty of decision between two life paths, disagreement between two people– World 6 ups the ante, throwing Tim into a state of conflict and alienation with society at large.

…the ring makes its presence known. It shines out to others like a beacon of warning. It makes people slow to approach. Suspicion, distrust. Interactions are torpedoed before Tim can open his mouth.

In time he learns to deal with the others carefully. He matches their hesitant pace, tracing a soft path through their defenses. But this exhausts him, and it only works to a limited degree. It doesn’t get him what he needs.

Just as the Princess represents far more than a generic woman, Tim’s token is far more than a wedding ring. It represents his deepest values, his devotion to higher truth. And, tragically, it is what drives a wedge of animosity between him and everyone he meets.

Tim begins to hide the ring in his pocket. But he can hardly bear it - too long tucked away, that part of him might suffocate.

There and Back Again

As we have become accustomed, the first stage is again titled “The Pit”. And yet… there’s no puzzle. No key, lock, goomba, or puzzle piece. Just a hole in the floor. There’s really nothing at all to do in this stage; in a game with such economical, consciously-built levels, such a completely nonfunctional world is immediately unsettling.

The time mechanic introduced in this stage (which, of course can be deployed to zero practical use) is also a serious rule-break. Despite visiting four different worlds before now, Tim has always had the same control scheme that was introduced in the first five minutes of the game: movement the left and right, plus two buttons for jump and rewind. But now, and only in World 6, Tim can deploy a golden ring that creates a bubble of super-slowed time.

The ring allows for some brilliant new puzzles, but it seriously changes the feel of World 6’s gameplay. Not only is there a lot more fine timing necessary to solve puzzles designed for slow-motion, but players must now thing about where to place the ring in the level, not just where to move Tim.

The unfamiliar tone of the game feel, harsher and less forgiving than previous worlds, is reinforced by the creepy familiarity of the puzzle designs. After “The Pit”, stages 6-2 and 6-3 are direct transcriptions of stages 3-2 and 3-3, each puzzle tweaked only minutely to demonstrate a new solution. (Stage 6-5 is also a direct rip of puzzles in 3-6 and 4-5.)

The art style of World 6 is dark, hostile, and self-mocking. The soft wooden platforms and lush plant life of earlier levels are now rigid images carved from solid marble, lit by an eerie green glow. In “Hesitance”, by completing the trend from natural to abstract, Braid is highlighting the coldly efficient, contrived forms of its own gameplay-driven level design.

In the later stages, “Hesitance” retains the intimidating, hyperformal style but ditches the plant-life decoration. Keeping with the themes of society and alienation (as well as the more realistic, self-aware nature of World 6), the background is a city filled with buildings that look identical to the ones outside Tim’s actual house. Meanwhile, the foreground’s artistic focus appears to shift towards… hats.

Choice and Consequences

The hats and uniforms that decorate the marble platforms of World 6 are symbols of easily-identifiable professions: astronaut, cowboy, policeman, soldier, mailman, etc. These represent not just jobs but societal roles, personalities, and worldviews. This emphasizes the thematic difference between Worlds 4, 5, and 6: “Time and Place” focused on optimistic forward growth on a promising linear path, and “Time and Decision” dwelt on the agony of decision between two equal yet mutually exclusive paths… but in World 6 there are an infinity of possible paths.

Just like the escalation from World 5’s personal disagreement to World 6’s societal alienation, this seemingly quantitative escalation feels qualitatively different: with an entire world of different values to live by, it is no longer possible to give fair consideration to each option. How is it possible to justify the arbitrary choice of one life path above others? World 6’s title, “Hesitance”, surely refers to the crippling paralysis that can result from such a terrifying amount of freedom.

The monstrous ending castle of World 6 is a grotesque, hyperformal distortion of World 2’s charming citadel, augmented with the addition of with dozens of marble statues of uniforms. In the center, the largest statue depicts a scared little boy, alone in the world. The castle messenger’s words deliver a tragic final blow, the long-feared consequence of a lifetime’s effort wasted in vain:

It took you so long to get here! But at long last, I can tell you that… The princess must be in another castle.

When you chose how to live your life, he tells Tim, you chose wrong. Maybe you could have found her by now. It wasn’t impossible to do. You just didn’t do it, and now it’s too late.

A Light in Darkness

Read one way, the story of World 6 is incredibly dark: Tim abandons his ideals to fit in with a world that doesn’t understand him, and feels lost in arbitrary choices and the meaninglessness of life. And yet, the painting created by assembling the puzzles could just as easily be taken to show Tim discovering, not abandoning the golden ring that represents his values and direction. After we have collected all the puzzle pieces from every available World, we proceed to World 1. There, we’ll realize the full extent to which there are always multiple levels of meaning at work in Braid. In particular, we will see that it is possible to read the events of the previous Worlds in a complementary, yet very different way.

(Continue to read the second half of this analysis, about The Princess and the ending of the game.)