Thematically Sinister Stage
A missing level design Supertrope for a stage with mostly matching hazards and scenery.
Tropeworthy? Needs Examples Description Needs Help

(permanent link) added: 2013-06-20 10:21:21 sponsor: tachyonTrail (last reply: 2013-07-09 22:23:29)

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A Thematically Sinister Stage is when the developer inserts themed stages into their game - such as a Gusty Glade stage or a Death Mountain stage - wherein the environmental hazards are quite persistent in attempting to get in on Everything Trying to Kill You, thus becoming an intrinsic part of the challenge of clearing the stage. These hazards are fairly uniformly thematically-appropriate to the setting of the stage, whatever it may be, because we wouldn't want something to be out of place, would we? So long as the stage itself is also one of the primary entities in the game trying to kill you (whether the stage is self-aware or not is irrelevant), it fits under this trope's umbrella.

General examples include most stages in Mega Man or another Platform Game, most fields in Zelda games and Role-Playing Games in general, and also in a Racing Game like F-Zero where the stage can be hazardous rather than merely performance-limiting. In fact, pretty much any game where classical elements are a thing tends to also contain many variants on the Thematically Sinister Stage. Games which incorporate the Sorting Algorithm Of Threatening Geography usually play it straight on every stage, or most of them at least. In really extreme cases, Finagle's Law is also applied, liberally.

Although it frequently does, this trope doesn't necessarily refer to the visual style of hazards; the Rule Of Escalating Threat may actually be the theme of said... sinisterness. Continue reading, this bears further explanation.

A level designer attempting to create a Thematically Sinister Stage by varying the difficulty throughout the stage may unintentionally produce a stage in which Schizophrenic Difficulty happens to be the theme the stage's design follows (causing players no end of frustration, and possibly inspiring them to call the resulting stage "poorly-designed"; or in the case of a last level, to call it a Disappointing Last Level). This can still be an example of playing the trope straight, but more frequently this would be considered an aversion, since it may cause the stage's difficulty to deviate from the expected threat level the design of the stage is otherwise patterned on. The few situations in which the trope is usually played straight because of Schizophrenic Difficulty follow:

These can all be deliberate aversions of this trope - and either way, it may seem like the reasoning that led to the stage's design is a simple case of the design team running out of new ideas, and just deciding to throw all their ideas at you - at the same time. However! If this sort of design is justified by the plot, it can paradoxically result in the design team having played the Thematically Sinister Stage straight. This tends to be the case, especially so, when the entire game takes place in an Eldritch Location or one in which All The Worlds Are A Stage, and frequently is in a situation where those stages are also a Collapsing Lair!

Direct aversions of this trope (partial or otherwise) may include: Environmental Anachronism Stew, or an Unexpected Gameplay Change in which the respective embodiment of anachronism, or the gameplay change, is represented by an out-of-place piece of scenery/obstacle from another stage with a different theme. The Marathon Level and The Maze are (by default) examples of playing it straight, though a certain sort of deliberate malfeasance can break this rule.
For other editors: Tropes or stages which are direct aversions of this trope would be useful to identify; post 'em if you've got 'em.

Example list (final will undoubtedly be huge, but try these on for size):
replies: 24

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