"Could there be a giant conspiracy theory that would force a guy to put a bomb on himself, jump out a window, land in a mattress truck, hitchhike with the very people that’s conspiring against him and then end up in a psychological assessment where it turns out he’s actually sane and may be under this drug Paxwic which is a drug made to produce the perfect soldier? I think not."
ZapDramatic is a website run by Michael Gibson (who also goes by "crageous" as a username, in reference to his company's original name, Courageous Communications), a Canadian man who creates negotiation games for both entertainment purposes and diplomatic groups. Thus far, he has created games for episodic series such as Ambition, Move or Die, and Sir Basil Pike Public School; several one-offs that led to the development of those series, some of which are available for free on Newgrounds; and full university courses about negotiation and having difficult conversations.In each game, you play a Featureless Protagonist tasked with helping the characters solve various problems using basic negotiation tactics. You are presented with multiple choices of what to instruct the characters to do or say, and different choices lead to different outcomes. There is usually only one correct path, however.The Negotiator is the blanket title for shorter games about one-on-one interactions where the player is given some Backstory about their character, then must choose the correct lines of dialog to convince another character to give the player something they want or to avoid some punishment. Altered States is the same concept, only with the admission that the opponent characters are dangerously disturbed individuals who often make wildly irrational decisions.The Mediator refers to games in which the player must help two other opposing parties find an acceptable compromise for their dispute. The first episode, "The Angry Neighbors", features a unique gameplay mechanic where the animated characters will continue arguing on their own until the player presses a Stop button to jump in with an attempt to steer the debate in a more positive direction.In the Ambition series, you are tasked with helping a disturbed man named Ted Hartrup reunite with his kids, who are in the care of his estranged wife, Bridget. Along the way, you'll also meet Yale and Helen, a dysfunctional couple trying to weather their shaky marriage. Numerous scenarios will play out involving these characters in which you must decide what you or they must do to alleviate the situation, with subjects such as adultery, interrogation, and even some murder thrown into the mix.Move or Die plays like an interactive animated adventure movie. The User assumes the role of a hitchhiker who gets picked up by two ethically challenged siblings in their twenties, Syd and Wilma. When bad things start to happen, the action will stop and a menu screen will appear asking the User for input. The User negotiates with Syd and Wilma and tries to persuade them to make better choices. If the User advises poorly or fails to persuade Syd and Wilma to choose a better course of action, the movie will end in disaster and the action will stop. The only way for the User to see the whole movie is to learn from past mistakes and negotiate more effectively.Sir Basil Pike Public School explores the dynamics of bullying among boys and girls aged 10-14. The user can follow either the boys’ story or the girls’ story. Both stories intersect for the conclusion. In the boys’ story, the user is accused of stealing another boy’s bike. At issue is the truth and honor. The girls’ story revolves around a sleepover party where all but one is invited and the consequences of being nice or competitive are explored. It features characters who had previously appeared in Gibson's other works, as well as new ones. It also adds the new feature of "Persuasive Power," which is a good indicator of whether or not you are making the correct choices.Keeping in mind that Gibson mainly intended these games as viable negotiation training for real-life situations, they are somewhat notorious for their... odd depiction of their characters, as they frequently invoke numerous violations of common sense, skewed priorities, and other unusual behavior that would all likely be counterproductive for these scenarios should they actually play out in real life. But even that itself is unlikely.As such, Ambition and Sir Basil Pike Public School have been riffed on by Retsupurae.The YMMV page for the games is here.Not to be confused with Ambition Is Evil, though it does contain examples of that trope.
ZapDramatic's flash games provide examples of the following tropes:
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Tropes appearing in more than one of ZapDramatic's works
Broken Aesop: Michael Gibson intended the situations in the episodes to reflect how they'd play out in real life. Therefore, the "solutions" to these problems brings up a lot of Unfortunate Implications.
Ambition seems to excuse Ted's atrocities just because he's the supposed victim of an immoral wife. Despite the fact he tried to blow up an office building and essentially commit a mass murder. Made worse by the fact he's canonically considered sane.
Having a troublesome marriage? Just give your wife expensive jewelry! She'll forget about all your problems because material wealth trumps working out your differences! To be fair, you will fail if you don't get them to agree on something and the game doesn't treat this as an outright happy ending since Helen admits to the player she's happier lying to herself that everything's OK, and its just delaying the inevitable.
The games often fail in their goal to teach you about negotiation, in the fact that nobody really comes to an agreement on anything, and you're mostly just telling people what they want to hear, or offering decisions that really make no sense. Episode 9 of Ambition even allows you to sit back and let someone else do your work.
From Sir Basil Pike Public School: Bullying is wrong...except for when you physically assault people whom you mistakenly believe stole from you, mock them for their handicaps when they try and defend themselves, and refuse to apologize when the truth is discovered and the situation resolved. In which case, you're just being assertive.
The Negotiator episode "The Raise" has a mouse spontaneously talking to you, and if you listen to the mouse, you get a game over. The game tells you that you shouldn't listen to mice, because mice don't talk. Weird, but somewhat valid... But then this mouse appears once again in "Sir Basil Pike Public School", being the main dispenser of advice.
But Thou Must: Even though the Ambition offers you choices, usually only one choice is ever the correct one. If more than one choice is considered correct, they still both lead to the same outcome, or an extremely similar outcome, with very minor differences.
Sir Basil Pike has a rather poorly done example. The player does have the option to skip some things, but the game still automatically assumes that you didn't. So, you could wind up being very confused when things like Janina's Animated Music Video, and Julia running out of the classroom occur if you don't choose the right options. The game also sometimes assumes that you chose certain options, when you didn't, so you can (and probably will) run into situations when the characters accuse you of putting someone up to something or lying when you chose no such option.
Call Back: A minor one in episode 10, when the first day of the trial ends with the player getting into an elevator with a pair of burka-wearing Muslim women, who end up as victims in an attempt on the player's life. At the end of the second day, a Muslim man shows up at the courtroom asking Jim if he's seen his wife and daughter.
Cardboard Prison: Ted escapes from police custody twice over the course of the series. Bridget even calls the police out on their incompetence when the second one happens. It's bad enough that if you double-cross Duke on Day Three of the trial after he threatens you, the power to the courtroom is cut and the blame is pinned on Ted escaping again.
In Day 1 of Sir Basil Pike Public School, Mr. Hartrup tells the class that they will be learning about compound fractions today, but the fractions he has written on the board are improper fractions, not compound fractions.
Averted with his explanation of the Monty Hall problem on Tuesday. While he did explain it rather poorly, it does check out. Although, the Monty Hall problem deals with psychology and Ted was teaching it in a math class.
However the Monty hall problem only works if Ted always picks doors with goats behind them. Which is not told to the player.
Another example from Sir Basil Pike. On Wednesday, Tariq refers to runes as sacred stones. Actually, runes are the sacred etchings that go on stones, not the stones themselves.
Also on Wednesday in Sir Basil Pike, Ms. Pruet says that Mary, Queen of Scots lived during the Dark Ages. She actually lived after them.
Demoted to Extra: Jim is a main character in Episode 1, and then all but disappears (save for a few cameos) until Episode 10. Even then, he is still only a supporting character.
Frank Crabtree, too.
Despite being the main character, Ted Hadrup arguably gets this treatment as well. Starting with Episode 4, the focus starts to shift away from Ted and the plot becomes about the love triangle between Yale, Angie, and Helen. Later, it changes again to become about the mystery surrounding the murder of Angie. After Episode 3, the only excuse Ted has for still being in the game is the fact that he coincidentally escapes from custody around the same time that Angie is murdered. He gradually becomes less important, and by Episode 10, he exists solely for the villains to pin their crimes on. In that episode, he only appears in one full scene, and two quick cameos.
Dave the Brave in Sir Basil Pike. He plays a pretty important role in the boy's path on Monday, but after that, the one other time he speaks, it's in recycled lines.
Deranged Animation: Though it arises, appropriately, from the animators' ambition exceeding their capability, instead of on purpose.
Find Out Next Time: Since most of Zapdramatic's games are episodic, naturally they usually have this at the end.
Episode 4 and onward of Ambition decided to raise some questions and encourage the player to find out in the next episode.
Subverted for episode 9. The ending implied that you would play as a "business tycoon" talking to "pure evil". That never happened and a different scenario plays out instead.
Also subverted (for now, at least) in Episode 10. The cliffhanger was supposed to have been resolved in a sequel called "Ambition: The Mystery Continues." As of June, 2013, it has not (and probably will not) been released.
Move or Die pulled this off with its original free demos, which ended before Syd and Wilma arrived at the House of Grimm. No new episodes have surfaced since the conclusion of that second part, however, despite that the ending says the story has you continue to aid Syd and Wilma in reaching their destination of Montreal, a Staggered Zoom hints that the mayor of Moncton will become important later, and the website even claims that a 6-part television series is in the works.
Godwin's Law: While interrogating Yale as the detective, you get the option to compare something that Yale says to something that Adolf Hitler would have said. Much like a typical case of Godwin's Law, it makes no sense in the context it's used.
In Sir Basil Pike, Ted indirectly compares his class to Nazis when discussing schadenfreude.
Lazy Artist: Many characters usually stand at the front of the camera, though some can face other directions. Particularly noticeable with Angie, who never once faces another direction. This may have to do with the fact she seems to be based upon clip art one can find upon the web unlike much of the other cast members.
Limited Animation: The characters appear to just slide around instead of walking, and their movements are jerky. Gibson somewhat attempted to hide his inability to animate walk cycles by having the characters' legs partially offscreen when they moved in Ambition. By the time he released Sir Basil Pike Public School, he apparently realized that this was a lost cause, as the characters all appear to have invisible wheels on their feet as their primary means of transportation.
Ms. Fanservice: Bridget was likely an intended example, but, as outlined below in the Ambition section, it doesn't really work out.
Anne from Bikini Tennis, whose character model is much better done than Bridget's, is a more straight example.
Obvious Beta: Particularly noticeable in the Negotiator episodes, where dialogue clips frequently overlap each other, stop playing prematurely, or continue to play after the next dialogue box has already appeared. In addition, many of the player choices either link to the wrong dialogue tree altogether, or don't play out any differently to any of the other choices. Ambition is a little better in this regard, but even then there can be noticeable glitches, such as Duke sometimes being depicted with two heads in the last episode.
A particularly funny and ironic example in Ambition is that "doofus" is consistently misspelled as "dufous."
Schedule Slip: Some episodic games had several years pass before the next part was released. Ambition is currently in its sixth year of hiatus (assuming it isn't dead already).
Previous episodes have failed to come out even when deadlines were promised, too: Episode 10 went from "COMING THIS FALL!" to "COMING THIS WINTER!" to "COMING THIS SPRING!" to "COMING SOON!", and Episode 9 got its own interactive announcement to apologize for the lateness. Such delays have made users especially unhappy as registration fees only enable access to exclusive games for a set length of time, not in perpetuity.
Move or Die was To Be Continued in a TV series, which still has yet to materialize.
What Happened to the Mouse?: In one of the game over scenarios in Episode 1 of Ambition, Ted asks you to feed his dog Bingo before detonating his bomb and blowing himself, and (presumably) everyone else in the building, to HELL! First of all, this raises the question of who will feed Bingo since the person Ted told to feed him has been killed. Secondly, Bingo is not mentioned at any other point in the game, so it's not known what happened to him.
Although Sir Basil Pike Public School is not a sequel to Ambition, it features many characters appearing in it. Since it was made after Ambition wrapped up, it isn't clear if that game took place in an alternate continuity, or if the conflict was just resolved offscreen.
In Move or Die, Mrs. Grimm and her butler are taken to jail, but the nursing home guy is not. Perhaps he was to return in the future installments of the series, which never came to fruition.
World Gone Mad: The creator's depiction of how the characters act ranges from "pretty odd" to "batshit insane", which makes it all the more hilarious when you realize he intended these scenarios to be as realistic as possible.
You All Look Familiar: Invoked - Michael Gibson has had other shorts too, and in fact, you can recognize a lot of characters from them. The cops, however, play this trope entirely straight.
The Klink International secretary is the woman at the return counter in one of his negotiation shorts. She even mentions having a previous job that was very stressful.
Bridget appears in another video where a woman steals a video tape from you and you have to talk her into giving it back to you, and a new description and ending teaser on Newgrounds imply she is the same character from Ambition.
Rolf Klink appeared previously in another video about convincing your boss to give you a raise.
When Ted runs through Klink international, he nearly bumps into a woman with orange hair...who was in a mediating video with someone who was one of the cops.
Some of the more scary looking cops look like the cop where you talk your way out of a speeding ticket.
Ted Hartrup appears as a math teacher in another game. Said game also includes Angie's neighbour as a vice principal, and someone who looks can notice Angie's coworker as her apparent assistant.
The prosecuting attorney is also a ghoulish butler in "Move or Die" and a variety store cashier in the intro to the boy's story of "Sir Basil Pike Public School".
Tropes appearing in Ambition
The series' logo.
Aborted Arc: The ending of episode 9 informs us that we will be playing as Rolf Klink in the next episode and negotiating with "pure evil." None of that actually happens in episode 10. Except for the negotiating with pure evil part, which does happen in the last stretch of the episode.
Angry Black Man: It only comes up once, when Yale makes a comment about slavery that comes completely out of nowhere.
Animation Bump: The characters in later episodes appear to be much more designed than the ones in the early episodes, who look rather blocky. Bridget is a rather good example - being much more thoroughly animated than the other characters, after having started life as just a new face pasted onto the Lusty Barfly. It looks almost like they had a completely different artist design the new characters.
Anti-Frustration Features: Many of the episodes include a "hint" option. It doesn't really give you a hint, as it just points out what the right answer is, or informs you that you have reached the point of no return and resets the whole episode. Only a handful of episodes hide this feature or have a different take on it, such as episode 9 where failing three times has Duke take your place as the marriage counselor and walk you through the whole episode.
Apathetic Citizens: Yale won't help you escape from the people who just threatened to murder you because he's too busy holding a dinner party.
Asshole Victim: Ted can be a dick to others, even those who intend to help him. To be fair, it's not like he can trust everyone, considering what he's been through and the lies that circulate. He's actually more calm around Bridget.
Bridget in episode 10.
Yale in episode 10. He may be a philanderer and kind of a misogynist jerk, but he doesn't deserve to be framed for a murder he didn't commit.
Author Avatar: Ted is theorized to be one for Michael Gibson. Supported by the fact that Ted used to appear in sarcastic "rants," such as this one (warning, some NSFW content).
Author Tract: Possibly. The game is peppered with things that conservatives usually say, such as Rolf Klink saying that the two biggest threats are taxes and government regulation. However, Rolf is stated to be a member of the Fascist Party. There's also a part where Yale tells Helen to "get off [her] hypocritical liberal high horse," when she wasn't saying anything political at all. Either Michael Gibson is a conservative, or likes to mock them.
Retsupurae noted the running theme of authority figures being dicks.
Zapdramatic seems to be fond of these even outside of Ambition. The Psychic Ted spin-off flash (which is just supposed to be a "pick a number, do some math to get another number, and the flash will guess that number" flash) will occasionally have Ted suddenly launch into a rant about the United Nations.
Ax-Crazy: Ted is implied and half the cast implicate him to be this. He's not.
Episode 5 has Helen nearly descending into this after finding out about Yale's affair.
Cardboard Prison: Ted manages to escape from prison not once, but twice. In one of Episode 10's game overs, it is stated that he escaped a third time, but it is unknown if he actually did. Justified, as it is stated that Ted is repeatedly allowed to escape so that he can be framed for murders committed by the villains.
Continuity Nod: Yale is subtly implied to have been the player character in The Raise. He is an employee of Rolf Klink, and in part 5 he mentions he "has to write a speech", which is presumably the same one Rolf is seen giving at the beginning of part 7. The stripping woman the player sees if they choose to turn away from Rolf (that may or may not have been a hallucination) also bears some resemblance to his wife, Helen.
Crapsack World: Corruption is implied to be rampant in the Ambition universe.
Creepy Changing Painting: A minor, and probably unintentional example. Rolf Klink's picture in the newspaper blinks, for some reason. It's not referenced in the game and was most likely the result of an error on the animator's part.
A Day in the Limelight: Because Episode 9 enables you to have him play the game for you, this episode could focus entirely on Duke being the protagonist.
Delusions of Eloquence: The characters occasionally drop out-of-place flowery words in relatively casual dialogue. It can get pretty jarring.
slowbeef: Look at option one!note Option one, in this case, is "Argue that the Roe Commission on pay equity in it's[sic] 1991 report to the World Bank reported a direct positive relationship between average annual income and productivity." Who speaks like this!? [...] (The player accuses Yale of being defensive) Yale: No, I'm not being defensive per se. I was simply stating a fact quod erat demonstrandum. slowbeef: ...Slap him. Diabetus: Yes, this is how real people talk.
Difficulty Spike: Episode 9 is a lot harder, because you have to pose as Yale and Helen's marriage counselor and interrupt them at the right moment. Luckily, if you fail it three times, Duke will do it for you.
Downer Ending/Left Hanging: With the exception of proving both Ted and Bridget not guilty, the player, as in the person who sat through this whole game, gains no meaningful resolution as both Rolf Klink and Duke Crabtree threatened to kill you if you don't frame someone else, and Yale ends up being imprisoned for the murder he didn't commit. To make matters worse, the series has been on halt for six years!
Driven to Suicide: Episode 1 started with Ted willing to commit suicide with a bomb strapped around his waist. He calms down after episode 2 though.
Driving Question: The early episodes give such questions to us explicitly: "Is he crazy? Or is he the victim of a horrendous, mind-warping crime? Is his ex-wife Bridget capable of such a deed? Will Bridget get away with it?" Later it becomes, "Who is the killer? Ted? Helen? Yale? Or somebody else? Is it a simple crime of passion or something more sinister?"
Drop In Nemesis: Throughout the series, but two of the most flagrant examples occur during Episode 10: the driver attempting to run you and Ted over in the garage, and Ted cutting the power to the courtroom. Neither of these events occurs if you choose the correct dialogue options.
Dull Surprise: How Yale reacts to the news that Angie is pregnant with his child.
Even Evil Has Standards: Yale isn't evil, but he does often come across as a jerkass and do a lot of morally questionable things. However, in one of the bad endings of Episode 10, it is shown that he at least takes his profession as a lawyer seriously. If you tell him that Rolf Klink thinks it would be best for everyone if Ted takes the fall for Angie's murder. Yale angrily says that he doesn't think that would be best for Ted and says that he'll see us disbarred for saying that (you play Bridget's defense attorney in that episode).
Fan Disservice: There is a quick scene in Episode 10 showing Bridget wearing a bra and green pants. It was probably intended to be Fanservice, but it turns into fan disservice due to the way her character is rendered.
An intended example: During the above scene, Rolf Klink walks in wearing nothing but a towel.
Fantastic Drug: According to Yale Johnson in Episode 6, Paxwic is a new anti-depressant developed to subdue prisoners by making them blissed-out and non-violent. Angie was pursuing a study showing that Paxwic also has the effect of destroying the user's critical thinking ability, which would make her enemies with the manufacturer Somaplex if her paper on the side effects were to be published. Later we learn that Ted was injected with an ominously-labeled faulty batch of Paxwic which could have heightened his anxiety just before he woke up to his blood-splattered apartment.
Flanderization: When Yale is introduced in Episode 2, he comes across as a nice guy, if slightly uptight. Fast-forward to Episode 9, and he's turned into a pretentious jerkass.
The sheer difficulty of speaking to Ted only seemed to get worse as the episodes went on, to the point that you couldn't even speak to the character in Episode 6 without him telling you to get out of his sight.
Angie: "Tell him we've found his kids and they're safe."
Yale: "Ted, your lips are safe."
Gambit Roulette: The plot to set Ted on a Paxwic-fueled frenzy, then frame him for Angie's murder is incredibly, unnecessarily convoluted. Doubly so once you realize that they seemingly didn't even try to complete the plan the first time around. Instead, they set Ted up as a crazed lunatic, caught him, and then allowed him to escape so they can capture him again. Firstly, if they had simply had Angie killed while Ted was still under the drug's effects the first time, none of the other attempts would have been necessary, and neither would the murders of other seemingly random people. This is doubly strange when you remember that, according to Bridget, almost everybody involved, including the judge, are actually in on the conspiracy, they probably could have simply had Angie killed anonymously and had the case worked in any way they desired, making Ted's entire involvement unnecessary.
Gonk: The prosecutor in Episode 10. He has yellow teeth, and the way his face is drawn makes him look like he's wearing a saggy mask made from human skin.
And the stenographer, who appears to be a globular mass of melting human flesh with a mustache tacked on, thanks to a static pose that does little to separate his face from the hand he's resting it on.
Ted and Bridget's children both look like Bobby Hill, if Bobby Hill was a wide-eyed, naked, amorphous blob.
Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Yale seems to be content with the fact that he's cheating on Helen with Angie, and even planned on leaving her after he makes partner for his law firm. With some convincing, he decided to cut the act and let Angie go. Too bad he impregnated her.
No one seems to have a problem with Rolf Klink, a married man, dating Bridget!
Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Possibly. Bridget seems more of an accomplice than the perpetrator. Played somewhat straight with Ted and Yale.
Groin Attack: The player has the option of doing this to Duke in Episode 10.
Guide Dang It: Episode 10 has no hint feature, and there are a couple points in the game that will force you to continue, even if there are no winning solutions. This becomes confusing as a major scene can occur after negotiating with Rolf, and it turns out to be a dead end. The "replay from last mistake" option does help this a little.
Hand Wave: When Ted is declared legally sane and aware of his actions, the story allows him to shirk criminal responsibility by passing off his previous behavior as a "temporary dissociative state" resulting from the shock of discovering that his kids are missing.
Hanging Judge: The judge in Episode 10 is clearly on the prosecution's side for most of the trial (though he'll flip-flop at the drop of a hat) and boots the player off the case for any reason. He'll also frequently accuse the player of being incompetent, but kicks them off the case if they do the same to Duke when he takes the stand.
Lady Macbeth: Bridget appears to be a poor man's version of this.
Laser-Guided Karma: An oddly literal example happens in Episode 10, after Duke hijacks your taxi; punching him on the nose causes him to lose control of the taxi, which then collides head-on with a bus which has the word "KARMA" written in huge letters on its windshield. (This is recycled from Move or Die, where Syd and Wilma immediately face the music for their attempt to rob a dead man.)
Lights Off, Somebody Dies: Happens in one of the game overs in Episode 10 if you choose to doublecross Rolf and Duke in court. The lights go off, and Jim the cop comes in and evacuates the building because Ted has supposedly escaped and cut the power. Duke kills you as you are leaving.
Limited Wardrobe: Averted with Ted Hadrup, Yale Johnson, and Rolf Klink, who have three outfits, but played straight with everyone else.
Almost everyone gets a change of clothes in Episode 10. The only characters to play it straight are Frank and Duke Crabtree and Dr. Russell. Angie is a borderline case, since she's seen wearing a different blouse during Ted's initial trial, but it's obviously just a recolored version of her usual one.
Major Injury Underreaction: Helen punches Yale in the face in episode 2 with enough force to give him a nosebleed. His only reaction is to say "ow!" in a way that one might say it if they bumped themselves on something.
There's also Duke's reaction to being kicked in the crotch in Episode 10. He just says "ow, why'd you do that?" and then pulls out his gun and shoots you. Those who see Duke as a Memetic Badass just write this off as another example of his being a badass.
The Man Behind the Man: Rolf Klink seems to be this to both Duke and Bridget. The ending of the marriage counselor implied the final episode would involve the player taking on Klink's role and talking to "pure evil".
No Ending: Episode 10 ends with Yale getting arrested after you make a deal with Rolf and Duke to let you live if you retract your question about Duke's notebook. The Find Out Next Time message mentions an all-new cycle called "Ambition- The Mystery Continues," but it's been six years and no new content has been released.
Non-Entity General: The player character from episodes 6-9 is not given much of a history, beyond being a detective who annoyed the Superintendent with some remark. The defense attorney from episode 10, is given even less history. In episode 5, you're essentially someone whose office Helen runs in.
In episodes 1, 2, 4 and the beginning of 5, the game does not even assign a character (if any). With 4, it's assumed that you are an acquaintance of Yale and Angie (presumably two different acquaintances), while 1, 2, and the start of 5 just has you advising them, regardless of whoever you are.
Noodle Incident: Whatever the player character said to annoy Frank Crabtree on Sunday in episode 6. Attempting to find out only fails the negotiation for extra time.
No Sell: Helen hits Yale a few times in Episode 5, and he doesn't even acknowledge it.
Off Model: Increasingly so, as the characters generally slide around, have faces that face only one direction (some episodes don't do this, though), or their faces make very weird expressions.
A very bad example is Duke Crabtree, whose facial structure changes entirely when he's viewed at a 3/4ths angle.
There's also Rolf Klink, whose head is obviously too big for his body in his second appearance and likely to be clip art as opposed to the other hand-drawn characters.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: While the series usually switches perspective to show every major occurrence as it becomes relevant, it makes a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot out of the circumstances of Angie's murder by forcing the player to piece together what happened from statements given by witnesses, some of whom may be lying about the details, which include some sort of stolen car chase. The most we see of it in person is Ted howling about freedom near a worried-looking Angie.
Police Are Useless: Ted believes that the police cannot help him. Supported by the fact that they can't even hold Ted, especially after escaping twice before episode 10!
Possibly justified. Ted has escape custody twice in a row, which followed with a couple of murders. The third time he's caught, Duke wanted to pin your murder on him! This implies that they made it easy for Ted to escape just so he can be pinned in a couple of murders.
Railroading: At least one episode will have the characters talk to you about how they're not gonna do what you're suggesting, and instead go the way that they wish to go.
Reused Character Design: Practically everyone in Ambition appears in at least one other ZapDramatic negotiation game in a new role, not always with the same name or voice. Ted is an unusual case in that his voice and Author Filibuster tendencies match the character from "Interview with a Vagabond", but he looks completely different. As Episode 2 once refers to Ted as "The Vagabond", we may be expected to believe that this is after he raised enough money to clean himself up and get back on his feet. Jim the cop is another of ZapDramatic's most frequently Recurring Characters, to the point of leading players to debate whether we keep running into the same busy cop, or if the entire police force is made up of clones of Jim.
Word Of God states that Jim is a separate character from the monochrome cop. That doesn't clear up too much, but it means that the town has at least two cops, as opposed to one.
Retcon: Rolf Klink in Negotiator part 3 mentioned having a wife and plans on hosting an anniversary dinner. Either Rolf divorced his wife at some point to date Bridget, that part got completely dropped, or the negotiator pertains to it's own continuity (which has yet to be confirmed).
Based on a comment made by Helen in Episode 9, it's possible that Rolf is having an affair with Bridget, though why he'd attend a public meeting with his mistress instead of his wife is anybody's guess.
Early in the game, Ted is said to be a construction worker, explaining where he got the dynamite from. This is later changed to somebody else drugging him and giving him the dynamite.
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: More so in the later episodes. Made especially jarring because, as mentioned above, characters often use flowery words that sound out of place in casual conversation.
Shout Out: Rolf Klink's name may be a shout out to Colonel Klink of Hogan's Heroes, considering his demeanour. Interestingly, the plot of the tenth episode isn't a reference to the Ace Attorney series, as said series came out long after Ambition ended.
Soft Glass: At the end of Episode 1, Ted escapes Klink International by bursting through a large glass window with one limp jump.
Stupid Evil / Revealing Coverup: If you agree to go along with Rolf and Duke's plan to frame Yale for the murders in exchange for Ted's freedom, but then go back on your word and reveal the plot in court, a Game Over cut scene plays in which, immediately after this information is revealed, the power goes out in the courtroom, which is then evacuated, while Duke stays behind and kills you with a tire iron, right there in the middle of the courtroom. One has to wonder how stupid or crooked the area's entire legal system has to be for this not to be the most obvious cover-up ever.
Stupidity Is the Only Option: Sometimes, you may find a choice that falls into this, like Yale scolding a man armed with a bomb strapped to his chest for insulting Helen. Good thing he happens to be sympathetic towards Yale.
Angie appeared to be a case of this, going from "Dr. Killup" in episode 2 to "Dr. Raleigh" in episode 4, but in episode 6 Yale explains that Angie was in the process of changing her name to dissociate herself from her abusive father. This might have been a clever Retcon of the author's forgetfulness if Yale didn't go on to mention that Angie's father still lives in Florida, contradicting the Tarts' statement in the same episode that Angie lost her parents in a car accident two years ago.
Suicide Attack: Ted Hadrup tries this in episode one. He ends up jumping out the window.
Does it again in episode 2 as he hitches a ride. Yale convinces him to not go through with it though.
It is all too easy to accidentally reexamine a piece of evidence, which takes just as many minutes as the first time again.
Dialog trees often lead the player in circles while looking for unasked questions to pop up again.
Said dialogs take many more minutes off the timer than it actually takes to listen to the dialog.
The superintendent stops the investigation before the last hour has even begun, possibly to try to avoid a bug where a negative hour value keeps looping the game back to Dr. Russell. Even a player who has a good idea of what needs to be done may find it tough to squeeze in a complete interview at Bridget's house.
Unexpected Gameplay Change: Episode 6 plays out like a detective game, requiring you to negotiate for more time (the game is nearly impossible otherwise), and use the time to gather all the evidence and information within that in-game time limit, with a couple of negotiation sequences.
Episode 9 takes the 'gameplay' from part one of the Mediator. Basically, you have to interject at the right moment, probably making this the hardest of all the episodes. Luckily, failing three times gives you the option to let Duke do it all for you.
Unnamed Parent: "The Trial" goes out of its way to avoid naming Bridget's mother. It skips over when she's called to the stand, and dialog choices refer to her as "Grandma".
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The desk lady in the first episode, while a little worried about Ted, who has a bomb strapped to himself, is rather stoic about it. Another lady Ted bumps into seems to overlook the dynamite and mistakes him for a pushy courier.
Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Honestly, who seriously thinks that the option in episode 8 to "Tell Duke he is a meddling creep and punch him in the nose" will do anything but that? Though, Frank telling him to don't be a pussy does make it worth it.
This gets called back in episode 10, where you have the option to punch Duke again. Unfortunately, he's hi-jacked the taxi you're riding in.
Episode 2, if you choose to consult Helen, have the option to allow her to punch Yale, and even punch Ted, just in case you are feeling suicidal.
Violation of Common Sense: The secretary, and a worker, sees Ted armed with a bomb around his waist. Their reaction? Well, it's quite an under-reaction to be blunt...
There's actually a lot of this present in the game. In Episode 2, Yale scolds Ted (who still has the bomb strapped to himself) when he makes a comment about Helen. Let's just say that Yale is extremely lucky that Ted happens to be sympathetic towards him.
The player can actually choose to do this in Episode 8. It's pretty obvious that punching Duke in the nose will result in a Game Over, but most people can't resist it because of both Duke's and Frank's reactions.
To be clear, the real Violation of Common Sense in that scene is that the player needs to both leave Bridget alone and hold Duke back from stepping in, on a hunch that she is only feigning an attack by Ted through the bars, in order to reveal the ruse. Otherwise the player will be busted either for "assaulting" Bridget in trying to pull her away, or for confirming Crabtree's fears that it was dangerous to bring her to Ted.
Wham Shot: Moments before the Wham Line, you look at the taxi driver's ID with the mugshot of a stereotypical Arabian taxi driver. Then the camera pulls up to reveal a familiar redhead has hijacked the cab.
Oddly, even the statue has a skeleton for some reason.
You Shouldn't Know This Already: Glaringly averted in Episode 10 when the player's car is booby-trapped. There's no way that the player character should know this without unlocking the car and blowing themselves up, and yet they're given dialogue options where they just magically know about it. Somewhat lampshaded by Ted, who remarks that they're being just as paranoid as he is.
Tropes appearing in Move or Die
Move or Die logo.
Amazing Technicolor Population: Carla's skin is a strange bluish white color. She's probably supposed to be really pale from not being allowed outside.
Alien Geometries: Many POV shots link together oddly, but the worst is in the puzzle games before tennis. The liar game has doors that slide around to redirect the next hall to the vice principal's office if the player fails to make the correct inquiry of Duke Crabtree; this same office is passed on the way to reach the Crabtree twins in the first place. Also if one reaches the water game without having been to the vice principal's office, the floor will be much too large for the room, and its checkerboard tiles will fade away until the game begins.
The game ends with a reprise of the "Far Side of the World" song and an extended version of the music video from earlier. The added parts are even stranger. Not that you'll notice any of it, though, unless you purposely fail the rhythm game.
Another Side, Another Story: You can play as either a boy or a girl. Each has their own story on the first day, but after that the game is the same. The few scenes that intersect on the first day also have some unexpected differences in typos, animation glitches, and messages from the mouse. For instance, as a girl you can only get Janina to tell you about going to record her song once, or not at all if you already heard it as a boy, which could lead to much confusion to first-time players if they assume the same character going forward and wonder if they should magically have knowledge of what Janina would have said.
Appeal To Flattery: Apparently, an easy way to get into Peg's sleepovers is to tell her about how great she is, and that she's your best friend.
Art Evolution: While it's not saying much, the artwork quality in this game is noticeably better than in The Negotiator or Ambition.
Especially noticeable with Duke Crabtree, who has a completely different (and much better drawn) appearance.
A promo video shows how the art evolved from when it was still in development. Notably, the office staff was dropped in just as they appeared in other Negotiator games, before being redrawn to match the game's thick-line style.
Several characters were lifted and updated from a previous game set in school, "The Track Meet": The first scene features the same history teacher and janitor; there are brief appearances by the old Kim and a non-outlined Julia; Tammy is obviously a recolored Adrienne from the front; and previews of Sir Basel Pike reveal that Tony used to look a lot like Chip.
Big Game: Averted. A subplot about some kids from a rival school attacking Dave and writing "Pike Stinks of Dead Fish" on his jacket in toothpaste is introduced, and Max says that their school has a game against them coming up. However, this plot point is clumsily resolved about as quickly as it's introduced and we don't get to see the game.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Kim, if certain options are chosen. If the player does not choose the correct options when Kim suggests going bowling, then Peg will uninvite the player from her sleepover and invite Kim instead, making it seem as though Kim was just using you in order to get into the sleepover.
Along with her divisive way to plan the sleepover, Peg lives to ensure the player Can't Get Away with Nuthin' , as any hint of malice will get Peg to ban you from all her future parties, and she will not accept any responsibility for the humiliating cellphone video yet will call you out just for knowing about it and allowing some other bullying to happen.
Blah Blah Blah: It turns out to be impossible to warn Tammy about Julia's prank ahead of time because Julia blocks your way, holding a conversation that is printed and voiced as simply "Blablablablablabla."
The Cast Showoff: Janina is voiced by either Michael Gibson's wife or daughter, who provides both her speaking and singing voice.
Continuity Cameo: Duke Crabtree appears, albeit with a complete redesign and slightly lower voice, in the girl's path.
Contrived Coincidence: The whole stolen bike dilemma revolves around both the player and Dave having the exact same bike.
Cool Shades: Ted wears a pair of literal rose-colored glasses.
Debug Room: The "Control" option opens up a debug console.
Designated Love Interest: Tariq to Tammy. Julia mentions how Tammy always fawns over him, but the two characters are never seen interacting until Tariq takes Tammy's phone and tells her he never sent her the text messages. Afterward, they still only behave like acquaintances, rather than friends.
Five-Token Band: Your group of friends in the boy's path. Four of them are minorities, and the one white kid is the only overweight one in the group, making him the token fat kid.
The girl's path, too. There's the token Hispanic (Peg appears to be Hispanic, anyway), the token black (Kim), the token white (Julia), the token Asian (Tammy), and the token Arab (Zoya).
Flat Character: Pretty much everybody, outside of Ted and Duke, and that's only because we already know more about them because of Ambition. The only other character who even comes close to having any depth is Janina, and that's still a stretch. Every other character is pretty much a one-dimensional stereotype of how teens act.
Full-Name Basis: Dave's friends have an annoying habit of referring to him as "Dave the Brave." Every single time.
Ted: Did you just threaten Kim? Max: No. Ted: Nobody makes threats in my class. Go down and speak to the vice-principal. Max: I didn't do nothing. Ted: You didn't do nothing? Hmmm. If you'd said you did do nothing, then we'd have to discuss it. But since you said you didn't do nothing, you're admitting to doing something. Thank you for the confession. Go! Max: Wha? Ted: Go!
Hidden Depths: The overweight loner Janina is actually a talented (well, talented in-universe anyway, but your mileage may vary on that) musician.
Hollywood Hacking: Apparently, making it look as though someone else is texting you involves setting up a new e-mail account and putting the person's name on it.
Hypocritical Humor: Max calls Janina "dough girl," even though he's just as fat as her, if not fatter.
Incredibly Lame Pun: After Janina's inexplicable music video, Ted shows up and asks what's going on. Janina says that they're just jamming, and Ted responds with "well, I hope you're jamming with whole-wheat bread."
Instant Fan Club: Once you explain yourself to Dave's friends, they immediately make you the leader of their group, despite presumably having never met you before.
Instant Humiliation: Just Add Tony's Page!: Tammy gives Tony an old video of Julia freaking out over getting stung by a bee, and he uploads it to the internet. Julia fears that she's "ruined" because of it, and decides to get Tammy back by pretending to be Tariq, whom Tammy has a crush on.
Ironic Nickname: Dave The Brave, according to slowbeef and Diabetus. At one point, they theorize that it's a nickname that Dave gave himself, and the other kids humor him by calling him by it.
Diabetus: Do you always have to call him "Dave the Brave?"
Judgment of Solomon: Ted offers to cut the bike in half in order to solve the dispute between you and Dave the Brave. It doesn't exactly work out, though, because if you tell Ted not to cut the bike up, then Dave will also tell him not to cut it up, which does not solve the dispute at all. If you do tell him to cut it up, then he will give it to Dave.
Level Grinding: You can play tennis to earn persuasive power. This will actually be required if your persuasive power gets too low, as you can't pass certain points in the game unless your persuasive power is at a certain level.
Magic Realism: Just your average after-school special. Except that you can take advice from a talking mouse and your vice principal has the power to open up time vortexes and send you back in time.
Meta Guy: Andre is jokingly used as one out of universe, due to one of his only lines being "I don't know what's going on."
Monty Hall Problem: Ted teaches it on Tuesday, but he explains it rather poorly. He inexplicably has four doors on the chalkboard (no, not drawings of doors, actual doors on the chalkboard, which are not attached to anything and disappear when opened) and informs the class that one door has an A+ behind it, while the other three have goats behind them. Ted calls on Max to pick a door, and he picks door number one. Ted then opens two of the other doors, revealing goats behind both. It is explained that because he opened two of the other doors, the chances that the door Max did not pick has the A+ behind it are now 75%. This only works under the assumption that the two doors Ted opens will always have goats behind them, though.
The Points Mean Nothing: There is only one point in the entire game where your Persuasive Power affects what happens next, and even then you are given a Last Second Ending Choice to simply receive enough free points to win. There is not even a regular choice to bypass this on the girl's side, although this seeming Golden Snitch is not enough to reach the Good Ending if you failed to negotiate a more equitable sleepover arrangement.
Prank Date: Julia creates a fake e-mail address for Tariq in order to embarrass Tammy, who has a crush on him, as revenge for Tammy not erasing the embarrassing video of Julia from her phone.
Smug Snake: Janina often unintentionally comes across as one.
Speech Impediment: Dave the Brave has a stutter. Note that despite the game's supposed anti-bullying message, you actually get rewarded if you choose to mock his stutter, and punished only if you apologize for doing so.
Spell My Name with an S: Is it "Basil" or "Basel?" No one, not even the game's own website, seems to know for sure.
Stealth Insult: Ted's "jamming with whole-wheat bread" comment mentioned above could be taken as this. He says it to Janina (who is overweight), and when she laughs at it, Ted responds with:
"Laugh all you like, but you should develop healthy eating habits when you're young, or you'll regret it when you get to be my age."
Technology Marches On: The game came out in 2009, around the same time smartphones began to rise in popularity. It shows, because every cell phone seen is a flip phone.
Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Max, who looks to be in about fourth or fifth grade, talks about breaking the kneecaps of some kids from a rival school with a baseball bat.
Two-Teacher School: The only two teachers seen in the game are Ted and Ms. Pruet (aka "prune face") the history teacher.
Valley Girl: Your friends as the girl player character, some more so than others.
Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can gain Persuasion Points for knocking a kid over, threatening him, and making fun of his speech impediment.
Voodoo Shark: Word Of God explains the fact that the week only has three days as it being the last week of school. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense for a few reasons:
As mentioned above, a Big Game subplot is introduced (and poorly resolved just as quickly). School sports seasons typically end a few weeks before the last week.
No one alludes to it being the last week of school, which would obviously be a pretty big deal for schoolchildren and warrant at least one mention.
Both Ted and Ms. Pruet teach their classes. During the last week or two of school, teachers typically allow students to use the classes as extended study halls. Additionally, Ms. Pruet gives an assignment to Tammy and Tariq on what is supposed to be the last day of school.