Video Game / Black Closet

Black Closet is a Ren'Py-based detective game released by Hanako Games in 2015.

You play as Elsa Jackson, a senior at St. Claudine's Academy and the new Student Council president. Every week, you are assigned a number of cases that you must solve with the help of your minions. But, of course, nothing is as it seems: there are mysteries to solve outside of your weekly cases, and there may very well be a traitor in your midst...


Tropes:

  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: The game in a nutshell. As the student council president, you can suspend and expel students, though it's at least implied that you're recommending this to higher powers rather than giving the order personally. You're also free to search other students' rooms, sometimes on fairly flimsy evidence, but the student body will not take it kindly if you get caught.
    • Lampshaded near the end of the game, when Vonne brings up the point that some of the cases you're being assigned (specifically, the plot cases from Talmage, like the steam tunnels and guarding the charity money) should be considered way too important for the Student Council to handle.
    • An aversion comes when you finish the steam tunnels quest and discover an actual smuggling operation there. The narration mentions that this is something for the police to handle. On the other hand, it is played straight if you fail to solve the quest - but then, you knew from the start that you were a convenient scapegoat.
  • Adults Are Useless: Miss Talmage refuses to just tell you where the steam tunnels are. Regulations, you know. You're supposed to find them despite this being totally against the rules. She's worse than useless, she's actively causing most of the trouble at St. Claudine's.
  • The Alcoholic: Miss Talmage and the Red Mask become this if you wreck them. They drink together and bitch about you and idly plot revenge.
  • Already Done for You: Several cases have variants like this, such as an accounting error meaning 'missing' supplies for a special lesson were never ordered that will resolve themselves without loss of reputation or karma. This can be annoying when your leads get you nowhere, making you unsure whether you've run into one of these or simply aren't choosing the right steps to continue your investigation.
  • Always Someone Better: Thaïs feels this way about Althea, since even girls being jealous of her is due to her being Althea's sister. If she's the traitor, she'll ask Elsa to use Althea as a scapegoat in exchange for her loyalty when she confesses.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: If you take too long solving plot cases, Miss Talmage will offer you some assistance, which is helpful since failing a plot case ends your game.
  • Bad Dreams: One variant of the steam tunnels case involves this. Spend too long solving it and noises from beneath the school start giving students nightmares, your minions may be forced to take days off after losing sleep from their nightmares, and if you fail to solve it in time Elsa has a nightmare of her own about the steam tunnels and smashes her bathroom mirror while sleepwalking, getting her kicked off the student council and ending your game.
  • Big Brother is Employing You: Though you represent the governance of a school rather than a nation, you're still essentially the (easily expendable) chief of the secret police.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Some of the stuff that goes on at St. Claudine's certainly paints this picture. From mundane bullying like hanging insulting posters of girls the perp doesn't like and stalking a student to break her nerves before a big event to seniors recruiting freshmen as their personal slaves, the girls here get up to some nasty stuff. Bonus points for Miss Talmage flat-out telling you that you're going to be used as a scapegoat if the school's reputation fails before you even sit at your desk for the first time and Elsa making Rowan her slave, complete with ordering her to kiss her boots.
  • Bound and Gagged: One of the variants of the 'missing student' case involves the missing girl being tied up in her friend's closet. Elsa also ties up a romanced Vonne during a roleplay.
  • Break Them by Talking: Miss Talmage uses this during her boss fight, at the halfway point. Any minions who don't have high enough loyalty will leave, but the ones who do shrug it off and continue.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: If you romance Althea or Vonne.
  • Chromosome Casting: There isn't a single male character in the game. It's justified by being set an at all-girls' academy.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: One of the variants of the case "Trouble in Paradise" is that one of a pair of best friends has made a new friend and the other girl is jealous. Sometimes you can persuade the jealous girl that all three of them can be friends, but sometimes she won't be happy unless you harass the new friend into staying away.
    • Some of Althea's fanclub veers into this, particularly the one who'll harass you and vandalize your door if you start dating her (though if you solve the case, you'll find out that Thaïs put her up to it.)
  • Difficulty Spike: After the Harvest Festival, the more complex cases such as gambling rings, drug usage and secret societies start popping up. When you get to the steam tunnels case, it happens again, forcing you to deal with the constant barrage of cases while also working on the hardest case in the game save for potentially the Final Boss, with your game ending immediately if you fail to solve it in time.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Althea's performance at the coffeehouse's Open Night is a poem consisting essentially of one sexual innuendo after another, and the audience loves it.
  • Erotic Eating: Vonne may do this with her dessert on a date with Elsa.
  • Final Boss: Yes really. It's Miss Talmage in a long Social Fu battle. It's actually possible to complete the game without facing said boss, although Elsa won't be left particularly happy in the epilogue.
    • Turns Red: After the first stage of the fight, the card image changes, including a more-red background, and attacks do more damage.
  • For Want of a Nail: Each of the possible "traitors" have a completely different reason for sabotaging the Council. In order:
    • If Althea is the traitor, it's nothing personal, she just wanted to see what she could get away with and what she could accomplish if she tried. She compares it to seeing a house of cards and being tempted to give it a push.
    • If Vonne is the traitor, she makes a vague, cryptic remark that it's because "you can't see what's in front of your face." However, given her disappointment that you were only spending time with her to find out if she's the traitor, there's an implication that she did it out of frustration that you couldn't pick up her feelings for you.
    • If Rowan is the traitor, she was jealous that all the other girls in school, including you, have spare leotards, new shoes, a bright future to look forward to, etc., while Rowan herself is a "scholarship girl" that the other students look down on as a "charity case".
    • If Thaïs is the traitor, at first it was because she thought Althea was going to be President instead of you, and she's jealous of her big sister and wanted to see Althea fail for once. Once you were elected President instead, Thaïs continued to sabotage the Council because she thought Althea was so popular that everyone would just remember her as President anyway.
    • If Mallory is the traitor, she hates St. Claudine's because she thought it was going to be full of rich and "snooty" people when her parents sent her here, and the Council seemed to confirm this because it kept spying on other girls, so Mallory thought that since her parents sent her here because St. Claudine's was a good school, if Mallory made sure it wasn't such a good school anymore, her parents would have to take her back home.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: The stat distribution of your minions is linked to the personality traits they display.
    • Rowan is incredibly taciturn and has less than half the dialogue of any other girl, and is often overlooked by others. She also has the highest Stealth out of all your minions and is tied for the highest Observation, but has the lowest Social and is tied for the lowest Intimidation.
    • Vonne is Elsa's Hypercompetent Sidekick and the only one to notice Rowan in the room when the student council first meets. Stat-wise, she's a Jack-of-All-Trades save for her Observation, which is tied for the highest with Rowan.
    • Althea is personable, flirtatious, popular and is a former bully with a reputation for violence. Her Social stat is tied for the highest with Mallory and her Intimidation is only slightly lower than Thaïs's, but she has the lowest Stealth out of all your minions.
    • Thaïs is prone to anger and is exceptionally self-confident to the point of arrogance, as well as an aspiring fashion designer. Her Intimidation is the highest of all your minions and her Observation second-highest, but her Social is second-lowest only to Rowan.
    • Mallory is a Nice Girl and very popular despite being the New Transfer Student, but seems somewhat airheaded sometimes. Her Social is tied for the highest with Althea, but her Observation is tied for lowest with Althea and her Intimidation with Rowan.
  • Gentlewoman And A Scholar/Wicked Cultured: Elsa can be a kind, friendly, romantic girl or a cruel and unfeeling commander depending on player choices, but will always be able to recognize Thaïs's performance at the coffeehouse's Open Night as 'crypto-gothic third-wavism.'
  • Glasses Pull: When Miss Talmage gets angry at the halfway point of the Final Boss battle, she takes off her sunglasses.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Expulsions should always be last resorts, since they come with an unavoidable reputation loss. They're also the only way to deal with a few cases, such as goths who actually do hate everyone.
  • Guide Dang It!: Some of the achievements, particularly the one that involves driving Vonne so insane that she kicks Mallory and Rowan out of the Council, are tricky to achieve without a guide. (Luckily, there are always the Hanako Games forums.)
    • Some case variants can be this as well, especially if you miss critical clues. Prime examples are the goth case if she hates everyone, where your only choice is to expel her, or the slave ring version of the secret society if you miss your chance to determine the freshmen involved, leaving you with no choice but to suspend or expel the seniors.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Mallory, having come from a traditional public school, is initially a bit freaked out by what she sees as the constant Les Yay at St. Claudine's. While further conversation reveals it's not quite as contextless as it seems, there's one event where she will visit you in your office specifically to inform you she's not gay.
  • I Kiss Your Foot: Elsa can force Rowan to do this in the path where she's her personal slave.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Althea is used to dating timid freshmen who follow her lead; picking the more assertive conversation options is the best way to impress her. It's also the easiest way to get her best romance ending, in which you continue dating after high school and go on a cruise together.
  • I Owe You My School Career: If you get the traitor's loyalty to max before you have to choose who to expel, she'll confess to you and promise not to sabotage her assignments anymore. If you choose not to reveal her and choose her as Queen, it plays out like this. Or you can listen to her confession and appear merciful, then expel her the next day.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: If you accept the Red Mask Society's first task but don't complete it in time, they'll poison your Queen.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Mallory doesn't quite get here, but if you fulfill the "Tempt a Straight Girl" achievement, she'll eventually admit that if she did ever love a girl, she'd want her to be like you.
  • Incompatible Orientation: No matter how much you tempt her, Mallory is ultimately straight.
  • Ingenue: Subverted. For all her friendly, cookie-distributing ways, Mallory isn't quite as innocent as she appears. You can even point this out to Vonne.
  • Jail Bait: Thaïs and Mallory, which is the reason Elsa can't become romantically involved with either. Though you can end up with a kiss from Thaïs and be hug buddies with Mallory.
  • Karma Meter: You have two separate ones to keep track of, one for the Council's reputation and one for the school's reputation as a whole. If either one falls to zero, it's game over.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Several of your minions will discuss childhood bullying (and Althea was a bully). It seems to have had a particularly strong impact on Vonne and Rowan.
  • The Mole: One of your minions is a traitor; the culprit is randomly generated at the start of each game. They will deliberately sabotage assignments and report on you to an unknown party. You can choose to expel them, or you can win their loyalty and extract the information they know instead.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: You get to pick everything that Elsa says, and this gives you the chance to define how certain past events went. Examples include getting to choose why the teachers forced you and Vonne to stop being friends as children.
  • Multiple Endings: The game as a whole combines this with a Modular Epilogue, but the individual cases all have this going on. Prepare for a lot of failed cases when you're first learning what clues indicate which variant of a case you're on.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Unusually for this trope, it's the little sister who feels this way about the older one. Thaïs will not be happy if you romance Althea; she tries to break the two of you up and even quits the Student Council, though with the right dialogue choices you can get her to come back part-time.
  • Nintendo Hard: The initial learning curve is harsh, and the early game can be especially frustrating depending on who you draw as the traitor.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Thaïs is a budding fashion designer who wants you to try on some of her work. Her roommate walks in while you're changing clothes. Guess what happens next.
  • Non Standard Game Over: Your game ends if you fail to solve a plot case that Miss Talmage assigns you, if your Council karma or school reputation fall to zero, or if you don't deal with the traitor in some way before the Harvest Festival.
  • One-Gender School: St. Claudine's.
  • Pair the Spares: Althea will go after Vonne if you don't romance either of them. They're together at graduation, but no word on if the relationship lasts.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Although you have a lot of freedom in how benevolent or cruel you make Elsa, at the end of the day you're still spying on people and searching their rooms without permission, harassing girls for information whether you have proof that they know something or not, and potentially solving cases by breaking up friendships and suspending or expelling people.
  • Relationship Values: Your minions' loyalty is very important, as the amount of stress a girl can take before being forced to take a day off is directly proportional to how high her loyalty is. Also, maxing out the traitor's loyalty before October 24 will cause her to confess to you, allowing you to keep her on the council without ending your game if the right choices are made. On top of this, any minions with loyalty below a certain amount will abandon you halfway through the Final Boss.
  • The Scapegoat: Your job is not just to keep scandals under control, it's to be a convenient scapegoat for the administration if and when they do break loose. You're also the fall guy for Miss Talmage's plan to get her budget increased.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Elsa does this when she first sits at her desk at the end of the tutorial, along with Finger-Tenting. Potentially subverted, since she can be a very kind and caring girl if played as such.
  • Schoolgirl Lesbians: Kind of inevitable in a game set at a one gender school with absolutely no males to be seen in the entire game. It's lampshaded by Mallory, who frustratedly says that you can't all be gay.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: You can do this to Miss Talmage when she starts ranting about how she made you into such a great president. She breaks down that.
    • Any minions with their loyalty below a certain threshold will do this halfway through the confrontation with Miss Talmage, preferring to cut their losses rather than back you up and be suspended or expelled if you lose.
  • Ship Tease: On Vonne's route, when Althea is giving you advice about how to advance your relationship, she says to tell her if you're not actually interested in Vonne, since Vonne is so cute. The two of them end up together on routes where you don't romance either of them.
  • Shout-Out: The Steam achievement for having your Queen poisoned by the Red Mask Society is named Long Live the Queen. For bonus points, it's poisoned chocolate.
    • Copiously references Floor 13, confirmed by Word of God. Both games have a similar timeframe-turn-based system, in which you execute shadowy, sometimes ethically questionable activities to maintain the reputation and prestige of your employer, dealing with time-limited randomized cases, with optional missions for a secret society you can work for on the side, and a limited pool of investigatory resources. The aforementioned secret society is a very specific shout-out to Floor 13. It could almost be considered a Spiritual Successor - though the developers never actually played Floor 13, despite using it for inspiration.
  • Sidequest Sidestory: The cases involving the Red Mask Society, which tie in with three achievements and makes item gathering much more effective at the cost of unlocking a pair of very difficult cases later on.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Rowan does this when your minions are being introduced, having been in the room the entire time without anyone but Vonne noticing her.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Just a few of the things the girls at St. Claudine's can get up to: theft, framing each other for theft, drug dealing, recruiting freshmen as slaves, keeping each other tied up in closets, and attempting to blow up the school.
  • This Loser Is You: Downplayed but still present in Vonne's epilogue if she's expelled, where she falls in with "gamers and other ne'er-do-wells."
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: If you're having trouble finding the entrance to the steam tunnels, admitting this to Miss Talmage will cause her to drop hints on two locations to search. One of these is guaranteed to contain the solution.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Get your traitor to confess and protect her from expulsion when the moment of truth comes, but choose someone else as Queen? Enjoy your game over. Unless your traitor is Thaïs, who'll accept using Althea as a scapegoat, or Mallory, who is such a Nice Girl that she doesn't hold not being chosen against you.
  • Verbal Judo: All of the Charm and Intimidate options are pretty much this. It's also what the Final Boss fight is.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: If Elsa chooses Rowan as Queen, she can eventually make her into her own personal slave. Counts as a Guide Dang It! as well, since the requirements are different depending on whether Rowan is the traitor or not and requires you to pick specific dialogue options when speaking to her. If she starts spending her weekends on personal duties for Elsa, you're on the right path.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Mistreating one of the girls on their romance path can end very badly. In particular, Rowan can turn back into a traitor, and Vonne can go insane and kick out your other remaining council members.
    • The first part of the steam tunnels plot case involves gossiping with other students to try and find places where the tunnels are rumored to be. Any girl you've had negative interactions with (harassment, detention, and the like) on a previous case will refuse to talk to you.
  • Villainous Breakdown: A lot of plots can end like this. Both Miss Talmage and the Red Mask can have this if you exposed both of them.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The game clearly takes place in the United States, but which state is St. Claudine's in, exactly?
  • Yandere: Vonne. You get an achievement for making her so jealous and paranoid that she starts kicking out other Student Council members.
    • There's also a variant of the case "A Lost Lamb" where one of the girls is keeping the missing student tied up in her closet. Depending on how long it takes you to solve the case, possibly for multiple days.
  • Younger Than They Look: Between her harsh expressions, overdone makeup and excellent performing skill, Thaïs does not look like she's tied for the youngest member of the council.
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