A graphical point-and-click adventure game, released in 1996.The only thing Steve knows about himself is that his name is Steve, and he's really just taking that on faith.
Initially the neighborhood may appear to be a perfect Stepford Suburbia
, but with even more things wrong than usual
. Mom is baking (thousands of) cookies in preparation for a bake sale that's still a week away. Of course, they won't be good then, so she's shovelling them into the trash. Steve's baby sister lies screaming in her crib, neglected. Steve's brother
, Hank, is immovable from in front of the television, where he watches a disturbingly gory and realistic show about cowboys killing Native Americans. There's not much of a plot or anything, just killing them over and over, with the "special effects" making it disturbingly real.
Mom informs Steve that when the big day comes, the town's Lodge will have a big blood drive, and everyone has to give blood
. Well, except for Lodge members. Steve should consider joining the Lodge. Steve decides
to join the Lodge, if he makes it past the paper boy that is. See, times have been tough around Harvest since the newspaper building burned down, and a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do, right? Well, if there aren't any newspapers being made, then our lad has decided to pick them up. He'd really appreciate it if you could help him out, just leave a newspaper for him outside every day... or there might be some consequences.
Upon visiting the Lodge, the Lodge's Sergeant At Arms informs Steve telepathically that the Lodge has standards Steve must meet in order to apply, and for today's task Steve must steal or otherwise acquire an application to the Lodge. Each day, Steve is given a successively worse task. From stealing an antique barber pole from its shop (how was Steve supposed to know that the wires from the pole's light would land in a puddle of water, or that the shopkeep would be standing in that puddle when he went to go turn the pole on in the dark?) to outright arson (which provokes suicide), Steve finds himself becoming more and more the villain in his own tale
, but he can't stop... he has to join the Lodge before the blood drive. Everyone has to help with the blood drive, Steve.
Unsurprisingly, it was considered one of the most disgusting games ever created. Harvester
is a reaction to, and deconstruction
of, the idea that video games promote violence, taking it to its furthest extreme in the idea that video games create serial killers
. Because of the game's graphic nature, it was banned in Germany, heavily censored in the UK, and never released in Australia at all, as the distributor felt there would be no point as the game would just get banned anyway. In the US, the game received heavy attention from Moral Guardians
and Media Watchdog
set out to offend the hell out of anyone who took it seriously, while simultaneously using a quirky sense of humor for anyone else. The game's goal is both to make you laugh at certain points and be horrified at others, it's a rare person that Harvester
cannot make squirm at some point.
If you're strong of stomach, Harvester
can now be acquired from GoG.com
. Don't say you weren't warned...
On April 4, 2014, Harvester was rereleased on Steam for PC and Linux.
This game provides examples of:
- All Just a Dream: Parodied during the bad ending, in which Steve, after murdering a victim after successfully becoming a serial killer, is shown playing Harvester in the real world, only to be subverted in the end as he actually did kill the victim. And ate her, too.
- Amnesiac Hero
- Antagonist Title
- Arc Words: "You always were a kidder, Steve."
- Author Tract: It's hard to tell if it's the developers' actual opinions, but all the "Temple of the Mystery of X"s in the final floor of the lounge all have some rather cynical things to say about abstinence, motherhood, religion and all sorts of other topics. As mentioned under Fridge Brilliance, it's not an Author Tract in the traditional sense: the "lessons" Steve is taught throughout the Lodge all reflect an extremely sociopathic and solipsistic worldview, much like the kind a serial killer would have, and the purpose of the simulation is to turn Steve into one.
- The game's message is possibly best summed up in the worst ending:
"Don't you know that people who watch violence become violent themselves?"
"THAT'S BULLSHIT, MOM."
- Bad Ending: Steve killing Stephanie as a ticket to freedom and then becomes a full-fledged serial killer from there on in.
- Berserk Button: You'd better not forget to leave the paper out for Jimmy James every day. Bad things might happen.
- Big Bad: The Sergeant at Arms, who engineers and manipulates the bulk of Steve's actions and trials in Harvest.
- Big Eater: Sheriff Dwayne. In fact, he doesn't mind eating pie while observing a corpse.
- Bigger Bad: The programmers behind the Murder Simulator that is Harvest.
- Black Comedy: Harvest’s more peculiar elements are frequently Played for Laughs.
(after your mother pushes your infant sibling's eyeballs back into place)
Steve: Shouldn't we get her to the hospital?
Mother: Nonsense! She has her mother!
- Bloody Hilarious: Most of the gore is Played for Laughs, especially if it's not plot-relevant.
- Bondage Is Bad: Steve's mother, full stop. Not only is his father confined to a bloodied room and bandaged from all the sexual abuse she dishes out, but if you return to the room at night, she'll kill you without question.
- Boss In Mooks Clothing: The Agent in the Temple of Abstinence won't attack unless provoked, and if you choose to do so you'll quickly find his rapidfire pistol with extreme knockback was not worth the fight.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Steve's mom.
- Bittersweet Ending: The good ending.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Hank, who threatens to tattle on Steve over any and every perceived slight.
- Broken Aesop: Arguable. The game’s Aesop is that exposure to violent media can lead people to become violent themselves, and tries to demonstrate this by forcing the player to perform heinous actions to win, and then rub their nose in it in the end. Whether this move works or simply breaks the Aesop completely is debatable.
- However, given that this IS Harvester, it's entirely possible it could be a Spoof Aesop, too
- But Thou Must: You will join the Lodge, whether you like it or not. Oh, and you will commit crime after crime, all because some guy in front of a door keeps telling you to.
- Also Option B seems to be that the Lodge will come for your blood in the Blood Drive, if you're not a member.
- Confirmed. If you get and do everything you need to become a Lodge member, and go home instead of to the Lodge on the final day, the day ends and Steve is forced to donate blood.
- Butt Monkey: Deputy Loomis.
- Camp Gay: The Harvest Fire Department. They drive a pink fire truck, and spend their spare time drawing pictures of naked men. This is not even close to the most offensive thing in the entire game, by the way.
- Cassandra Truth: Absolutely no one will believe that Steve has amnesia (or so they say.) At the very least, though, they're willing to play along and give you information anyway.
- Chainsaw Good: Subverted. You can pick up a chainsaw (after killing its former owner, a birthday clown), and it is one of the most powerful melee weapons in the game. However, it has limited fuel, burns through its ammo supply quickly, and by the time you get it, you’ll probably have much more reliable weapons on hand.
- The Corruption: The whole reason behind...well, the whole town.
- Corrupt Hick: Sherriff Dwayne: Big on pie eating, light on crime fighting. Unless it’s Steve that’s breaking the law.
- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Played to the point of parody. Upon seeing what appears to be Stephanie's removed spine, her mother thinks it could've been a suicide. The sheriff points out that he never heard of anyone ripping their own spine out... only to say she died of natural causes, because "You can't live without a spine. There's nothing more natural than that."
- Covers Always Lie: No, the Raincoat Killer isn't in this game.
- Creepy Child: Pretty much every child in the game except Karin.
- Cutting the Knot: Some Fetch Quests can be resolved by just killing the person who has the item you want.
- Death by Sex: If you sleep with the hooker in the Lodge, you get a STD that will kill you if you don't find the vaccine.
- Deconstruction Game: Mocking Videogame Cruelty Potential and the idea that Evil Is Cool.
- It's also an inversion of the whole "adventure game hero makes everyone happy through random fetch quests" trope. Steve's actions only make everyone's lives worse, and whatever good deeds he does do are just made worse by later bad deeds.
- Depraved Kids' Show Host: Range Ryder, star of a kids western wherein he brutally and bloodily kills Indians (and apparently cusses on-air as well.)
- The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Characters have unique dialogue based on how the player progresses through the game. Nearly everyone has some sort of comment based on how the plot unfolds.
- Dirty Old Man: Deputy Loomis is obsessed with porn. In fact, one of the game's objectives is completed by bribing him with a porno magazine.
- Downer Ending: Both endings. Either Steve and Stephanie get married in the dream but die in reality, or Steve kills Stephanie and make it out, as a full-fledged serial killer. The former at least has some qualities of a Bittersweet Ending, considering that Steve and Stephanie live long enough to have a normal virtual life, but at the same time, there's no indication that Steve could have stopped the Harvesters.
- Easter Egg: Found during a Let's Play that was experimenting with curse words in the text parser. It turns out, asking Steve's mother to "FUCK" will cause her to seriously consider the offer.
- In addition, once you obtain certain inventory items, you can show them to everyone in town and they all have unique reactions to them. Some of these items include the deed to the TV station which lists the sheriff as a co-owner, the sheriff's checkbook which proves that he'd been blackmailing Postmaster Boyle about the newspaper fire, and the photo of Miss Whaley and Principal Herrill making out in the broom closet.
- Eccentric Townsfolk: Though they shouldn't all be called "harmless", most of them have issues and others are flat-out psychopathic.
- The Ending Changes Everything: The ending makes sense of a whole lot of weird stuff in Harvest: it's all virtual reality designed to to create the ultimate Serial Killer.
- The End of the World as We Know It: You know the button that launches all those nukes? Maybe they shouldn't have put it directly under a mentally unstable torso-man with a recoil-heavy machine gun.
- Evil Sounds Deep: The Sergeant-at-Arms speaks with a Dr. Claw-like voice. Interestingly, his voice acting was done by Ryan Wickerham, who also dubbed over Steve's lines.
- Eye Scream: Cat-o-Nine Tails, plus mutant inbreed’s face, equals devastation.
- Fingore: A really nasty one occurs in the bad ending.
- Foreshadowing: In the transition between days, Steve dreams of a man's eyes coming out of their sockets. Turns out it's a bonus cutscene for a specific weapon kill on a specific character.
- Four-Star Badass: Colonel Buster Monroe. The bastard got his entire lower body shot off during WWII, so what did he do? He crawled all the way from Germany to England, stopping every few miles to wind his intestines back in. In any other game, that’d just be ludicrous; here, it’s par for the course.
- Gainax Ending: The Lodge itself is absolutely nothing like the rest of the game, shifting from one unrelated environment to another. The reason for this is revealed at the end of the level - see "The Ending Changes Everything" for an explanation.
- The Bad Ending. When Steve is released from the simulation, he ends up playing... Harvester itself?
- General Ripper: Colonel Monroe. Just try to piss him off.
- Gorn: Tons, given the violent nature of the game. Most of this is done to a chilling effect, or at least attempts to.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Inverted. None of the most disturbing Gorn scenes are hidden, but the least violent and bloody scene in the game (when the Sheriff hits Deputy Loomis with a magazine) isn't shown and only seen in shadows. This was obviously intended and Played for Laughs.
- Human Resources: The butcher is heavily implied to serve human meat.
- If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Comes into play in the last room of the game. Steve has to kill Stephanie to complete his training and exit the simulation.
- I'm a Humanitarian: In the bad ending, it turns out Steve's now a cannibal, on top of being a serial killer.
- It's heavily implied that the butcher serves human meat.
- At one point in the lodge, you encounter three children eating their own mother, one scene having one of them biting off a good chunk of meat off her leg.
- Improbable Weapon User: Lampshaded if you examine the piece of toast in the evidence room: "That most improbable of all murder weapons...toast."
- Infant Immortality: Steve's brother, Hank, cannot be killed no matter what. Subverted with Karin; killing her, though, collapses the plot and gives you an instant Game Over. You can also kill Jimmy the paper boy... if he doesn't kill you first.
- In Mysterious Ways: The Lodge's religious ministry goes from describing reasonable aspects of God's will to utterly bizarre proclamations.
- It's All Upstairs from Here: The Lodge mostly consists of killing everything in your way and climbing to the next floor.
- Karma Houdini: The Harvesters; either ending will do. While they don't succeed in making Steve a serial killer in the good ending, they still have the option to find a new victim for the simulation if they change their minds. What they do is downright disgusting, they never got arrested for their crimes and the game has no indication whatsoever that they ever will.
- Knight of Cerebus: The Sergeant-At-Arms. While Harvester is consistently a dark game, before visiting the lodge, most of this darkness is centered around how "off" the residents of the town of Harvest are. Once the Sergeant-At-Arms starts assigning tasks, though, the game gets even darker and characters begin to get killed off. Of course, there is still plenty of black comedy, but the overall tone of the game still becomes much more sinister.
- Large Ham: Appropriately enough, Mr. Pottsdam. “My meat! MY MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!”
- Last Name Basis: Mr. and Mrs. Pottsdam are a rather jarring example. They even refer to each other as such.
- Laughing Mad: The bad end. Even serial killers mad at their moms find the idea of censoring Roadrunner Cartoons stupid.
"Roadrunner cartoons? Hah. Roadrunner cartoons?! HAHA! ROADRUNNER CARTOONS?! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA-"
- Lawful Stupid: Postmaster Boyle is constantly running out of Lodge applications whenever he makes fresh copies because he refuses to make copies any more than once a month at the exact same time.
- Ludicrous Gibs: Every character that can be killed explodes violently when attacked, even if they aren't attacked with a firearm.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Range Ryder doesn't seem to mind being covered with severe burns after Postmaster Boyle burns down the TV station.
- The Many Deaths of You: There are a lot of ways to die in combat - especially in the Lodge. Some of the more memorable deaths, however, only occur by means of Non-Standard Game Overs.
- Monster Clown: Steve is inexplicably attacked by a shrieking, chainsaw wielding clown inside the lodge. Inexplicable until The Reveal, at least.
- Mood Whiplash: Conversations with NPCs can go this way when they're talking about the various things Steve has done around town. Try going most of the game without talking to an NPC, then talk to them and see how many times they change moods at the drop of a hat while they're discussing current events. May qualify as Fridge Brilliance, because with the possible exception of the Sergeant at Arms, they're all imperfect computer simulations and not real people.
- Moon Logic Puzzle: Deliberately invoked with the Temple of the Mystery of Religion (which is also a Take That at fundamentalism,) where Steve has to answer multiple choice questions about God to prove that he's a true believer and not a heathen. They start out simple enough ("Does God exist?", "Where does God dwell?") and then quickly get more and more ridiculous ("Does God bounce on a spring, or frolic with the wombats?") to the point that it's impossible to get the right answers without just guessing. Fortunately, Steve doesn't have to pass the test; He can always just kill everyone in the room.
- Moral Guardians: The game was deliberately made to offend these types - though this is part of the point of the game. When it was released, one angry guardian claimed that one particular scene, involving the decapitation of an infant, was so horrifying that she literally could not believe it wasn't real, thinking that they actually killed a baby.
- In the game itself, this is subverted - a lot of the adult characters try to act as moral compasses for many others - but their own insane perversions of morality end up bringing about suffering to those that they look out for.
- An example that is played straight appears in the bad ending. Steve's mother sees him playing a violent video game and worries that he could become a serial killer. Steve dismisses her claims as "bullshit"... Only because he'd already been conditioned to become a Serial Killer at that point.
- Mr. Fanservice: Steve seems to have been an intended example, if the fact that they keep reusing the FMV sequence of him taking his shirt off is anything to go by.
- This becomes really creepy in hindsight, as the actor who played the character was eventually arrested for possessing child pornography.
- Ms. Fanservice: Several FMVs show Stephanie stripping down to her underwear.
- Multiple Endings: Actually, only two.
- Murder Simulators: The town of Harvest is an in-game example of this.
- Mystery Meat: The meat plant mostly produces cat meat.
- New Media Are Evil: Played for Laughs with Boyle, who blames television for the fall in mail circulation, and has already burned the local TV station down at least once. Played horrifyingly straight with the ending. The entire town of Harvest is a virtual reality game, meant to break Steve and turn him into an actual serial killer.
- Nightmare Sequence: At the end of each day, Steve has one. They're represented by various short clips of Gorn floating in the screen, along with, for some unfathomable reason, a burger.
- Non-Standard Game Over: Killing anyone (with a couple of exceptions like Tetsusa or Jimmy) outside the lodge without a Get Out of Jail Free Card or specific orders to kill them lead to Steve's death by electric chair. There are also many other that may stem from wrong dialogue choices or actions.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The TV executive is a very obvious parody of Donald Trump.
- Painted-On Pants: When seen in the Lodge, Mr. Pottsdam. It's very clear the "pants" he's wearing in the scene were added digitally in post, which begs the question of what he was wearing (if anything at all) in the original take.
- If you look closely at his in-game sprite during that part when he walks, his legs are a slightly different color than the rest of his pants. This probably indicates that he was wearing underwear, and they edited it in post-production, for some reason.
- Only Sane Man: Steve and Stephanie. Averted with Steve if you choose the bad ending.
- If we only speak of the people in town, Edna is more down on Earth than anyone else, and her daughter Karin could count as the only sane child.
- Parental Incest: It's revealed later that Mr. Pottsdam masturbates to his daughter by watching her through a hole in the wall.
- Pet the Dog: Steve rescuing Karin from Mr. Pottsdam early in Day 3. Which makes the end of Day 5 all the worse.
- Phrase Catcher: Almost nobody believes Steve when he tries to tell them about his amnesia, responding with, "You always were a kidder, Steve."
- Product Placement: There's a weird example early on in the game, where Steve's mother randomly starts quoting an advertisement for a dishwasher.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain: What the game turns out to be for Steve.
- Real Men Eat Meat: Mr. Pottsdam subscribes to this philosophy. The only reason he’s marrying Stephanie off is so he can get a job with Steve’s dad’s meat plant. When that falls through, he offers Stephanie as a means of joining the Lodge, and tries to kill Steve. In a freezer. Full of meat. I’m sensing a pattern here…
- Refuge in Audacity: Everything! The whole point of this game was to piss off the Moral Guardians. It succeeded.
- The Reveal: See Tomato in the Mirror below.
- Rule of Sexy: The only logical reason why Stephanie would wear white ankle socks over stockings held by a garterbelt.
- Rule of Three: If you don't put out the paper for Jimmy for three days straight he'll shoot you down with a gun (if you don't kill him first).
- Sadist Teacher: The town’s school is staffed entirely by this. Hell, the Principal is the second-in-command at the Lodge.
“We don’t believe in ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’ A rod is too thin. But a baseball bat…”
- Serial Killer: Steve becomes one if you choose the bad ending, and the whole point of the simulation is to turn the player into one.
- Schmuck Bait: A lot. Your father warns you that it's a really bad idea to let your mother catch you in their room. Allowing this to happen leads to her blowing you away with a shotgun. Similarly, you can flat out admit that there's no good reason why Colonel Monroe shouldn't blow you away, and he'll kindly oblige.
- Shirtless Scene: Steve gets A LOT of these.
- Shotgun Wedding: Steve and Stephanie don't have much of a choice about getting married, with Stephanie getting confined to her room by her parents until the wedding day.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The whole game is an escalating series of these, culminating in Steve’s rescue of Stephanie.
- Shout-Out: Gein Memorial is possibly named after Serial Killer and grave robber Ed Gein.
- Signs of Disrepair: Edna - scratch that, 'DNA'S DINER.'
- The Sociopath: Hank tells you that when he heard that Karin was missing, he went over to her mother's house and asked if she could play. He says that he wanted to see how long it would take her to stop crying, but went in to their house to watch TV once she didn't. Sensing her vulnerability, Hank asked her to fix him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and to cut the crusts off, but he ate the crusts anyway. He then says that while Karin's mother was in the bathroom with the water running, he went into her room to see if there was anything worth taking, but didn't take anything because all she had was "girl stuff."
- Single-Issue Wonk: Mr. Pottsdam can't go more than ten seconds in a conversation without bringing up red meat.
- Slapstick: Played straight and then bloodily subverted when Whaley hits one of her students with a baseball bat. At first, it cuts away to the kid's head with a goofy expression in front of a swirling cartoony background and equally cartoony sound effects - and then it returns to the kid with a caved in skull and blood leaking out.
- Stepford Smiler: Both Steve’s Mom and Mrs. Pottsdam.
- In fact, your mother, Stephanie's mother, and every other mother in the game are all played by the same actress, as though they had been mass produced.
- Your mother is inexplicably present when Steve is being executed during the aforementioned Nonstandard Game Over, smiling and looking as pleasant as always.
- She's also secretly a ludicrously violent S and M dom who locks your father in their room and performs horrific sex acts on him. Catching her in the act is enough to make her kill you.
- Surreal Horror: There's buckets of blood and guts, but a lot of the creepy factor in the game comes from just how utterly wrong everything in Harvest is.
- Take That: Both endings are a huge one toward a particularly popular assumption that was growing in the media (specifically, that video games are leading to real-world violence). The Good Ending has the antagonists lamenting that since the simulation ends in failure, they'll just have to go to the old fashioned way of creating serial killers by way of genetics, effectively criticizing the argument itself by means of referring to something that actually has scientific support instead of something based largely on circumstantial evidence. In the bad ending, where Steve's mother sees him playing a video game and tells him that it's going to make him violent, Steve simply responds with a succinct "That's bullshit, mom".
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Range Ryder gets all his responses to Steve's questions off of cue cards (which even include Steve's name in them.)
- Thriving Ghost Town: Played Straight. Harvest boasts a population of 51 - and dropping.
- Title Drop: "You can't live in Harvest without being a Harvester."
- Tomato in the Mirror: Harvest isn't real. It’s a VR program, shaped to destroy its victim’s will in the most efficient way possible.
- Town with a Dark Secret: The town of Harvest. It is clear from the get-go that Harvest is not a nice place to live, and nobody even tries to hide that. Despite this, it does contain a Dark Secret like you would not believe. The town of Harvest does not exist. It is just a virtual reality program that Steve and Stephanie were hooked up to. The entire program is a murder simulator and it is supposed to slowly and surely turn Steve into a Serial Killer. He can get out of the program if he murders Stephanie and makes her Killed Off for Real.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Jimmy James in general. What kind of paperboy goes around collecting papers, making thinly-veiled threats to adults and and carrying a gun?
- The cannibal children in the Lodge and Hank, Steve's younger brother, also count.
- Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: There's some finesse to it early on, but the Lodge quickly descends into this. It doesn't hurt that you can get an actual chainsaw late into the game.
- Understatement: Steve's Mom: "Don't forget to put the paper out for Jimmy! You know how he gets!" No kidding, he shoots you to death with a gun if you don't give him the paper for three days straight.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Steve can walk around holding a weapon in plain sight (including a gun and a bloody baseball bat) and nobody seems to care.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can kill almost everyone. Hell, only a few even bother to fight back! And that’s not including all the killing Steve has to do...
- Video Game Cruelty Punishment: If you kill anyone prior to entering the Lodge, Steve is arrested and executed immediately.
- There's actually a random element to this. Certain characters not essential to the plot can be killed, and whether or not Steve gets away with it seems to be random chance. Namely, there seems to be some percentage chance that killing the mortician will go unpunished.
- There's also a way to blackmail the sheriff, which results in a "Get out of Jail Free" Card, which allows you to get away with killing a single NPC who isn't essential to the plot.
- Violence Discretion Shot: Parodied, as the only such shot in the whole game is used for a scene where the sheriff smacks his deputy with a rolled-up newspaper.
- Wide Open Sandbox: Steve can go anywhere in Harvest during the day, including places that have no actual bearing on the game itself. A few puzzles even allow for alternate solutions in this way.
- Womb Level: One of the least disturbing things Steve fights through in The Lodge.
- Would Hurt a Child: Steve, should the player be willing to do so in the town. He has to do this in the Lodge.
- Also... just about everyone in Harvest.
- Miss Whaley especially. Repeatedly. With a baseball bat.
- You All Look Alike: Many characters in the Lodge look like the residents of Harvest. Not to mention that Steve's mom, Mrs. Pottsdam, and all the moms at the Bake Sale are all played by the same actress and dress pretty much the same.
- You Bastard: If you actually enjoy Harvester at any point, you are a monster. The game itself tells you this, and it's trying to entertain you!