Video Game / Technobabylon
Dr. Lao and Regis, Latha and her Trance alter-ego Mandala

A jobless agoraphobe, addicted to the man-made worlds of a distant descendant of the internet, has become targeted for assassination by forces beyond her understanding. With nobody she could really call an enemy or a friend, she must face the dangers of reality, and survive a conspiracy that has invisibly ruled her entire life.

An agent of the city's all-seeing secret police finds himself blackmailed with the lives of the unborn children of his long-dead wife. Pushed to the limits by his deceit and his past, how far is he willing to go to save his legacy?

Technobabylon is a Cyberpunk point-and-click adventure game, developed by Technocrat Games and published by Wadjet Eye Games, and released in May 2015. Taking place in the year 2087 in futuristic city of Newtown, the game follows three protagonists, and from their perspectives the player gets a view of their society and how technology has altered the way people live and think.

The first playable character is the unemployed and agoraphobic Latha, who seems jaded with real life and prefers mentally escaping to the online world of Trance. When an explosion in her apartment complex nearly kills her, she is forced to leave her sanctuary and try to figure out who's after her and why.

The second protagonist is world-weary, technophobic Doctor Charlie Regis, an experienced agent for city's police force, CEL, which is the extended arm of Central, the A.I. responsible for controlling the city. Central assigns Regis and his work partner the case involving an outlandish Serial Killer known as "the Mindjacker" for his reputation of ripping all of his victims' information directly from their brains, killing them in the process. Faced with blackmail and deception as he investigates, Regis soon finds himself embroiled in a strange case of cloak and daggers in Newtown's seedy underworld, and even Central doesn't appear to be entirely on the level any more.

Then there's Dr Max Lao, Regis's younger, headstrong and more optimistic partner in CEL. Max is the technology and computing expert, embracing technology and keeping up to date with it, contrasting with Regis. Despite Regis's reputation for being difficult to work with, he and Max get along quite well and have developed a mutual trust and respect for each other. When Regis lands himself in trouble, Max takes it upon herself to find out the truth and help him out.

Formerly an episodic freeware series for its first three parts (of what was originally planned to be eleven), the game was adapted into a full-length adventure by Technocrat Games and published by Wadjet Eye Games in 2015, adding to their sci-fi collection that includes Primordia and Gemini Rue.

Technocrat Games would officially confirm in February 2017 that a sequel, Technobabylon 2, is in development.

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Bomb: The subway bomber is is a product of gengineering, having been designed to produce nitrates in his bones which make him a living bomb. It's terrible for his health, of course, since nitrate-filled bones are pretty weak, but he wasn't designed with longevity in mind.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Downplayed. Central is coldly logical and pragmatic, which often makes some of its actions seems morally ambiguous at best and outright cruel at worst. Another issue is, as explained by a member of the City Council who is in on the conspiracy to take down Central, is that Central, while supposed to be a neutral entity that obeys the wishes of the democratically-elected Council, has developed it own opinions on governing over time, which causes some problems with its usefulness as a controller of the city. The problem isn't that Central is disobeying or attempting to subvert the orders the Council gives it, because its programming effectively prevents it from this, but rather that it has taken to deliberately delay and stall the implementation of certain policies and edicts for as long as possible.
  • Allegedly Free Game: In-universe example with the Laser-Paper-Stone mini-game on Regis and Lao's Travelers. Essentially a rock-paper-scissors clone, the player has a limited number of moves and has to pay money to keep playing once it runs out. Either that, or wait exactly 1000 seconds (which counts down in real game time) to keep playing.
    "T.H.E. Games: World Leaders in "Free" to Play since 2055"
  • Ambiguously Bi:
  • Ambiguously Brown: Latha, Justified due to having South Asian mother and Caucasian father (Regis).
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: A series of flashback sequences has you playing as Regis' dead wife, Vicky.
  • Animesque: The Trance world.
  • Asshole Victim: One of the victims of the Mindjacker is Evan Baxter, former colleague of Regis and Vicky's murderer. No one expresses any amount of grief over his murder, and one person who knew him even remarks that she's glad he's dead. Galatea also meets a horrible fate in one of the endings, but seeing as how all the bad things during the game were more-or-less her fault...
  • Assimilation Backfire: The Mindjacker has specialized wetware that allows him to download a person's mind and store it in his own until he can offload the data later. Doing this to Evan Baxter causes him to be infected by Baxter's malice toward Regis.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Latha wears cheap blue overalls with no shoes, a fact lampshaded twice. At the end of the game, Lao even mentions that they should get her to a hospital, considering how she's been walking around for a day with no footwear. Latha notes that she shut off her pain receptors to deal with it.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The omnipresent Central can access and monitor virtually everything in Newton.
  • Biopunk: The field of Gengineering allows for easy manipulation of organisms' genes to create new species. Many of the characters' jobs involve altering existing plants and animals on a commercial scale. There also exists a restaurant that serves cloned human flesh. Also, there are organic nanomachines called "wetware" are used for many different purposes.
  • Body Horror: The suicide bomber, who needs to walk around on crutches and suffers numerous health problems because he's been biologically engineered to grow explosives in his bones, his body producing nitrates instead of calcium. He's but one of many, all built the same.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: At one point, you have to access a computer locked with a palm-print. The owner is already dead and in numerous pieces, so getting his hand is easy. However, the scanner is sophisticated enough to tell living flesh from dead flesh despite its age, so you need to figure out how to fool the scanner into thinking the severed appendage is alive.
  • Brain–Computer Interface: Rather than a mechanical plug, people join other systems by coating them in their own organic wetware to establish a connection.
  • Brain Uploading: Carried out against his victims' wills by the Mindjacker, and kills their bodies.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Councilman Deane because of the Governor chip installed in his head. However, he is quite skilled at wording his statements and answers in ways that makes them technically true, yet at the same time misleading.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The intern working at Vickerman Pharmaceutical Labs who speaks entirely in word salad. Eventually subverted when it turns out he's just afflicted with aphasia. Artificial, self-inflicted aphasia. And he's not too happy when you cure him of it.
  • Crapsack World: The world of Technobabylon is not a nice place, and that's coming from the perspective of one of the nicest places in it. Genetic engineering allows suicide bombers to be designed from birth as living explosives. There have apparently been multiple nuclear strikes all over the globe. America has degenerated into warring factions. Even in Newton, where personal liberties are respected and the government tries to provide for all its citizens, your rights can be stripped at a moment's notice if the government has even the slightest suspicion of you being a criminal.
  • Cyberpunk: Though mixed with an undertone of Biopunk.
  • Cyberspace: Called "Trance" in the setting.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Regis. Even before his wife was murdered, he was forced by Texan warlords to biologically engineer child suicide bombers before he finally made it to Newton.
  • Destination Defenestration:
    • In their first scene, Regis and Lao bear witness to a poor janitor landing on the sidewalk after being chucked from the 24th floor by the Mindjacker.
    • Either Ran Shu-Man or Councilman Deane meet this fate at the restaurant, depending on which of the two you finger as the culprit.
  • Divided States of America: By the game's settings, the United States had been divided into warlords-controlled territories. Even Played for Laughs with the spams about Warlord of Oklahoma.
  • Driven to Suicide: An older version of the game, before the plot was changed, has a random young woman, who decides to slit her wrists and hang herself from Regis' special tree.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-Universe. When Vicky reveals to Nina that she's using her and Regis' embryos to create Central, Nina remarks that she's surprised at this turn of events since Regis' last kids had a tendency to blow up. Vicky is not amused.
  • One Degree of Separation: About the only major character who doesn't have some direct connection to Central (aside from just taking orders from her) is Lao. Even Latha turns out to have been made from the same batch of embryos that made Central, making them sisters of sorts.
  • Easy Sex Change: Max Lao had this when she was 16. It is justified with sex changes having been made much easier and painless to perform through newer technology.
  • Everybody Do the Endless Loop: In the Trance den, some of the patrons in the server are on the dance floor, repeating the same moves endlessly and never talking. This is somewhat problematic, as you have to figure out how to get them out of there so Latha and Jinsil and talk without any potential spies.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Regis came from there before joining CEL and creation of Central.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Regis, Vargas, Chigwa, Baxter, and Nina were all part of the same project to create Central.
  • Foreshadowing: Plenty towards the fact that Jinsil is actually Nina Jeong. Most notably, their speech is in the same shade of magenta. There are also other hints, like the fact she tells Latha, she that is having some old friends over for dinner, and the next section has you playing as Regis meeting her and her co-conspirators in a restaurant, and that Latha correctly guesses that she is a scientist. All of that may explain the mispronounced Arabic.
  • French Maid: A robotic one, no less.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Particularly the end, where you have to choose between Central undergoing Grand Theft Me and going underground to help her sister fight against Nina or Central assisting her erstwhile foe in a Mind Probe of Central's own sister.
  • Grey Goo: Wetware occasionally multiplies out of control, in a small-scale version of this trope.
  • Hate Sink: Ran Shu-Man exists for no other reason than being a totally unrepentant asshole, so you don't feel bad if you choose to frame him for the restaurant bombing and he gets tossed out a window.
  • Heel–Face Brainwashing: At the start of the game, Baxter is being released from prison, despite his crimes, but fitted with a Governor in his body that will cause him to collapse and begin puking whenever he starts having negative, violent thoughts. Then, when Lao meets the Virtual Ghost of Baxter later in the game, he turns out to be a decent, pleasant person, since the Mindjacker has ripped out his vengeful feelings towards Regis, and even asks her to apologize on his behalf. Later, he tries to prevent Latha's mind from being destroyed in the finale.
  • He Knows Too Much: The janitor in the beginning is killed because he interrupted the Mindjacker.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: One of the endings has Regis lock himself in a 40-below room for four hours in order to save Latha. Fortunately, while he clearly intends to sacrifice himself doing so, CEL manages to save him.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Henry, the unfortunate waiter at the clone meat restaurant, is killed and replaced by an assassin disguised as him. Henry's corpse, meanwhile, gets hidden by hanging it on the meat rack in the kitchen amongst the clone bodies. Regis manages to see through the deception after the chef notes that all their clone bodies are brunettes, yet one of the bodies on the rack is blond.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Totally averted despite the Cyberpunk setting. All subversion of programs is helped by pre-written exploits, and one has to be delivered in an old-fashioned way (sticking a memory card in the thing).
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Latha gets to complain that she is "a hacker, not a plumber!"
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • Well, in a somewhat technical manner. Regis meets the people behind The Conspiracy in a fancy restaurant serving human meat... though he is assured that is only meat taken from brainless, fast-grown clones who where never actually alive, making it all perfectly legal. Regis is still understandably quite squicked out about the whole thing, especially when he has a look in the kitchen and sees partially cut-apart human bodies on display in the freezer.
    • Notably, Ran Shu-Man is disappointed to learn that the meat is from brainless clones, as he likes the idea of cannibalism being the ultimate symbol of the rich elites' utter power over the poor.
  • I Have Your Wife: Regis is being blackmailed by someone holding him and Vicky's frozen embryos hostage, which both represents a threat against the his only chance of having children of his own and one of the last things he has left of Vicky. Both Regis and his blackmailer compare it to effectively keeping his legacy hostage.
  • Karma Houdini: In the pro-Central ending, not only does Nina arrange a plea bargain to save herself from getting arrested for her attempts to hijack and alter Central, but she gets to experiment on Galatea in her efforts to create another AI with Central's consent.
  • Kawaiiko: Cheffie the Chef's obnoxious appearance and personality has been designed by committee with heavy overtones of this. At least she'll do anything to help.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Dr. Zvidzai Chigwa, who complains about her telepresence supervising job, claiming that "TP" is just where management sticks people they don't want being the public face of the company.
  • Kick the Dog: Central eventually calls Regis and Lao to neutralize a suicide bomber holed up in a railway car, but the player has the option of talking him down instead and getting him to surrender to the police. If you do that, though, then Central is not happy that you talked him down instead of "neutralizing" him, and has him euthanized when the two aren't aren't looking, claiming that he was too big a risk to be left alive, but which Regis sees as a spiteful display of power.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The security system in Latha's apartment uses a knight avatar, complete with Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. When pressed on the act, he'll explain that focus group testing polled it as the most trustworthy avatar for the job.
  • Lost in Character: A variation on this occurs with the Mindjacker, who ends up picking up Dr. Baxter's grudge against Regis when he downloads his personality, and tries to get revenge on him despite having never met him himself.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Regis is revealed to be Latha's father.
  • Meaningful Name: Stepford makes synths and is one himself. Galatea, too. She's definitely a human, just an artificially grown and programmed one.
  • Metaphorically True: Invoked. Councilman Deane voluntarily installed a Governor in his head which prevents him from lying, but does not prevent him from telling the truth in very specific ways. He uses this to deny hiring the bomber that attacked the secret meeting: technically, his secretary did that.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Nina Jeong. While her research actually has quite noble goals in and of themselves, she has a blatant disregard for ethical boundaries and can be quite the vicious cut-throat in her attempts to achieve them. She also frequents a restaurant that serves meat cloned from humans.
  • Mugging the Monster: In one scene, the mindjacker sees an unaware CEL agent and decides to ambush her. Cue him getting flipped onto his back by a Neck Lift, revealing that the agent is the French maid, reprogrammed by Lao into an assistant and dressed accordingly.
  • NEET: According to Central, Latha has clocked in 65,717 hours into Trance. That's seven and a half years! In the opening scene, she makes it clear she coasts on basic assistance on purpose because anything more would distract from the Trance, and only comes out if she absolutely needs to.
  • Neo-Africa: When you visit Dr. Vargas in Fulcrum Tower, Max will mention how she is able to see Mombasa from the top of the tower, placing the geographical location of Newton somewhere in Kenya.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Mr. Stepford appears to be an homage to Frank Nelson.
  • Off with His Head!: Baxter is found with his head pounded into pulp.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Regis is able to pinpoint a suicide bomber as hailing from Texas by his accent, when said character has nothing even resembling a Texas accent.
  • People Farms: A fancy restaurant that is the setting for one of Regis' chapters serves human meat cut from flash-grown clones. Though the horror aspect is slightly downplayed by the fact that Regis is told that the clones used are deliberately grown without brains and so they are never really "alive" or even conscious to begin with, the troubling moral aspects of such a business and its customers are still very much present, and Regis makes more than one comment on how Sick and Wrong the whole business is.
  • Robot Girl: The robotic French maid, who believes that she is a real human being.
  • Sexbot: The robotic French maid was this to the Van der Waal couple. When programmed with the right personality, she will boast that she is "anatomically correct".
  • Sex for Services: Subverted at the Trance club. Latha can suggest she has skills (referring to her hacking) that she could barter for entry to the club. The bouncer assumes she means sexual favors, but refuses because he thinks she's too frail and she's hardly the first to try that tactic. Latha is disgusted and clarifies her intentions.
  • Schrödinger's Gun: Thomas, the suicide bomber, always dies, whether by blowing himself up, getting shot by Lao, or being taken to the police station and euthanized by Central under claims of being too big a threat to be kept alive. This is because his femur is needed as a bomb later in the story.
  • Spiritual Successor: The game takes quite a few cues from Beneath a Steel Sky, especially considering how the network interface sequences are set up. The villains Evil Plan centering around getting a person who is genetically related to a biological supercomputer to interface with said computer also carries some strong similarities.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: The "human resources" trojan that Guy is infected with acts like this, seizing control of their body in order to make them fly to China and become an obedient factory worker. When the player walks in on a partial hijacking in Trance, it's represented as a robotic version of Guy spouting propaganda (made to get the host onto a plane and across the border) while the real Guy is partially fused with a wall and unable to move.
  • Suicide Attack: A suicide bomber has organic explosives integrated in his bones, having been genetically designed to produce them since birth.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: The end of the murder investigation at the restaurant. The culprit, Councilman Deane, confesses to the murder, but explains that he was blackmailed into doing so while also bringing up that Ran Shou-man - an utter scumbag who's only part of Nina's plan for his own selfish ends - also fits all the evidence that Regis gathered. Thus Regis has to choose between absolving Deane of his crime and pinning the murder on Shou-man or pursuing the truth and turning Deane in. Either choice ends with the accused getting thrown out the window and written off as another victim of the attempted suicide bombing.
  • United Europe: Some of the characters came to the city from "Eurofed". According to the newspapers, Europe has just adopted metric time.
  • Uncanny Valley: Invoked. Even before Mr. Stepford's Robotic Reveal, Regis notices that there is something seriously wrong about him, especially with his eyes.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Ah, nuke it!"
  • Verbal Tic: The android customer service rep constantly says "Oh my, yes!"
  • Welcome to Corneria: Averted with the in-game phone. Dialing random numbers gives you hundreds of different responses, ranging from "sorry, wrong number" to business answering machines to referencing The Ring. You get an achievement for doing it ten times.
  • Wetware CPU: Wetware is used all over the place as a computer.
  • White and Grey Morality:
    • There is, strictly speaking, only one person who can truly be defined as gratuitously evil in the storyline, and he isn't a crucial part of the plot — indeed, he only gets a few lines. Every other negatively-slanted character is moved by various degrees of extremism or is simply a mercenary.
    • Central is shown as being somewhat amoral at times, but it's only because it's acting to logical extremes in what it perceives to be the "big picture". Galatea is moved by a desire to improve Central to its utmost potential, even if doing this carries a high moral cost. Nina has the same objective, though her methods are different. Dr Vargas's past conduct is certainly questionable as well, but he too acted for what he thought was the common good. Even Baxter eventually snapped from exasperation at Regis' actions, as his benign leftover ghost shows. As for the Mindjacker, he's an amoral hacker for sure, but he only gets properly evil when he inherits Baxter's latent hatred. Just about the only true scumbag around is Ran Shou-Man, who seems to enjoy evil just for the hell of it; he is a side character with only mild relevance, and you can kill him during the plot to put an end to his actions.