A bright red crayon just for you.Rule of Rose
is an adventure
game for the PS2
set in an orphanage
England ... or is it?
It should be noted before going any further that the entire game is difficult to summarize for all sorts of reasons: the elaborate use of Fairytale Motifs
, the narration
, the setting
(and the setting
... and the setting
), the surrealist horror aesthetic, and the purposely uneven story-telling. All this is used to weave a broken fairytale
about thoughtless cruelty
, wrecked love
, and childlike longing for an idealized adult reality
, culminating into an unusually thoughtful and heartbreaking story of self-actualization and growing up
Yes, it's still a Video Game
. And a Mind Screw
. And a pretty good one at that.
The plot revolves around a nineteen-year-old unlucky girl
named Jennifer, who becomes trapped in a world
run by young girls who have established a rigid and cruel
class hierarchy called the Red Crayon Aristocrats
. Her only solace is Brown
, her partner and best friend
. During each chapter, Jennifer has to honor a demand from the Red Crayon Aristocrats on pain of death
, and in the process, she pieces together clues and recalls forgotten memories
about her role in the Red Crayons' world. Each chapter of the game is introduced with a storybook
that loosely describes what the chapter is about
and which of the characters it focuses on.
Gameplay consists mostly of finding items with Brown's help, giving him an inventory item to sniff, then letting him guide Jennifer through the environment to whatever it is he's found. All plot-important items and most health restoring items (instead of potions, various cookies and chocolates
are used) must be found in this way. Other items, such as marbles and ribbons, have no immediate use
, but may be traded
with the Aristocrats. Combat tends to occur as the events in a chapter come to a climax; enemies will often appear seemingly from nowhere, allowing Jennifer to use a variety of improvised weapons
, such as a kitchen knife
, an icepick, or a hatchet
, not the rule that requires all shoujo
anime to have a plethora of roses about
This game provides examples of:
- A Day in the Limelight: The game has an episodic structure in the style of a TV series, where most of the episodes puts one of the Red Crayon Aristocrats into the spotlight.
- Adult Fear: Arguably a reversal of this trope, showing how serious and poignant a child's fears can be: abandonment, loss of parents, rejection, bullying, betrayal... Notably, the game only implies, but refuses to show the genuine adult fears, like child abuse and murder.
- And Your Reward Is Clothes: If you unlock the four-leaf clover door, you get to dress Jennifer up in a variety of outfits, such as a French maid or an octopus. Brown also gets a costume change for some of them.
- Each costume also comes with a built-in one-hit super-weapon. See also New Game+.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Everyone's so mean to Jennifer, even the adults.
- Animal Motifs: Many chapters have one, and they reflect on the enemies; there are rabbit imps, bird imps, goat imps, rat imps, and pig imps.
- Different characters also have animal associations: Diana is a rat, Meg is a goat, Eleanor is a bird, Amanda is a pig, etc.
- Arc Words: Gathered slowly through three chapters: Everlasting / True Love / I am yours.
- Ax-Crazy: Stray Dog aka Gregory M. Wilson and Wendy.
- Blog: While many fandoms have an online place where they discuss the work in question, Rule of Rose Mysteries takes it to a completely different level, deconstructing the game, analyzing the characters, and piecing together the story.
- The Baroness: Meg.
- The Beautiful Elite: The Aristocrats, for maximal squickiness.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Meg, Eleanor, and Diana, the three highest-ranking Red Crayon Aristocrats, respectively.
- Boss Rush: The "Funeral" chapter pits Jennifer against every animal-themed mini-boss Jennifer has encountered throughout the game and forces confrontation by blocking her progress until she defeats not one but TWO of each.
- Bound and Gagged: Happens to Jennifer twice.
- Break the Cutie: The game focuses on Jennifer's suffering, but Amanda, Eleanor, Clara, Meg, Wendy, and Gregory all have breakdowns at some point or another.
- The British Title System: The Red Crayon Aristocrats use titles to reflect their status, which correspond directly to the female rankings in the actual British peerage. Oddly, the girls decline to use Marchioness, a senior rank which sits between Duchess and Countess, and Viscountess, which ranks below Countess. In descending order:
- Wendy — Princess
- Diana — Duchess
- (not used) — Marchioness
- Eleanor — Countess
- (not used) — Viscountess
- Meg — Baroness
- Amanda — has no title, and represents the "poor" or working-classes.
- Broken Bird: Clara and Diana.
- Brown Bag Mask: The Aristocrats are seen wearing these early in the game, and later on some imps are seen wearing them as well.
- But Thou Must: Early on, Jennifer is given a series of mildly threatening yes or no questions while tied to a pole. No matter what your answer, the outcome is unchanged, and the trope is lampshaded when the interrogator tells Jennifer that her opinion and choices don't matter; they're the one making the rules around here. This arguably sets up the recurring theme of helplessness surrounding Jennifer.
- Canine Companion: Brown.
- Cassandra Truth: That whole "strange man abducting children thing" is just a figment of your imagination, Martha; nothing to be worried about in the least.
- Chain of Deals: The game is made of this, since the majority of the gameplay requires you to trace your way through a series of Plot Coupons until you retrieve whatever tribute the Red Crayon Aristocrat Club is demanding that month. Same goes for tracking all kinds of health items and Vendor Trash, which in turn leads to more health items.
- Chekhov's Gun: A sneaky example thereof. Gregory is seen aiming a revolver at his head in one chapter, contemplating suicide. In a later chapter, you're given a revolver called "Gregory's Gun" and promptly face Gregory in a boss fight. The normal thing to do would be blast him with it, but by giving him back his gun rather than fighting him, he will kill himself instead.
- The Chessmaster: Wendy.
- Controllable Helplessness: Both times Jennifer is tied up, you can make her struggle. The second time, you have to make her call for Brown's help.
- Creepy Child: Joshua and the majority of the children at some point.
- Cry for the Devil: After playing the epilogue, you'll feel deeply sorry for the two people largely responsible for all the bad things that happened in the story - Wendy and Gregory. It's utterly heartwrenching to watch Wendy silently plead for you to stay when you know it's impossible, and listen to Gregory trying to put together a happy story to read to his dead son.
- Crying Little Kid: Olivia, whose title is 'The Tearful Princess'.
- Dead All Along: Everyone except Jennifer is just a memory.
- Degraded Boss: Every new enemy type Jennifer encounters is presented as a one-on-one boss fight, but soon after you're fighting the new type by the truckload.
- Designated Victim: Jennifer.
- Dog Walks You: The majority of the game is spent following Brown to one place or another.
- Downer Ending: Whatever ending you get, interpretations are bleak at best.
- Driven to Suicide: One of the possible outcomes for Stray Dog. Provided you hand him back his gun during the Final Boss fight.
- Dummied Out: A couple of costumes and some voice acting, indicating that the game would have had more chapters, but the developers ran out of time and money.
- Elaborate University High: Well, in this case, Elaborate Orphanage - inside an airship the size of the Hindenburg. Oh, as it turns out, this is ultimately subverted, as the airship orphanage is a mixture of the memories of the most traumatic portions of Jennifer's life.
- It's still rather amazing. Compared to the number of the orphans and the minimal staff, the manor in which the orphanage is actually set is still huge and extremely fancy - apart from the parts that the kids have doodled over or trashed.
- However, it looks realistically as if people live in it (as opposed to the spotlessness of the common Elaborate University High), with most of the rooms being used as storage.
- Emotionless Girl: Eleanor.
- English Rose: Jennifer presents the intriguing concept of a classic English Rose forced into a Resident Evil-style survival horror environment. Jennifer is a timid, fair, softly-spoken young English woman who seems weak and can be easily pushed about and ordered by others, although this is understandable considering the situation she is forced in. However, she is actually very determined and loyal, being able to endure the bullying and punishments. In this regard, she can be viewed as a strong character.
- Ephebophile: Mr. Hoffman. And most certainly not depicted favorably, though there is a measure of sympathy afforded if the player reads his diary in the Playable Epilogue.
- Epiphanic Prison: The entire game.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: The members of the Aristocrat club are all given titles, such as "Gluttonous Prince" or "Strong-Willed Princess". Interestingly, these titles are only used by the narration, which never refers to anybody by name. Their 'official' ranks within the club are things like "Duchess" and "Baroness", with only the highest-ranking member being called a Princess. Regardless, the trope itself is subverted, as the members of the club are portrayed as needlessly cruel more often than not.
- Everything Talks: Inanimate objects, such as scissors, speak to the protagonist every now and then.
- Locked doors, save points, inventory bins...
- Fairytale Motifs: The game lives and breathes these, and goes out of its way to break them at every turn.
- Fake Difficulty: As is common with horror games, combat is rather difficult as a way of making the player feel helpless, and making the player-character appear out of their depth. It's even subtly lampshaded: Jennifer covers her eyes during some attacks, explaining why she often has trouble hitting her opponents.
- Fat Bastard: Amanda.
- Enemy pig-heads, which are introduced during Amanda's chapter, qualify as well.
- Fetch Quest: What gameplay is all about, give or take some awkward combat. See Chain of Deals above.
- Flower Motifs: Three guesses which flower it is. Surprisingly, it's used quite sparingly, so when a massive bouquet of red roses appear for the game's big twist in the penultimate chapter, it's quite a shock.
- Fork Fencing: Your first weapon is a dessert fork.
- Give Me Your Inventory Item: The point of each chapter is to bring the Red Crayon Aristocrats some kind of trinket, often something confusing or impossible. It's subverted a few times, as merely finding the item in question will end the chapter, without it ever entering the player's inventory at all.
- Guide Dang It: Brown can trace any item, anywhere, anytime... unless the target item is on a different level, you haven't triggered the right cutscene, or you're too many rooms away from the item you're looking for.
- Then there's incredibly unintuitive way to earn the best ending: you have to give your gun to the final boss.
- Harmful to Minors: It is strongly implied that Hoffman raped Clara and touched Diana inappropriately. However, Jennifer is an unreliable narrator, and many Alternative Character Interpretations and arguments have sprung up because of them. The main difficulty in interpreting is Jennifer's ability to recognize the signs of abuse; what Jennifer sees during the game does pretty strongly imply something was going on, but is it something that Jennifer suspects in retrospect and 'remembers', or is she remembering it clearly but not seeing it as unusual?
- Headbutt of Love: Wendy and Jennifer are shown doing this in amongst the roses in the introductory FMV.
- Held Gaze: They're also doing this before/as they initiate the headbutt.
- Heal Thyself: With biscuits, lollipops, candy, scones, shortbread, minced pie and two flavors of chocolate.
- Jennifer can feed Brown with beef, chicken, and bones as well.
- Hide Your Children: After the final boss fight, when Jennifer walks outside of the orphanage; instead of seeing the bodies of all the children, she only sees their clothes.
- Humiliation Conga: The poor, unlucky girl.
- Infinity+1 Sword: While all of the weapons associated with the ridiculous unlockable costumes are pretty powerful, the weapon that outshines them in both damage and difficulty to obtain is the Rusty Sword. In order to receive it, five fancy, easily missable dessert knives must be gathered from the various chapters throughout the game, and traded for a key to a secret door that the player has most likely forgotten about by the time they receive the means to unlock it.
- And then it's possible to go Infinity+2 by waiting until New Game+ and trading the Rusty Sword for the Knight Rapier. Enjoy killing just about everything in one hit, because unlike all other weapons, it also won't carry over into the next New Game+.
- Inventory Management Puzzle: Beautifully averted. You can drop anything, anytime, anywhere, and it'll wind up in Jennifer's storage bin, of which there are several and all of which are magically connected ala Resident Evil. Essentially, you can discard items without actually losing them.
- Irony: Jennifer is such an unlucky girl, except when she seems to be just lucky enough to be the sole survivor of both a catastrophic airship crash and a tragic orphanage massacre, emotional damage notwithstanding.
- It's a Wonderful Failure: "And they all lived happily ever after."
- It's Probably Nothing: The aptly named Constable Dolittle chooses to ignores Martha's worries about the strange occurrences at the orphanage.
- Kids Are Cruel: Every child in the game. Even Wendy. Especially Wendy.
- Kick the Dog: Everyone except Jennifer hates Brown.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: Jennifer HAS a stomp attack usable on downed enemies, but it's slow and has a tiny hitbox, and enemies are invincible during their lengthy standing-up animation, making it borderline useless.
- Life Meter: A squiggly red chalkboard line for Jennifer in the inventory screen, but no meter for Brown for some reason. They both have stick-figure representations of themselves next to the red line, which become more tired-looking as they take damage.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: Wendy.
- Lost Forever: Anything you fail to pick up during the current chapter/month is gone once you move on to the next chapter/month. This is particularly irritating if you're trying to work your way through a Chain of Deals and save past the point of no return.
- Love Letter:
- Meg to Diana. It wasn't well received.
- One of Wendy's letters to 'Joshua' (actually Jennifer) was a declaration of their betrothal, and was received very well. And then things went wrong...
- Love Makes You Crazy: Wendy is a textbook Psycho Lesbian for Jennifer. Gregory is also an interesting, and platonic, case, as the death of his son traumatized him pretty well, and then Wendy manipulated his state of mind so that he would kill people on her say-so.
- Madness Mantra: The imps' incomprehensible babble is actually this spoken backwards: A bright red crayon just for you. Lots and lots and LOTS for you!
- Meaningful Name: Literally, every name has some sort of symbolic origin or meaning behind it.
- Meganekko: Meg
- Mercy Invincibility: This applies to both Jennifer and her enemies, but the enemies far, far more so, to the point where theirs is a constant issue, but Jennifer's is small enough to never notice.
- Mind Screw: The plot analysis took a full five pages.
- Highlights of the story: Jennifer constantly passing out and waking up, the Gingerbread House section which is a flashback, events that have already occurred occurring again, Gregory randomly appearing and walking off, Hoffman dying and coming back to life, enemies that no character acknowledges, and storybooks that relate to real-world events with uncanny accuracy. The ending makes it clear that the events didn't happen quite as the player saw them, but leaves it ambiguous as to whether it was All Just a Dream, a Dying Dream, a form of the afterlife or possibly purgatory, or simply Jennifer reliving her memories in a symbolic fashion.
- Mind Screwdriver: Fortunately, "Once Upon a Time" tells us which one it is. All of them. Jennifer has amnesia, yeah? As her memories began to resurface, they formed another world (possibly real, possibly imaginary), in which Jennifer lived out the events of her childhood at the orphanage. Eventually, she realizes that they are her own, and gets the rest of her memories back (gaps in the plot are a big part of Mind Screw), deciding to lock them away forever and move on.
- Mood Dissonance: The game's fairytale narrative, extremely romantic, impressionistic early 20th-centry soundtrack, and pronouncedly glamorous setting are used strikingly to highlight the pettiness and cruelty around which the story revolves.
- Monochrome Past: The "Once Upon a Time..." chapter, as well as a few brief flashbacks in the Gingerbread House chapter.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Poor, poor Brown. Wendy certainly does not like the idea of sharing Jennifer.
- Ontological Mystery
- Our Mermaids Are Different: Indeed◊.
- Plot Coupon: Whatever the Red Crayon Aristocrat Club demands as a tribute each month.
- Primal Stance: Stray Dog walks on all fours like a dog, appropriately enough.
- Prim and Proper Bun: Jennifer sports one. It may be a a symbolic of her effort to repress her childhood memories.
- Psycho Lesbian: Wendy
- Psycho Strings: The theme that plays while the imps are present within the game world.
- The Quiet One:
- Jennifer doesn't have much to say to the kids that are constantly bullying her. At first.
- Eleanor, by virtue of her emotionless demeanour. Even during Aristocrat Club meetings, she only speaks when they start chanting, despite being the third highest in ranking (after the Princess and Diana).
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Near the end of the game, Jennifer finally makes a stand and tells each and every one of the Aristocrats what she thinks of them and their cruel games. It's so effective that they make her head of the Aristocrat Club shortly afterward.
- Regal Ringlets: Amanda.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Young Jennifer and Wendy, at least at first. Meg wants one, but Diana finds her unpleasantly clingy.
- Sequence Breaking: You can miss a lot of cutscenes by sticking to the main Chain of Deals and not doing some thorough exploring.
- Shown Their Work: The developers spent quite some time researching the fears of both adults and children, and what they fear the most about the other.
- Social Services Does Not Exist: Justified; what social services there were in depression-era England were very busy and did not have time to look in on every single rural orphanage.
- The Sociopath: Wendy. She's a selfish, manipulating murderer, with an evil plan that hinges on Jennifer acting in a specific way that implies she does not understand basic human emotions.
- Spoiler Opening: The intro FMV is particularly spoiler-heavy: You can clearly tell Jennifer's the young girl Wendy is romping with in the rose garden, and link them romantically by associating them with Diana and Meg, who are shown afterwards having a private moment involving a rose. Pay attention to the lyrics as well. There's also a shot where Diana, Eleanor, and Meg are seen hitting something on the ground, seen from the back and from a distance. This may foreshadow what happens to Brown, given the object seems to be the bag he was in at the end of The Funeral.
- Stock Video Game Puzzle: You think the scrap of paper with the three numbers in it is related to the chest with the three-number padlock? Is the fact that both the paper and the chest are in the same room, literally next to each other, of any help?
- Suspicious Videogame Generosity: The game doesn't usually throw candy (healing items) at you, so when there's a trail of it leading to a new room... expect a nasty surprise.
- Sweet Tooth: Jennifer heals herself by munching on sweets.
- There Are No Adults: Even at the start the orphanage was heavily understaffed, but by the end the orphans were left to their own devices for an indeterminate out of time after Hoffman, Martha, and Clara disappeared without a trace.
- Those Two Guys: Xavier and Nicholas.
- Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Jennifer. The entire game is her attempt to revisit her childhood and retrieve her memories of the traumatic events that occurred there. Maybe.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: Mr. Hoffman, though he was in charge from the start. He just developed in a twisted direction. There's a mention at the final chapter of how Hoffman used to be a kind and respectable teacher.
- Two-Teacher School: Just one teacher, plus a cleaning lady and a sixteen-year-old girl who acts as a makeshift nurse and all around helper.
- Unreliable Narrator: Unreliable because Jennifer has amnesia, and the events as depicted in the story are a conglomeration of half-recalled events and traumatic incidents.
- Vendor Trash: Marbles, ribbons, socks, and clothespins have no other use than to get traded in at the Red Crayon Aristocrat Club for health items, though it's always advisable to keep at least one of each for further tracking.
- Violation of Common Sense: In order to get the good ending, it is necessary to hand your gun to the homicidal maniac attacking you, during his brief moments of clarity.
- World of Symbolism: Oh God yes. Animal Motifs, Fairytale Motifs, and Flower Motifs abound. As do Magical Realism, and things that just plain don't make sense.
- Yandere: Wendy.