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ZapDramatic is a website run by Michael Gibson (who also goes by "crageous" as a username, in reference to his company's original name, Courageous Communications), a Canadian man who creates negotiation games for both entertainment purposes and diplomatic groups. Thus far, he has created games for episodic series such as Ambition, Move or Die, and Sir Basil Pike Public School; several one-offs that led to the development of those series, some of which are available for free on Newgrounds; and full university courses about negotiation and having difficult conversations.

In each game, you play a Featureless Protagonist tasked with helping the characters solve various problems using basic negotiation tactics. You are presented with multiple choices of what to instruct the characters to do or say, and different choices lead to different outcomes. There is usually only one correct path, however.

The Negotiator is the blanket title for shorter games about one-on-one interactions where the player is given some Backstory about their character, then must choose the correct lines of dialog to convince another character to give the player something they want or to avoid some punishment. Altered States is the same concept, only with the admission that the opponent characters are dangerously disturbed individuals who often make wildly irrational decisions.

The Mediator refers to games in which the player must help two other opposing parties find an acceptable compromise for their dispute. The first episode, "The Angry Neighbors", features a unique gameplay mechanic where the animated characters will continue arguing on their own until the player presses a Stop button to jump in with an attempt to steer the debate in a more positive direction.

In the Ambition series, you are tasked with helping a disturbed man named Ted Hartrup reunite with his kids, who are in the care of his estranged wife, Bridget. Along the way, you'll also meet Yale and Helen, a dysfunctional couple trying to weather their shaky marriage. Numerous scenarios will play out involving these characters in which you must decide what you or they must do to alleviate the situation, with subjects such as adultery, interrogation, and even some murder thrown into the mix.

Move or Die plays like an interactive animated adventure movie. The User assumes the role of a hitchhiker who gets picked up by two ethically challenged siblings in their twenties, Syd and Wilma. When bad things start to happen, the action will stop and a menu screen will appear asking the User for input. The User negotiates with Syd and Wilma and tries to persuade them to make better choices. If the User advises poorly or fails to persuade Syd and Wilma to choose a better course of action, the movie will end in disaster and the action will stop. The only way for the User to see the whole movie is to learn from past mistakes and negotiate more effectively.

Sir Basil Pike Public School explores the dynamics of bullying among boys and girls aged 10-14. The user can follow either the boys’ story or the girls’ story. Both stories intersect for the conclusion. In the boys’ story, the user is accused of stealing another boy’s bike. At issue is the truth and honor. The girls’ story revolves around a sleepover party where all but one is invited and the consequences of being nice or competitive are explored. It features characters who had previously appeared in Gibson's other works, as well as new ones. It also adds the new feature of "Persuasive Power," which is a good indicator of whether or not you are making the correct choices.

Keeping in mind that while Gibson mainly intended these games as viable negotiation training for real-life situations, they are somewhat notorious for their... odd depiction of their characters, as they frequently invoke numerous violations of common sense, skewed priorities, and other unusual behavior that would all likely be counterproductive for these scenarios should they actually play out in real life. But even that itself is unlikely.

Not to be confused with Ambition Is Evil, though it does contain examples of that trope.

ZapDramatic's flash games provide examples of the following tropes:

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     Tropes appearing in more than one of ZapDramatic's works 
  • Broken Aesop: Michael Gibson intended the situations in the episodes to reflect how they'd play out in real life. Therefore, the "solutions" to these problems brings up a lot of Unfortunate Implications.
    • The games often fail in their goal to teach you anything about negotiation, in the fact that nobody really comes to an agreement on anything. You mostly just end up telling people what they want to hear, or offering decisions that really make no sense. Episode 9 of Ambition even allows you to sit back and let someone else do your work if you fail on your own a few times.
    • Ambition seems to excuse Ted's atrocities just because he's the supposed victim of an immoral wife. Despite the fact he tried to blow up an office building and essentially commit a mass murder. Made worse by the fact that, in a psyche evaluation after he's caught, despite how much he clearly demonstrates otherwise, you are supposed to write him off as perfectly sane. They try to explain this by saying that Ted, at the time of the bomb threat, was under the effects of a drug that made him unstable; however, Ted never expresses any real remorse for the action (in fact, he tries to justify strapping a bomb to himself and holding up an entire office building as something anyone would do). And later, while in his 'sane' state of mind, he continually does extreme things like threatening or even enacting violence against people who act under the impression he might be a touch crazy (threatening Angie in the intro to part 3 and beating the player character to death whenever they fail the actual interrogation), escaping police custody multiple times, and forcing you to help him by holding you at gunpoint, claiming he has "nothing to lose".
      • Having a troublesome marriage? Just give your wife expensive jewelry! She'll forget about all your problems because material wealth trumps working out your differences! To be fair, you will fail if you don't get them to agree on something, and the game doesn't treat this as an outright happy ending since Helen admits to the player she's happier lying to herself that everything's OK, and it's just delaying the inevitable.
    • In The Track Meet, the player is always wrong to argue with adults, but if you don't correct the coach when he neglects to suspend you for your slipping grades, you get in trouble for trying to dupe him. Further, in the good ending, the coach skirts his own rules to cut you some slack while others get cut from the team. So, integrity means never questioning authority figures for any reason because they can never be wrong, unless you tell them to punish you, in which case they might be impressed enough to exempt you from the rules that are supposed to apply to everyone.
      • Added to this is the fact that your first two encounters in the game are with your history teacher and your coach, and you can be up front with them about your problems balancing your schoolwork and your track obligations, but neither one of them will actually acknowledge anything you're saying. The history teacher not-so-subtly accuses you of lying about the demanding practice schedule (even when the dialogue option notes that this is true) and the coach rejects your "apologies and excuses" because you were late (even though you're late because your teacher stopped you in the hall to talk) without actually bothering to process what you've said. This is less a game about sports ethics, and more a game about how much it sucks to be a kid under pressure to be perfect when the adults in your life ignore you until you start having trouble living up to their unrealistic demands, and their only solutions are lectures and punishments.
      • The Track Meet gets a bonus in-universe. The coach suspends a few players on the team because their grades have slipped, and then follows it up by saying that this isn't meant to be a punishment, but an incentive for players to find a balance between athletics and academics. If you say so, coach, but if it were about balance, there would be a minimum achievement on the track team to make you eligible to participate in classes. The students get suspended from the team because getting poor grades breaks the code of conduct, so yes, it is a punishment.
  • But Thou Must!: Even though the Ambition offers you choices, usually only one choice is ever the correct one. If more than one choice is considered correct, they still both lead to the same outcome, or an extremely similar outcome, with very minor differences.
    • Sir Basil Pike has a rather poorly done example. The player does have the option to skip some things, but the game still automatically assumes that you didn't. So, you could wind up being very confused when things like Janina's Animated Music Video and Julia running out of the classroom in tears occur if you don't choose the right options. The game also sometimes assumes that you chose certain options when you didn't, especially as you get closer to the end, so you can (and probably will) run into situations when the characters accuse you of putting someone up to something or lying when you chose no such option or never even saw the conversation where that would have happened.
    • Also in Sir Basil Pike, at the very beginning of the boy's route, when you see Dave riding away on the bike, you have the option to stop and make sure it's not your bike. If you choose this, however, you're told that not only can the story not proceed if you don't jump to conclusions, but most boys would just kick the other kid off the bike, so you're either exceptional or not a boy (or exceptional and not a boy, which seems like a pointless concession to make immediately after suggesting boys can only react to things with mindless violence). You get to choose whether you want to switch to the girl's route or pick a different choice.
  • Demoted to Extra: Jim is a main character in Episode 1, and then all but disappears (save for a few cameos) until Episode 10. Even then, he is still only a supporting character.
    • Frank Crabtree, too.
    • Despite being the main character, Ted Hadrup arguably gets this treatment as well. Starting with Episode 4, the focus starts to shift away from Ted and the plot becomes about the love triangle between Yale, Angie, and Helen. Later, it changes again to become about the mystery surrounding the murder of Angie. After Episode 3, the only excuse Ted has for still being in the game is the fact that he coincidentally escapes from custody around the same time that Angie is murdered. He gradually becomes less important, and by Episode 10, he exists solely for the villains to pin their crimes on. In that episode, he only appears in one full scene, and two quick cameos.
    • Dave the Brave in Sir Basil Pike. He plays a pretty important role in the boy's path on Monday, but after that, the one other time he speaks, it's in recycled lines.
  • Deranged Animation: Though it arises, appropriately, from the animators' ambition exceeding their capability, instead of on purpose.
  • Featureless Protagonist: You play as one in each game.
  • Find Out Next Time: Since most of Zapdramatic's games are episodic, naturally they usually have this at the end.
    • Episode 4 and onward of Ambition decided to raise some questions and encourage the player to find out in the next episode.
      • Subverted for Episode 9. The ending implied that you would play as a "business tycoon" talking to "pure evil". That never happened and a different scenario plays out instead.
      • Also subverted (for now, at least) in Episode 10. The cliffhanger was supposed to have been resolved in a sequel called "Ambition: The Mystery Continues." As of the present day, it has not been (and probably will not be) released.
    • Move or Die pulled this off with its original free demos, which ended before Syd and Wilma arrived at the House of Grimm. No new episodes have surfaced since the conclusion of that second part, however, despite that the ending says the story will have you continue to aid Syd and Wilma in reaching their destination of Montreal, a Staggered Zoom hints that the mayor of Moncton will become important later, and the website even claims that a 6-part television series is in the works.
  • Godwin's Law: While interrogating Yale as the detective, you get the option to compare something that Yale says to something that Adolf Hitler would have said. Much like a typical case of Godwin's Law, it makes no sense in the context it's used. You can also tell him he's "talking like a terrorist" which is almost as bad, and doesn't really make any more sense than the Godwin line.
    • In Sir Basil Pike, Ted indirectly compares his class to Nazis when discussing schadenfreude.
  • Insane Troll Logic: People who mumble to themselves incoherently and physically assault others for little reason are perfectly sane, bribery is the cornerstone of a healthy marriage, bullying makes you more dependable (except when the plot says it doesn't), and telling the truth results in everyone being miserable. The only two ways to make it through these games are either trial and error, or being Michael Gibson.
  • Lazy Artist: Many characters usually stand at the front of the camera, though some can face other directions. Particularly noticeable with Angie, who never once faces another direction. This may have to do with the fact she seems to be based upon clip art one can find upon the web, as are many of the other cast members.
  • Leitmotif: Especially in Ambition and Move or Die, many actions and plot twists are associated with a weird reverse-piano chord very similar to Roundabout.
  • Limited Animation: The characters appear to just slide around instead of walking, and their movements are jerky. Gibson somewhat attempted to hide his inability to animate walk cycles by having the characters' legs partially offscreen when they moved in Ambition. By the time he released Sir Basil Pike Public School, he apparently realized that this was a lost cause, as the characters all appear to have invisible wheels on their feet as their primary means of transportation.
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: The creator, Michael Gibson, along with Lisa Brown.
  • Mind Screw: The games have lot of non-sensical and straight up mind boggling moments both in and out of universe.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Bridget was likely an intended example, but, as outlined below in the Ambition section, it doesn't really work out.
    • Anne from Bikini Tennis, whose character model is much better done than Bridget's, is a more straight example.
  • Reused Character Design: Ted, and a few other characters, have appeared in many of Michael Gibson's other works under a different role.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: All over the place.
    • A particularly funny and ironic example in Ambition is that "doofus" is consistently misspelled as "dufous."
    • Played In-Universe in The Swearing Archer and the association (playable for free here). The characters spend more time accusing each other of mangling up words than actual negotiation.
  • Schedule Slip: Some episodic games had several years pass before the next part was released. Ambition has been on hiatus since 2006, assuming it isn't dead already.
    • Previous episodes have failed to come out even when deadlines were promised, too: Episode 10 went from "COMING THIS FALL!" to "COMING THIS WINTER!" to "COMING THIS SPRING!" to "COMING SOON!", and Episode 9 got its own interactive announcement to apologize for the lateness. Such delays have made users especially unhappy as registration fees only enable access to exclusive games for a set length of time, not in perpetuity.
    • With the death of Adobe Flash in 2021, most of Gibson's games are no longer playable unless they were uploaded to a site that converted them, so it's doubtful that he will make any further games.
    • Move or Die was To Be Continued in a TV series, which still has yet to materialize.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: A staple of the series, but most notable in Episode 10 of Ambition. When the player is walking out to his car, the only way to survive is to decide that your car has a bomb in it and go back to take a taxi instead. The thing is, there is absolutely no way to know this aside from trying to it once and dying - even Ted notes if you start acting wary of your car that you're "as paranoid as I am".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • In one of the game over scenarios in Episode 1 of Ambition, Ted asks you to feed his dog Bingo before detonating his bomb and blowing himself, and (presumably) everyone else in the building, to HELL! First of all, this raises the question of who will feed Bingo since the person Ted told to feed him has been killed. Secondly, Bingo is not mentioned at any other point in the game, so it's not known what happened to him.
    • Although Sir Basil Pike Public School is not a sequel to Ambition, it features many characters appearing in it. Since it was made after Ambition wrapped up, it isn't clear if that game took place in an alternate continuity, or if the conflict was just resolved offscreen.
    • In Move or Die, Mrs. Grimm and her butler are taken to jail, but the nursing home guy is not. Perhaps he was to return in the future installments of the series, which never came to fruition - at best, we can only assume he's still out on the highway, searching for that dropped envelope.
  • World Gone Mad: The creator's depiction of how the characters act ranges from "pretty odd" to "batshit insane", which makes it all the more hilarious when you realize he intended these scenarios to be as realistic as possible.
  • You All Look Familiar: Invoked - Michael Gibson has had other shorts too, and in fact, you can recognize a lot of characters from them. The cops, however, play this trope entirely straight.
    • The Klink International secretary is the woman at the return counter in one of his negotiation shorts. She even mentions having a previous job that was very stressful.
    • Bridget appears in another video where a woman steals a video tape from you and you have to talk her into giving it back to you, and a new description and ending teaser on Newgrounds imply she is the same character from Ambition.
    • Rolf Klink appeared previously in another video about convincing your boss to give you a raise.
    • When Ted runs through Klink international, he nearly bumps into a woman with orange hair who was in a mediating video with someone who was one of the cops.
    • Some of the more scary looking cops look like the one in the game where you talk your way out of a speeding ticket.
    • Ted Hartrup appears as a math teacher in Sir Basil Pike. Said game also includes Angie's neighbour as vice principal, and someone who looks can notice Angie's coworker as her apparent assistant.
    • The bailiff from episode 10 plays a history teacher in "The Track Meet" and "Sir Basil Pike Public School" as well as a supervisor at a consulting firm in the Professionalism and Ethics Simulation. Murray Farmer from that last simulation also makes cameos in episode 10 of Ambition.
    • The prosecuting attorney is also a ghoulish butler in "Move or Die" and a variety store cashier in the intro to the boy's story of "Sir Basil Pike Public School".

     Tropes appearing in Altered States, The Negotiator, and The Mediator 
  • Broken Aesop:
    • "The Raise" has a mouse spontaneously start talking to you, and listening to it when it tells you there's a stripper taking her clothes off right behind you gets you a game over, because as the game says, mice don't talk. However, the cop calls you a pervert when he drags you out of the room, implying that he can see her too. It's a little weird that of all the characters in the game, the boss is the only one who doesn't see a woman taking off her clothes. Also, once you hear the mouse, you don't ever get an option to break off the negotiation because you're clearly hallucinating from stress. Not to mention as well that the mouse comes back in Sir Basil Pike and acts as the main dispenser of advice.
    • Even winning the negotiation breaks its own message, in several different ways. Your goal is to talk to your boss about getting a raise because you need to pay for your cat's surgery and, overall, you can no longer maintain your current standard of living, but none of the successful paths properly deal with this issue. One way of winning is, rather than discuss the raise at all, go completely off-topic by discussing your boss's love life, which leads to him offering you a lump sum payment of $1,500 to write a speech for him to give at his anniversary; the game congratulates you for realizing that your boss doesn't value you enough to even consider a raise, as demonstrated by the fact that non-mouse-based game overs universally end with him firing you, but that doesn't seem to be the case when he's talking to you about his private life and asking you to write a speech for his anniversary with little prompting. The other path is to propose taking a web design class, wherein your boss states he'll consider giving you a raise six months from now if your new skills bring in extra business, which demonstrates another problem of the other good ending while running into its opposite: your only paths to victory are either a single payment that will fix your short-term problem of vet bills but do nothing for the long-term issue, or a promise of eventually solving your long-term issue which, by the time that happens, will be too late for your cat.
  • Broken Record: Invoked. If you agree to give the homeless man $200 in "Interview with a Vagabond", he will keep asking for more and more money with the same excuse every time until you say no, at which point he'll kill you.
  • Crazy Homeless People: The homeless man in "Interview with a Vagabond", who looks and sounds an awful lot like Ted from Ambition.
  • Fantastic Aesop: From "The Raise", don't listen to talking mice or you'll get arrested for staring at a hallucination of a stripper.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Like many ZapDramatic games, the player character is meant to be you, though the protagonist of "The Suspicious Cop" is implied to be female, as one of the dialog choices makes an off-hand remark about being emotionally vulnerable during this time of the month.
  • Impersonating an Officer: One of your dialog options in "The Suspicious Cop" is to say that you're a special agent with Control carrying a sample of e-coli. Amazingly, the cop buys it.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The objective of "The Raise", as it turns out, is not to get a raise, but realizing that the quality of your work makes you ill-suited for a pay hike and settling for some extra money writing a speech for your boss' 20th anniversary dinner.
  • Police Brutality: If in "The Suspicious Cop" you attempt to get out of a ticket by seducing the cop, he will immediately pull out his gun, declare you a sinner, and blast you in the face.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: The entire point of "The Lusty Barfly" is to extract a confidential VHS tape from the chest of the titular woman, who also happens to be pointing a gun at you.

     Tropes appearing in Ambition
The series' logo.
  • Aborted Arc: The ending of episode 9 informs us that we will be playing as Rolf Klink in the next episode and negotiating with "pure evil." None of that actually happens in episode 10. Except for the negotiating with pure evil part, which does happen in the last stretch of the episode.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: Ted sings it in episode 8.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Dr. Russell. He does complain about the police harassing him for his sexual proclivities, after all, though they are not stated.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Duke says he believes this in some of his dialogue in Act 10. Essentially, he believes that Paxwic is the future, and accuses Angie of trying to expose the drug's negative side effects not out of a sense of responsibility, but because she wanted fame and fortune. He also accuses the player character of doing the same thing for trying to discover the real killer instead of just letting Bridget burn. Duke says that he believes his purpose in life is to destroy those whose ambition stands in the way of societal progress.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: You'll advise nearly all the characters at some point in the series as the focus switches to each one.
    • Played straighter than usual near the end of Episode 5, where you are suddenly cast as an employee working in an office near Yale’s office, and you have to calm Helen down after she suddenly bursts in, grabs you beloved aunt's violin and threatens to smash Yale's head in with it.
  • Animation Bump: The characters in later episodes appear to be much more designed than the ones in the early episodes, who look rather blocky. Bridget is a rather good example - being much more thoroughly animated than the other characters, after having started life as just a new face pasted onto the Lusty Barfly. It looks almost like they had a completely different artist design the new characters.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Many of the episodes include a "hint" option. It doesn't really give you a hint, as it just points out what the right answer is, or informs you that you have reached the point of no return and resets the whole episode. Only a handful of episodes hide this feature or have a different take on it, such as episode 9 where failing three times has Duke take your place as the marriage counselor and walk you through the whole episode.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In Yale's part in Episode 5, you complete it by asking him if, since he intends to take his boss' position, he at least owes it to the man to make an effort to save his marriage to the man's only daughter. Yale admits you're right in that he owes his boss, and as bad as his marriage is to Helen, he did at least love her once. This makes him decide to try and make things work with Helen.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: Frequent with the character designs.
  • Asshole Victim: Ted can be a dick to others, even those who intend to help him. To be fair, it's not like he can trust everyone, considering what he's been through and the lies that circulate. He's actually more calm around Bridget.
    • Bridget in episode 10.
    • Yale in episode 10. He may be a philanderer and kind of a misogynist jerk, but he doesn't deserve to be framed for a murder he didn't commit.
  • Author Avatar: Ted is theorized to be one for Michael Gibson. Supported by the fact that Ted used to appear in sarcastic "rants," such as this one (warning, some NSFW content).
  • Author Tract:
    • The game is peppered with things that conservatives usually say, such as Rolf Klink saying that the two biggest threats are taxes and government regulation. However, Rolf is stated to be a member of the Fascist Party. There's also a part where Yale tells Helen to "get off [her] hypocritical liberal high horse," when she wasn't saying anything political at all.note  Either Michael Gibson is a conservative, or is trying to create a bizarre parody of them.
    • The running theme of authority figures being dicks.
    • Zapdramatic seems to be fond of these even outside of Ambition. The Psychic Ted spin-off flash (which is just supposed to be a "pick a number, do some math to get another number, and the flash will guess that number" flash) will occasionally have Ted suddenly launch into a rant about the United Nations.
    • Also in part 6, when talking to Yale he launches into a completely off-topic "greed is good" rant, which is noteworthy in that Gibson allows the player to set themselves up as his Strawman Political. If you argue that the Roe Commission on Pay Equity reported a direct positive relationship between compensation and productivity, Yale immediately informs you that there was no Roe Commission on Pay Equity, and calls you a moron. Even better, the game then forces the player to keep making themselves look stupid by offering only antagonistic and ignorant dialog options, including the option to compare Yale to Hitler. The only way to NOT humiliate yourself at that point is just to start the interrogation over.
  • Ax-Crazy: Ted is implied and half the cast implicate him to be this. He's not.
    • Episode 5 has Helen nearly descending into this after finding out about Yale's affair.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: Duke is revealed to be acting as The Dragon to Rolf Klink.
  • Big Bad: Rolf Klink
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: There are a few episodes that do this, usually to have the characters respond to you, and sometimes they tell you they will not go with what you're saying, instead going the route the game tells them to.
  • Call-Back: A minor one in episode 10, when the first day of the trial ends with the player getting into an elevator with a pair of burka-wearing Muslim women, who end up as victims in an attempt on the player's life. At the end of the second day, a Muslim man shows up at the courtroom asking Jim if he's seen his wife and daughter.
  • Callousness Towards Emergency: Yale won't help you escape from the people who just threatened to murder you because he's too busy holding a dinner party.
  • Cardboard Prison: Ted escapes from police custody twice over the course of the series. Bridget even calls the police out on their incompetence when the second one happens. It's justified, because Ted is being allowed to escape by the real villains so that they can frame him for their murders - case in point, if you double-cross Duke on Day Three of the trial after he threatens you, the power to the courtroom is cut (so that he can get rid of you in the confusion) and the blame is immediately pinned on Ted escaping again.
  • Catchphrase: Early on, the episodes would all end with a female character saying "I need a cigarette." This didn't last long, though.
  • Complexity Addiction: The whole conspiracy that forms the plot of the series is ridiculously convoluted and pointlessly complex. Especially since it's strongly implied that practically everyone involved (up to and including the judge at Bridget's trial) is part of the conspiracy, so there's very little reason for Ted to be involved at all, let alone be the one framed for Angie's murder.
  • Continuity Nod: Yale is subtly implied to have been the player character in The Raise. He is an employee of Rolf Klink, and in part 5 he mentions he "has to write a speech", which is presumably the same one Rolf is seen giving at the beginning of part 7. The stripping woman the player sees if they choose to turn away from Rolf (that may or may not have been a hallucination) also bears some resemblance to his wife, Helen.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Rolf Klink.
  • Crapsack World: Corruption is implied to be rampant in the setting.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: A minor, and probably unintentional example. Rolf Klink's picture in the newspaper blinks, for some reason. It's not referenced in the game and was most likely the result of an error on the animator's part.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Because Episode 9 enables you to have him play the game for you, this episode could focus entirely on Duke being the protagonist.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: In episode 1, Ted straps dynamite to his chest and threatens to blow up himself and the surrounding building. If the player chooses to shoot him, Ted's thumb lands on the detonator switch and sets off the bomb. As the game tells you:
    Firing upon an emotionally disturbed person who is wearing a bomb is not very smart. Even if your bullet were to kill him instantly (which is highly unlikely) he could still fall on the detonator, and blow you, and all the people you are supposed to serve and protect, to kingdom come!
  • Delusions of Eloquence: The characters occasionally drop out-of-place flowery words in relatively casual dialogue. It can get pretty jarring. When the player accuses Yale of being defensive:
    Yale: No, I'm not being defensive per se. I was simply stating a fact quod erat demonstrandum.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Police chief Frank Crabtree, who apparently likes to joke with Rolf Klink about walling up his fellow officers in concrete.
    • Duke Crabtree, who is by his own words a terrorist.
    • Jim, maybe. He's seen following the villain's orders a few times, but it's unknown if he works directly for him.
  • Downer Ending/Left Hanging: With the exception of proving both Ted and Bridget not guilty, the player, as in the person who sat through this whole game, gains no meaningful resolution as both Rolf Klink and Duke Crabtree threatened to kill you if you don't frame someone else, and Yale ends up being imprisoned for the murder he didn't commit. To make matters worse, the series has been on halt since 2006!
  • The Dragon: Duke Crabtree to Rolf Klink.
  • Driven to Suicide: Episode 1 started with Ted willing to commit suicide with a bomb strapped around his waist. He calms down after episode 2 though.
  • Driving Question: The early episodes give such questions to us explicitly: "Is he crazy? Or is he the victim of a horrendous, mind-warping crime? Is his ex-wife Bridget capable of such a deed? Will Bridget get away with it?" Later it becomes, "Who is the killer? Ted? Helen? Yale? Or somebody else? Is it a simple crime of passion or something more sinister?"
  • Drop-In Nemesis: Throughout the series, but two of the most flagrant examples occur during Episode 10: the driver attempting to run you and Ted over in the garage, and Ted cutting the power to the courtroom. Neither of these events occurs if you choose the correct dialogue options.
  • Dull Surprise: How Yale reacts to the news that Angie is pregnant with his child.
    Yale: ...Oh.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Episode 10.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Yale does often come across as a jerkass and does a lot of morally questionable things. However, in one of the bad endings of Episode 10, it is shown that he at least takes his profession as a lawyer seriously. If you tell him that Rolf Klink thinks it would be best for everyone if Ted takes the fall for Angie's murder. Yale angrily says that he doesn't think that would be best for Ted and says that he'll see us disbarred for saying that (you play Bridget's defense attorney in that episode).
  • Evil All Along: Duke Crabtree.
  • External Combustion: Done to your car in Episode 10.
  • Fall Guy: Yale in Episode 10. Since no new content has been released since, it can be assumed that he's still rotting in jail for a crime he didn't commit.
  • Fan Disservice: During a scene in Episode 10 showing Bridget wearing a bra and green pants, Rolf Klink walks in wearing nothing but a towel.
  • Fantastic Drug: According to Yale Johnson in Episode 6, Paxwic is a new anti-depressant developed to subdue prisoners by making them blissed-out and non-violent. Angie was pursuing a study showing that Paxwic also has the effect of destroying the user's critical thinking ability, which would make her enemies with the manufacturer Somaplex if her paper on the side effects were to be published. Later we learn that Ted was injected with an ominously-labeled faulty batch of Paxwic which could have heightened his anxiety just before he woke up to his blood-splattered apartment.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: Ted's ramblings in Episode 3 amount to this.
  • Fighting Back Is Wrong: In Episode 10, when Duke takes over your taxi with the goal of kidnapping and murdering you, one of the options for the player to deal with this situation is to punch him in the face and try to escape. This gets the player immediately killed when the car collides with a speeding city bus with the word "KARMA" on the front display. (And lest the player assume this is Duke's karma, this doesn't happen if you choose to simply go along with being kidnapped.) It is at least true that punching out the person driving a vehicle that you're riding in is probably a dumb thing to do, but there aren't very many people aside from Michael Gibson who would try to argue that fighting (non-lethally, even) for your life against a serial murderer is an act of heinous evil worthy of a Karmic Death.
  • Flanderization: When Yale is introduced in Episode 2, he comes across as a nice guy, if slightly uptight. Fast-forward to Episode 9, and he's turned into a pretentious jerkass.
    • The sheer difficulty of speaking to Ted only seemed to get worse as the episodes went on, to the point that you couldn't even speak to the character in Episode 6 without him telling you to get out of his sight.
  • Follow the Leader: While the first few entries predate it, later games in the Ambition series clearly draw heavily on elements of Ace Attorney, especially in episode 10.
  • Freudian Slip: Yale does this in Episode 9.
    Yale: I love you, money— I mean honey.
    • Also in Episode 2.
    Angie: Tell him we've found his kids and they're safe.
    Yale: Ted, your lips are safe.
  • Gambit Roulette: The plot to set Ted on a Paxwic-fueled frenzy, then frame him for Angie's murder is incredibly, unnecessarily convoluted. Doubly so once you realize that they seemingly didn't even try to complete the plan the first time around. Instead, they set Ted up as a crazed lunatic, caught him, and then allowed him to escape so they can capture him again. Firstly, if they had simply had Angie killed while Ted was still under the drug's effects the first time, none of the other attempts would have been necessary, and neither would the murders of other seemingly random people. This is doubly strange when you remember that, according to Bridget, almost everybody involved, including the judge, are actually in on the conspiracy, they probably could have simply had Angie killed anonymously and had the case worked in any way they desired, making Ted's entire involvement unnecessary.
    • Likewise to make things even more incomplete, they set off Ted's anxiety by making him wake up with beet juice all over the apartment looking like it's blood...however no one bothered to come back to clean the mess up after Ted leaves to go on his rampage so the evidence of very clear foul play is just left sitting in his apartment.
  • Gonk: The prosecutor in Episode 10. He has yellow teeth, and the way his face is drawn makes him look like he's wearing a saggy mask made from human skin. Some have noticed that he actually looks quite a bit like the Colossal Titan in Attack on Titan.
    • And the stenographer, who appears to be a globular mass of melting human flesh with a mustache tacked on, thanks to a static pose that does little to separate his face from the hand he's resting it on.
    • Ted and Bridget's children both look like Bobby Hill, if Bobby Hill was a wide-eyed, naked, amorphous blob.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Possibly. Bridget seems more of an accomplice than the perpetrator. Played somewhat straight with Ted and Yale.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Duke says things like "what the begiddely."
  • Greater-Scope Villain: It's implied the reason why Rolf Klink cares so much about Paxwic's development despite being terminally ill (and therefore unable to reap any of the profits) is because of corporate and military investors who could make his last days VASTLY less pleasant should he choose not to cooperate with them. The end of episode 9 teased that we would meet these people in episode 10, but sadly that didn't happen.
  • Groin Attack: The player has the option of doing this to Duke in Episode 10, who quickly regains his composure before shooting him.
  • Guide Dang It!: Episode 10 has no hint feature, and there are a couple points in the game that will force you to continue, even if there are no winning solutions. This becomes confusing as a major scene can occur after negotiating with Rolf, and it turns out to be a dead end. The "replay from last mistake" option does help this a little.
  • Hand Wave: When Ted is declared legally sane and aware of his actions, the story allows him to shirk criminal responsibility by passing off his previous behavior as a "temporary dissociative state" resulting from the shock of discovering that his kids are missing.
  • Hanging Judge: The judge in Episode 10 is clearly on the prosecution's side for most of the trial (though he'll flip-flop at the drop of a hat) and boots the player off the case for any reason. He'll also frequently accuse the player of being incompetent, but kicks them off the case if they do the same to Duke when he takes the stand.
  • Hollywood Law: According to this game since Ted is declared legally sane, he is not responsible for his actions. In real life, that would make him criminally responsible for his actions.
    • The trial in Episode 10, which seems cobbled together from half-remembered episodes of Law & Order.
    • In episode 2 (The Vagabond), Dr. Raleigh's preferred method of investigation seems to be: "Hmm, there's blood splattered all over the place - I better taste it just to be sure!"
      • Episode 2 also introduces Dr. Raleigh as a "psychologist and a police negotiator". In the intro, however, she's seen doing crime scene investigation, which is not quite in the department of a real-life psychologist / negotiator.
  • Hypocrite: The judge. In two different game overs. He can fire you because he sees you as incompetent, and he can also fire you for questioning the competence of a police officer.
  • Idiot Ball: Bridget seems to take a massive decline in intelligence during her trial, to the point of insulting, arguing with, and deliberately provoking both the judge and you, her own lawyer. This makes the job of defending her that much more difficult.
  • Improvised Weapon: Helen, threatening to beat Yale into porridge with a $12,000 violin.
  • Insistent Terminology/Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Bridget only ever refers to Yale as "the black dude."
  • Karma Houdini: Rolf Klink and Duke Crabtree because the series has No Ending.
  • Karmic Death: In Episode 10, after Duke hijacks your taxi with the stated intention of kidnapping and murdering you, if the player takes the option to punch Duke in the nose and try to escape, then the player is immediately killed, flattened by a speeding city bus with the word "KARMA" on the front display. Because Fighting Back Is Wrong apparently.
  • Knight Templar: Duke Crabtree. As mentioned in Ambition Is Evil, Duke states in episode 10 that he believes his purpose in life is to kill those whose personal ambitions stand in the way of societal progress... it just happens that his definition of "threats to societal progress" includes corporate whistle-blowers and crusading defense attorneys.
  • Lady Macbeth: Bridget appears to be a poor man's version of this.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: An oddly literal example happens in Episode 10, after Duke hijacks your taxi; punching him on the nose causes him to lose control of the taxi, which then collides head-on with a bus which has the word "KARMA" written in huge letters on its windshield. This is recycled from Move or Die, where Syd and Wilma immediately face the music for their attempt to rob a dead man.
  • Last Request: In episode 1, if the cop shoots Ted, before he dies, he begs for someone to feed his dog.
  • Lights Off, Somebody Dies: Happens in one of the game overs in Episode 10 if you choose to doublecross Rolf and Duke in court. The lights go off, and Jim the cop comes in and evacuates the building because Ted has supposedly escaped and cut the power. Duke kills you as you are leaving.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Averted with Ted Hadrup, Yale Johnson, and Rolf Klink, who have three outfits, but played straight with everyone else.
    • Almost everyone gets a change of clothes in Episode 10. The only characters to play it straight are Frank and Duke Crabtree and Dr. Russell. Angie is a borderline case, since she's seen wearing a different blouse during Ted's initial trial, but it's obviously just a recolored version of her usual one.
  • Love Triangle: Yale, Angie and Helen.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Helen punches Yale in the face in episode 2 with enough force to give him a nosebleed. His only reaction is to say "ow!" in a way that one might say it if they bumped themselves on something.
    • There's also Duke's reaction to being kicked in the crotch in Episode 10. He just says "ow, why'd you do that?" and then pulls out his gun and shoots you. Those who see Duke as a Memetic Badass just write this off as another example of his being a badass.
  • Malaproper: Most of the characters count as this. One notable example comes when Duke says that he "fingered [Yale] for a bad dude," when he really meant to say "figured" (which also doubles as an Accidental Innuendo).
  • The Man Behind the Man: Rolf Klink seems to be this to both Duke and Bridget. The ending of the marriage counselor implied the final episode would involve the player taking on Klink's role and talking to "pure evil".
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Duke's antagonism come from the fact he is just an annoying brat (or at least that's the intention) and really he is better when he is helping you. When he tries killing you he succeeds more by dumb luck than anything since you can overpower him with a few punches.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot, Government Conspiracy: Maybe.
    Bridget: They're all in on it. The Judge, the cops.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: A possible motive for Angie's murder.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Angie. She reveals it to Yale as leverage in episode 5.
  • No Ending: Episode 10 ends with Yale getting arrested after you make a deal with Rolf and Duke to let you live if you retract your question about Duke's notebook. The Find Out Next Time message mentions an all-new cycle called "Ambition- The Mystery Continues," but no new content has been released since about 2006.
  • Non-Entity General: The player character from episodes 6-9 is not given much of a history, beyond being a detective who annoyed the Superintendent with some remark. The defense attorney from episode 10, is given even less history. In episode 5, you're essentially someone whose office Helen runs in.
    • In episodes 1, 2, 4 and the beginning of 5, the game does not even assign a character (if any). With 4, it's assumed that you are an acquaintance of Yale and Angie (presumably two different acquaintances), while 1, 2, and the start of 5 just has you advising them, regardless of whoever you are.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever the player character said to annoy Frank Crabtree on Sunday in episode 6. Attempting to find out only fails the negotiation for extra time.
  • No-Sell: Helen hits Yale a few times in Episode 5, and he doesn't even acknowledge it.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Ted jumps out of a very high window, but lands on a mattress truck and is completely fine.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: While the series usually switches perspective to show every major occurrence as it becomes relevant, it makes a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot out of the circumstances of Angie's murder by forcing the player to piece together what happened from statements given by witnesses, some of whom may be lying about the details, which include some sort of stolen car chase. The most we see of it in person is Ted howling about freedom near a worried-looking Angie.
  • One-Word Title
  • Orphaned Series: It's been over a decade since the tenth episode, and neither a new episode or sequel has come out. It was revealed in one of Retsupurae's "Retsutalk" podcasts that Michael Gibson was in the planning stages of five or six new episodes, but nothing's come from that after another decade.
  • Papa Wolf: Ted Hadrup, despite his suicidal tendencies, genuinely loves his sons and will do anything to see them again.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Anti-feministic" and "intellegosity," among others.
  • Pixel Hunt: The crime scene investigations in Episode 6, particularly the search through a room which is merely a photograph so blurred that nothing stands out but the furniture.
  • Plot Hole:
    • Rolf Klink fills so many CEO roles that the plot rests on him refusing to buy from himself if the Paxwic deal doesn't go through.
    • A minor example: In the introduction to Tryst - Part 2, Angie reveals to Yale that she is pregnant with their child. You can mention the issue as the player detective in the next episode (The Suspects), where Yale actually sounds genuinely surprised, even though he was aware of the matter beforehand.
  • Point of No Return: Using the hint system in certain sections will tell you that you have reached this point and cannot win the game and resets it for you.
  • Police Are Useless: Ted believes that the police cannot help him. Supported by the fact that they can't even hold Ted, especially after escaping twice before episode 10!
    • Possibly justified. Ted has escape custody twice in a row, which followed with a couple of murders. The third time he's caught, Duke wanted to pin your murder on him! This implies that they made it easy for Ted to escape just so he can be pinned in a couple of murders.
  • Properly Paranoid: As crazy as the characters can act sometimes it's hard not to sympathize with them at least a bit, considering the amount of corruption showed in the game's world. This also goes for Ted, who claims he was dosed with an experimental drug, strapped with dynamite, and placed in a staged bloodbath scene designed to make him go temporarily insane all so that some corporate suits could frame him for the murder of a completely unrelated person days later... and that ridiculous premise turns out to be completely true! In a world with that level of crazy evil going on it would be stupid not to be paranoid.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The series' soundtrack largely consists of Gnossiennes 1, 3 and 4 by Erik Satie.
  • Railroading: At least one episode will have the characters talk to you about how they're not gonna do what you're suggesting, and instead go the way that they wish to go.
  • Reused Character Design: Practically everyone in Ambition appears in at least one other ZapDramatic negotiation game in a new role, not always with the same name or voice. Ted is an unusual case in that his voice and Author Filibuster tendencies match the character from "Interview with a Vagabond", but he looks completely different. As Episode 2 once refers to Ted as "The Vagabond", we may be expected to believe that this is after he raised enough money to clean himself up and get back on his feet. Jim the cop is another of ZapDramatic's most frequently Recurring Characters, to the point of leading players to debate whether we keep running into the same busy cop, or if the entire police force is made up of clones of Jim.
    • Word of God states that Jim is a separate character from the monochrome cop. That doesn't clear up too much, but it means that the town has at least two cops, as opposed to one.
  • Retcon: Rolf Klink in Negotiator part 3 mentioned having a wife and plans on hosting an anniversary dinner. Either Rolf divorced his wife at some point to date Bridget, that part got completely dropped, or the negotiator pertains to its own continuity (which has yet to be confirmed).
    • Based on a comment made by Helen in Episode 9, it's possible that Rolf is having an affair with Bridget, though why he'd attend a public meeting with his mistress instead of his wife is anybody's guess.
    • Early in the game, Ted is said to be a construction worker, explaining where he got the dynamite from. This is later changed to somebody else drugging him and giving him the dynamite.
    • In episode 6 (The Suspects), you can interview Angie's neighbors, who tell the player that both her parents died in a car accident. Later on, you can interview Yale, who calls her "Dr. Killup". When asked about the name, Yale reveals it's Angie's maiden name, which she changed due to having an estranged relationship with her father, who is suddenly still alive and lives in Florida as a pensioner.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: More so in the later episodes. Made especially jarring because, as mentioned above, characters often use flowery words that sound out of place in casual conversation.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Rolf Klink is a member of the Fascist Party of America... and is named Klink?
    • Surprisingly Averted as many people assume the tenth episode is based on Ace Attorney. While Ambition and Ace Attorney did actually start around the same time (both in 2001), Ace Attorney never left Japan until Ambition was winding down with what would be its last episode.
  • Significant Anagram: Typical of Zap Dramatic, it's spelled wrong, but "Ted Hartrup" is a few e's short of being "Pure Hearted". This is probably intentional, since his surname changes from "Hadrup" after the Ambition series cements his characterization as a morally-faultless and devout Christian.
    • Hadrup is also the laziest anagram ever for "Hard Up" which is also probably intentional, given it describes his put upon status pretty well.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: Yale and Helen have one in Episode 4.
  • Soft Glass: At the end of Episode 1, Ted escapes Klink International by bursting through a large glass window with one limp jump.
  • Stupid Evil / Revealing Cover-Up: If you agree to go along with Rolf and Duke's plan to frame Yale for the murders in exchange for Ted's freedom, but then go back on your word and reveal the plot in court, a Game Over cut scene plays in which, immediately after this information is revealed, the power goes out in the courtroom, which is then evacuated, while Duke stays behind and kills you with a tire iron, right there in the middle of the courtroom. One has to wonder how stupid or crooked the area's entire legal system has to be for this not to be the most obvious cover-up ever.
    • If you actually take the time to analyze Rolf Klink's plan, you'll find that it is actually really stupid. Paxwic was a new drug that was coming out, and Angie wrote a negative report about it. If the report came out, Rolf Klink, the boss of Paxwic's producer, Somaplex, wouldn't buy any real estate from Rolf Klink. So, Rolf is trying to make money by buying from himself.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: Sometimes, you may find a choice that falls into this, like Yale scolding a man armed with a bomb strapped to his chest for insulting Helen. Good thing he happens to be sympathetic towards Yale.
  • Sudden Name Change: Angie appeared to be a case of this, going from "Dr. Killup" in episode 2 to "Dr. Raleigh" in episode 4, but in episode 6 Yale explains that Angie was in the process of changing her name to dissociate herself from her abusive father. This might have been a clever Retcon of the author's forgetfulness if Yale didn't go on to mention that Angie's father still lives in Florida, contradicting the Tarts' statement in the same episode that Angie lost her parents in a car accident two years ago.
  • Suicide Attack: Ted Hadrup tries this in episode one. He ends up jumping out the window.
    • Does it again in episode 2 as he hitches a ride. Yale convinces him to not go through with it though.
  • Timed Mission: Episode 6 is of the kind where every action deducts a certain number of minutes from a time limit given to find a suspect. It is widely considered the Scrappy Mechanic for several reasons:
    • It is all too easy to accidentally reexamine a piece of evidence, which takes just as many minutes as the first time again.
    • Dialog trees often lead the player in circles while looking for unasked questions to pop up again.
    • Said dialogs take many more minutes off the timer than it actually takes to listen to the dialog.
    • The superintendent stops the investigation before the last hour has even begun, possibly to try to avoid a bug where a negative hour value keeps looping the game back to Dr. Russell. Even a player who has a good idea of what needs to be done may find it tough to squeeze in a complete interview at Bridget's house.
  • Title Drop: In episode 10.
    Duke: Dr. Raleigh suffered from the same problem you do: ambition.
    • Also in the private meeting in episode 9:
    Helen: His cold heart is ruled by blind ambition. He's a psychopath.
    • It can be invoked in episode 4 by Yale if you get a game over, or by Angie if you ask what love means to her.
  • Token Minority: Yale.
  • Transplant: Virtually every character from Zapdramatic's previous Negotiator games take on a major role in this series and onward.
  • Tyop on the Cover: Episode 9 is titled "The Marriage Counsellor".
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Ted and Bridget were probably intended to be this, though Bridget is (for the most part) only considered attractive in-universe.
  • Undisclosed Funds: Averted; you aunt's precious violin is specifically noted to be worth twelve-thousand dollars.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: Episode 6 plays out like a detective game, requiring you to negotiate for more time (the game is nearly impossible otherwise), and use the time to gather all the evidence and information within that in-game time limit, with a couple of negotiation sequences.
    • Episode 9 takes the 'gameplay' from part one of the Mediator. Basically, you have to interject at the right moment, probably making this the hardest of all the episodes. Luckily, failing three times gives you the option to let Duke do it all for you.
  • Unnamed Parent: "The Trial" goes out of its way to avoid naming Bridget's mother. It skips over when she's called to the stand, and dialog choices refer to her as "Grandma".
  • Unusual Euphemism: According to Yale, Helen "puts the screws to [him]."
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The desk lady in the first episode, while a little worried about Ted, who has a bomb strapped to himself, is rather stoic about it. Another lady Ted bumps into seems to overlook the dynamite and mistakes him for a pushy courier.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: It's definitely there, given the fact you usually serve as the adviser for all opposing parties involved, somewhat defeating the purpose of finding a logical conclusion. So feel free to give really bad advice or do really stupid things—it's not like losing has significant consequences.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Honestly, who seriously thinks that the option in episode 8 to "Tell Duke he is a meddling creep and punch him in the nose" will do anything but that? Though, Frank telling him to don't be a pussy does make it worth it.
    • This gets called back in episode 10, where you have the option to punch Duke again. Unfortunately, he's hi-jacked the taxi you're riding in.
    • Episode 2, if you choose to consult Helen, have the option to allow her to punch Yale, and even punch Ted, just in case you are feeling suicidal.
  • Wham Line: Episode 10 has this gem:
    "Calmly ask Duke why he has hijacked your taxi cab"
    Duke: [in his high-pitched, nasally voice] Because I'm a terrorist!
  • Wham Shot: Moments before the Wham Line, you look at the taxi driver's ID with the mugshot of a stereotypical Arabian taxi driver. Then the camera pulls up to reveal a familiar redhead has hijacked the cab.
  • Woman Scorned: Helen. She probably isn't the killer, though.
  • X-Ray Sparks: Episode 10 does this whenever the Dramatic Thunder sounds.
    • Oddly, even the statue has a skeleton for some reason.
  • You Know Who Said That?: When Bridget is attempting to refute the facts linking her to Angie's murder, she says "facts are the enemy of truth" and then quotes this trope verbatim. Ironically, the context of the quote is the opposite of what Bridget intended (it was said by a delusional man arguing that his delusions are real in spite of the facts, Bridget is using it to imply that there is more to the story than the facts show), and even worse it wasn't even said by who she thinks it was (she attributes it to Miguel de Cervantes, from his work Don Quixote, it's actually from Man of La Mancha, Dale Wasserman's play based on Cervantes' book; Wasserman's name isn't even an option to answer her question with).
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already: Glaringly averted in Episode 10 when the player's car is booby-trapped. There's no way that the player character should know this without unlocking the car and blowing themselves up, and yet they're given dialogue options where they just magically know about it. Somewhat lampshaded by Ted, who remarks that they're being just as paranoid as he is. Although given Bridget warned you that you might be targeted and the fall guy is right in front of you is kind of a heads up.

     Tropes appearing in Move or Die
Move or Die logo.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Carla's skin is a strange bluish white color. She's probably supposed to be really pale from not being allowed outside.
  • And Starring: Jackie Burroughs as Mrs. Grimm.
  • Artifact Title: The game is named Move or Die because of its gameplay mechanic where you are forced to resolve each situation within a certain number of moves or else you die. This gameplay mechanic only lasts for the first few challenges, though, and becomes this trope for the entire other 3/4ths of the game.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Syd and Wilma are seemingly incapable of not antagonizing people, no matter how obvious it is that they're in over their heads. Syd tries to bully Mrs. Grimm if you let him talk to her and gets everyone killed. If you let Wilma talk to the nursing home guy while he's holding them at gunpoint she accuses him of having a small penis and gets everyone killed.
  • Broken Aesop: The game's premise is on advising a pair of siblings to make more ethical decisions than they would have on their own, and ultimately help them to become better people than they were before they met you. That premise very quickly falls by the wayside when it becomes immediately clear that the two are simply not capable of interacting with another human being, even one another, without actively antagonizing them for no reason, and will never learn from their numerous mistakes - they're on the road in the first place in part because Syd is on the run from an assault charge, where the first thing you see them do is argue about whether they missed their turn by having Syd turn off the car's headlights to try to force Wilma to stop, to which she responds by slamming down as hard as possible on the gas out of spite, and it just gets worse from there. The game very quickly stops being about advising them to make better decisions, and starts being about fighting to keep them out of the negotiation and decision-making processes entirely, because they will without fail get the whole group killed if you ever let them have a say in anything.
  • Broken Record: As with the Vagabond from Altered States, simply giving Mrs. Grimm the money won't work as she will simply ask for more, more, and more (acting the whole while as if you're only offering a tenth of the money rather than the full amount) until you finally cut her off, at which point Syd freaks out about you giving away "their" money and gets everyone killed.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: This is the first Zap Dramatic production where you get to see what your character looks like: a googly-eyed silhouette.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': A bus almost hits Syd and Wilma when they consider robbing the dead man. It will finish them off if the nursing home guy discovers they pocketed the money. Yet in the end, Mrs. Grimm destroys the evidence of their reckless driving, and so they do get away with that at least.
  • Compensating for Something: Wilma suggests that the nursing home guy needs a gun to compensate for "a lack of firepower elsewhere", as he's pointing that gun at them. Predictably, he attempts to shoot them for it.
  • Creepy Housekeeper: The prosecutor from Ambition appears as a ghoulish butler.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: While helping out around Mrs. Grimm's house, Carla accidentally breaks an $80 vase. As punishment she is forced to work off eight thousand dollars, a 10,000% increase from the actual price, which we're told will take her over a decade! The whole time she's also treated like a slave, disallowed from seeing her family or even going outside, and is clearly living in constant fear for her life.
  • Evil Old Folks: Mrs. Grimm and the butler. Mrs. Grimm is extorting slave labor out of a young girl. The Butler is her underling who does anything she asks, even multiple homicide.
  • For the Evulz: Mrs. Grimm. After discovering she has arbitrarily increased Carla's debt by 10,000% she at first claims the increase is to cover the vase's "sentimental value" but later admits that she just enjoys seeing people suffer.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Mrs. Grimm.
  • Kick the Dog: At one point while negotiating with Mrs. Grimm, she'll grab a moth from the air and casually tear it apart with her hands while talking to you. This is never brought up again and only serves to arbitrarily show how evil she is.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Mrs. Grimm is perhaps the closest thing to a genuinely threatening villain in any of Zap Dramatic's flashes. She has very few comedic moments, intentional or otherwise.
  • Lights Off, Somebody Dies: Happens if you let Syd try to negotiate with Mrs. Grimm, as Knowlton grabs the rest of your party in the dark once Syd fails.
  • Officer O'Hara: The female police officer who shows up at Mrs. Grimm's house has a heavy Irish brogue.
  • Piranha Problem: Mrs. Grimm has a trap door with a tank of piranhas in it, which she will send you down if you fail the negotiation with her.
  • Pretentious Pronunciation:
    • The characters pronounce the word "vase" as "vahs," rather than the much more common "vayce."
    • Mrs. Grimm also pronounces "demise" as "demees."
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "Newton's Apple" by Danny Michel.
  • Sleazy Politician: Wilma had an affair with the mayor, whom she was an intern for, and got caught by his wife.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The game's main theme, "Newton's Apple," is an upbeat love song. This game, on the other hand, is perhaps the darkest thing Gibson's ever done.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Syd and Wilma, even by the already low standards of Zap Dramatic characters. The game starts out with your character "advising" the two, but the only way to pass the early chapters is to realize that advising them to do anything even approaching intelligent, rational or sane is impossible and just take over. Seriously, even Ted, Yale, Helen, and others could eventually be convinced to be reasonable, but not these two! They're greedy, pointlessly antagonistic at all times, and will absolutely get your entire party killed if you let them so much as open their mouths around dangerous characters like Mrs. Grimm or the nursing home worker.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: You start the series out as a hitchhiker who wakes up from the backseat of Syd and Wilma's car after they run over the corpse, now tasked with advising the couple on their moral choices. There is no backstory to how you ended up there in the first place yet both Syd and Wilma will only occasionally refuse to follow your advice.
  • Work Off the Debt: Carla must work for Mrs. Grimm after she breaks a vase of hers.

     Tropes appearing in Sir Basil Pike Public School
Logo for Sir Basil Pike Public School.
  • Aborted Arc: The Big Game and school dance never actually happen.
  • Abusive Parents: Implied with Janina's mother. The one scene she "appears" in (we don't even see her, only her shadow) involves such gems as proudly proclaiming that she denies her daughter internet access, and the implication that she's using custody of her daughter as a weapon against her ex-husband.
    Janina's Mom: Her father is a dead-beat Dad the poor girl hasn't seen in years.
    Janina: Because YOU won't allow it!
    Janina's Mom: Do you see how tragic this is? She tries to defend him!
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Bringing the stolen bike issue to Mr. Hartrup results in him confiscating it and not helping solve the problem in the least, preferring to spout a tired old riddle that won't help even if you know the story (because he's forcing you to be the bad guy) rather than actually do anything.
    • It's even worse on the girl's side of Monday; if the player goes to him for help with the sleepover issue he starts to talk to you about it, claiming that talking to an adult is the first thing you should do... then immediately says he doesn't have time to help you right now and very intentionally sends you back to the group that is bullying you, fully aware you are being bullied and deciding not to do anything about it.
  • Alpha Bitch: Possibly Peg.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Peg and Dave the Brave both appear to be Hispanic.
  • Angrish: On Monday, the vice principal seems to be unable to communicate in anything other than turkey gobbles.
  • Animated Music Video: Each time Janina plays her song for you it shifts into this; the background changes and even backup dancers (played by the other characters, despite them having nothing to do with the song) appear. The effect is quite jarring to say the least.
  • Broken Aesop: Quite a few, actually.
    • It's ostensibly an anti-bullying game. The problem? The core gameplay mechanic is all about building up your "persuasive power" to become a more popular and charismatic member of your peer group, and this is achieved primarily by being a bully. You're encouraged to take cheap shots whenever possible, like making fun of a stuttering kid's speech impediment or threatening physical violence, and while the game claims such cheap victories can just as easily become losses, they never actually do unless you perform whatever action the game has determined is a bad one - which, for the record, includes apologizing for doing any of the above, which costs you all of your persuasion power.
    • The closest thing the game has to a protagonist after the player character themselves is Janina, who naturally fits into an anti-bullying game by... randomly punching other students who mildly annoy her, making biting remarks towards everyone she meets with almost no provocation, and writing songs with the message that bullies suck and she's so much better than they are, the latter of which is actively supported by the only adult in the game who does not themselves ignore or aid in bullying (and while he is said to be a bad person in-story, that's only by his ex-wife who is herself clearly emotionally abusive).
    • The stolen bike puzzle is about not making assumptions, since your bike was never stolen, but if you take the option to check the facts first, you get a message that congratulates you for it before saying that you can't proceed in the plot if you don't jump to conclusions. And for good measure, it also then makes the assumption that, since you didn't react to the very first situation presented to you with violence, you're probably a girl and would be better off playing the girl's route, giving you the option to switch.
    • Going to a teacher for help (which is what you're supposed to do, usually, if you're having problems with your peers) results in everything being worse, because Adults Are Useless and, if they're not going to just ignore the problem entirely, are completely willing to use their intelligence to bully their students. It's a better illustration of why kids should handle their problems themselves.
      • In the boys' route, you can ask a teacher to weigh in on the issue of who the bike belongs to. He will, at best, actually discuss the issue at hand for thirty seconds before awkwardly shifting it into a lesson on the Judgment of Solomon, by suggesting you cut the bike in two and each takes one half - and, since the lesson requires one of you to act callously, spitefully cruel just for the sake of callous, spiteful cruelty, he will actually belittle you for not neatly falling into the role he's forced upon you and essentially giving up your claim on the bike for no other reason than that the person who is being called in as an unbiased mediator decided to pick a side anyway.
      • In the girl's scenario, making a wrong choice in how to determine who gets invited to a friend's slumber party (agreeing with the one who got left out to plan a separate party and leave the initial host out) ends with you being left out (the host learns of your plotting, upon which the girl who came up with the idea pins it all on you), whereupon you can go to a teacher to talk about how you're being bullied. He congratulates you on doing the right thing by coming to him for help, and then flat-out tells you he doesn't have time for you. He'd be happy to make time later, of course, but you should really just fix this yourself, and thus he dismisses you back to the girls who were bullying you in the first place, fully aware that you're being bullied.
  • Another Side, Another Story: You can play as either a boy or a girl. Each has their own story on the first day, but after that the game is the same. The few scenes that intersect on the first day also have some unexpected differences in typos, animation glitches, and messages from the mouse. For instance, as a girl you can only get Janina to tell you about going to record her song once, or not at all if you already heard it as a boy, which could lead to much confusion to first-time players if they assume the same character going forward and wonder if they should magically have knowledge of what Janina would have said.
  • Appeal to Flattery: Apparently, an easy way to get into Peg's sleepovers is to tell her about how great she is, and that she's your best friend.
  • Art Evolution:
    • While it's not saying much, the artwork quality in this game is noticeably better than in The Negotiator or Ambition. Especially noticeable with Duke Crabtree, who has a completely different (and much better drawn) appearance.
    • A promo video shows how the art evolved from when it was still in development. Notably, the office staff was dropped in just as they appeared in other Negotiator games, before being redrawn to match the game's thick-line style.
    • Several characters were lifted and updated from a previous game set in school, "The Track Meet": The first scene features the same history teacher and janitor; there are brief appearances by the old Kim and a non-outlined Julia; Tammy is obviously a recolored Adrienne from the front; and previews of Sir Basel Pike reveal that Tony used to look a lot like Chip.
  • Batter Up!: The weapon of choice for kids from both Sir Basil Pike and their rival school, presumably because it's something they have easy access to.
  • Big Game: A notable aversion. A subplot about some kids from a rival school attacking Dave and writing "Pike Stinks of Dead Fish" on his jacket in toothpaste is introduced, and Max says that their school has a game against them coming up. However, this plot point is clumsily resolved about as quickly as it's introduced and we don't get to see the game.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • If certain options are chosen, Kim reveals herself to be this. To explain, if you manage to get yourself invited to Peg's sleepover then Kim is left out. Kim plans to invite everyone except Peg to go bowling, in order to give Peg a taste of her own medicine. If the player agrees to this then Kim immediately rats you out to your other friends, getting you uninvited and Kim invited in your place, with the game implying this was Kim's plan all along.
    • Along with her divisive way to plan the sleepover, Peg lives to ensure the player Can't Get Away with Nuthin', as any hint of malice will get Peg to ban you from all her future parties, and she will not accept any responsibility for the humiliating cellphone video yet will call you out just for knowing about it unless you specifically ordered Tony to delete it.
  • Blah, Blah, Blah: It turns out to be impossible to warn Tammy about Julia's prank ahead of time because Julia blocks your way, holding a conversation that is printed and voiced as simply "Blablablablablabla."
  • The Cast Showoff: Janina is voiced by either Michael Gibson's wife or daughter, who provides both her speaking and singing voice. As bizarre and out of place as the song and its accompanying Animated Music Video are, the singing is at least fairly good.
  • The Chessmaster: The best outcome for the girl's plot makes you into an Alpha Bitch version. You volunteer to be the one girl in the clique who doesn't get to go to a popular girl's party, make the other girls feel sorry for you, and then get them to abandon the party altogether so they can spend time doing something else with you instead. The conclusion is that you get the other girls to blame the mom hosting the party for limiting the guest list to three people instead of four.
  • Continuity Cameo: Duke Crabtree appears, albeit with a complete redesign and slightly lower voice, in the girl's path.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The whole stolen bike dilemma revolves around both the player and Dave having the exact same bike.
  • Cool Shades: Ted wears a pair of literal rose-colored glasses.
  • Cool Teacher: Ted was likely intended as one, considering the cool shades, but comes off as the complete opposite, considering that when he's not teaching lessons completely unrelated to his subject, he's belittling his students for not being as clever as he is and selectively ignoring cases of bullying between them.
  • Debug Room: The "Control" option opens up a debug console.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: In-universe example. On Day 2 Janina appears with a gothy makeover, and has dyed her brown hair black.
  • Five-Token Band: Your group of friends in both paths.
    • In the boy's path, there's Dave the Brave who appears to be Hispanic, Tony who is probably Italian, Andre who is black, and Tariq who is Arabic. The one white kid, Max, is also overweight, making him the token fat kid.
    • In the girl's path, there's Peg who looks to be Hispanic, Kim the token black, Julia the token white, Tammy the token Asian, and Zoya the token Arab.
  • Flat Character: Pretty much everybody, outside of Ted and Duke, and that's only because we already know more about them because of Ambition. The only other character who even comes close to having any depth is Janina, and that's still a stretch. Every other character is pretty much a one-dimensional stereotype of how teens act.
  • Full-Name Basis: Dave's friends have an annoying habit of referring to him as "Dave the Brave" every single time.
  • Goth: Janina, post-makeover. She wears a black coat and has dyed black hair and heavy eyeshadow.
  • Grammar Nazi: Ted.
    Ted: Did you just threaten Kim?
    Max: No.
    Ted: Nobody makes threats in my class. Go down and speak to the vice-principal.
    Max: I didn't do nothing.
    Ted: You didn't do nothing? Hmmm. If you'd said you did do nothing, then we'd have to discuss it. But since you said you didn't do nothing, you're admitting to doing something. Thank you for the confession. Go!
    Max: Wha?
    Ted: Go!
  • Hidden Depths: The overweight loner Janina is actually a talented (well, talented in-universe anyway, but your mileage may vary on that) musician.
  • High-School Dance: Averted. Just like the Big Game, a dance is alluded to once and never brought up again.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Max calls Janina "dough girl," even though he's just as fat as her, if not fatter.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: After Janina's inexplicable music video, Ted shows up and asks what's going on. Janina says that they're just jamming, and Ted responds with "well, I hope you're jamming with whole-wheat bread."
  • Instant Fan Club: Once you explain yourself to Dave's friends, they immediately make you the leader of their group, despite presumably having never met you before (or at the very least they don't seem to know you super well).
  • Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: Tammy gives Tony an old video of Julia freaking out over getting stung by a bee, and he uploads it to the internet. Julia fears that she's "ruined" because of it, and decides to get Tammy back by pretending to be Tariq, whom Tammy has a crush on.
  • Judgment of Solomon: Ted offers to cut the bike in half in order to solve the dispute between you and Dave the Brave. It doesn't exactly work out, though, because if you tell Ted not to cut the bike up, then Dave will also tell him not to cut it up, which does not solve the dispute at all. If you do tell him to cut it up, then he will give it to Dave.
  • Kids Are Cruel: They're pretty much constantly bullying each other, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally. The player character can get in on it too and depending on which options you pick might be the worst of the bunch.
  • Knights and Knaves: Featuring Duke Crabtree and his twin, Luke. Also nonsensical since it's one of the twins themselves (and thus unknown as a liar or not) who asserts the rules of the puzzle in the first place.
  • Level Grinding: You can play tennis to earn persuasive power. This will actually be required if your persuasive power gets too low, as you can't pass certain points in the game unless your persuasive power is at a certain level.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Ambition and Move or Die. Nobody dies and there's not nearly as much corruption shown. Justified as this game takes place in a high school.
  • Like Is, Like, a Comma: All of your friends in the girl's path do this, but Julia especially.
  • Loner-Turned-Friend: Implied with Janina. She starts Monday as the standoffish loner everyone picks on and who hates everyone else, before the player stands up for her and gives her confidence. By Wednesday the other characters are actually talking to her respectfully. She might not be a friend to them, but at the least she's gone from the weird loner to an acquaintance.
  • Magic Realism: Just your average after-school special. Except that you receive advice from a talking mouse and your vice principal has the power to send you back in time.
  • Men Use Violence, Women Use Communication:
    • The basic difference between the boy's plot and the girl's plot on Monday is that the boy's storyline involves physical bullying and the girl's involves emotional bullying. It's even lampshaded if the player chooses to stop and see what's going on rather than chasing Dave down at the beginning - the game stops and tells you that 90% of boys would have rushed to violence and that your choice means you're either exceptional or not a boy, and even gives you the option to switch to playing as a girl.
    • Also on Tuesday, after Dave the Brave is attacked and has "Pike stinks of dead fish" written on his shirt by kids from a rival school, Kim suggests forgetting the whole thing since Dave wasn't hurt and the writing was only toothpaste which she's easily able to clean off. Max, on the other hand, wants to go after the kids from the other school with a baseball bat.
  • Meta Guy: Andre is jokingly used as one out of universe, due to one of his only lines being "I don't know what's going on."
  • Monty Hall Problem: Ted teaches it on Tuesday, but he explains it rather poorly. He inexplicably has four doors on the chalkboard (no, not drawings of doors, actual doors on the chalkboard, which are not attached to anything and disappear when opened) and informs the class that one door has an A+ behind it, while the other three have goats behind them. Ted calls on Max to pick a door, and he picks door number one. Ted then opens two of the other doors, revealing goats behind both. It is explained that because he opened two of the other doors, the chances that the door Max did not pick has the A+ behind it are now 75%. This only works under the assumption that the two doors Ted opens will always have goats behind them, though.
  • Never My Fault: Most likely due to bad programming, the majority of the issues you have to deal with on Tuesday and Wednesday are the other students blaming you for all of their own decisions when those decisions start coming back to bite them. It's especially apparent on Tuesday: there are about three different plot threads starting up at the beginning of the day, but everyone will act as though you not only involved yourself in all three (despite only having enough time to bother with one), but also picked the meanest options available, actively ignoring whatever you actually said. Most notably, if you didn't get involved with the humiliating video plotline, or if you said you weren't sure whether the video should be posted or not, then everyone blames you for the whole thing, Tammy even specifically claiming you told them to post it. The only way not to get blamed is to specifically order Tony to delete the video - but even that's not really a victory, because Tony posts it anyway just to spite you, and you still get blamed right away for "over-reacting" and "making" him do it.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: In both stories, the player must solve a well-known riddle before they can get to the tennis court. In the boy's path, the janitor asks you to help him get four gallons of water using five and three gallon buckets. In the girl's path, Duke and Luke Crabtree use the Knights and Knaves riddle, and the player has to guess which door is the correct one. The wrong door leads to the vice-principal's office, where you will get yelled at and lose persuasive power.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Despite being a math teacher, Ted's class consists of very few math lessons. Granted, on Monday, he does do a quick lesson on compound fractions... with improper fractions written on the board. He teaches the Monty Hall Problem on Tuesday, but that's more of an exercise in psychology than math. He also teaches the class about paradigm shifts, which have nothing to do with math at all.
  • The Points Mean Nothing: There is only one point in the entire game where your Persuasive Power affects what happens next, and even then you are given a Last-Second Ending Choice to simply receive enough free points to win. There is not even a regular choice to bypass this on the girl's side, although this seeming Golden Snitch is not enough to reach the Good Ending if you failed to negotiate a more equitable sleepover arrangement.
  • Prank Date: Julia creates a fake e-mail address for Tariq in order to embarrass Tammy, who has a crush on him, as revenge for Tammy not erasing the embarrassing video of Julia from her phone.
  • Psychologist Teacher: Ted of all people gets this role.
  • Railroading: Although it happens a lot in the series, it's particularly bad at the beginning of Boys Day 1. When you see Dave ride off on a bike that seems to be yours, you're given a choice of what to do about it. If you choose to walk to school and tell the teacher you lose your bike because Adults Are Useless and you have to start over. If you call after him he gets away, and you're forced to talk to the teacher about it and lose again. If you choose to go back and see if your bike is still there rather than jumping to conclusions, the game congratulates you but says that in order for the plot to proceed you have to assault Dave. It also suggests that you're not really a boy because a boy would never resist the urge to jump to violence, and even gives you the option to switch to playing as a girl.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Apparently, Michael Gibson made this game to help his daughter deal with bullying she received in school.
  • Rhythm Game/Unexpected Gameplay Change: The final day ends with a Guitar Hero knockoff, which may catch some players off guard.
  • Serious Business: Sleepovers, apparently.
  • Smug Snake: Janina often unintentionally comes across as one.
  • Speech Impediment: Dave the Brave has a stutter. Note that despite the game's supposed anti-bullying message, you actually get rewarded if you choose to mock his stutter, and punished only if you apologize for doing so.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Is it "Basil" or "Basel?" No one, not even the game's own website, seems to know for sure.
  • Stealth Insult: Ted's "jamming with whole-wheat bread" comment mentioned above could be taken as this. He says it to Janina (who is overweight), and when she laughs at it, Ted responds with:
    "Laugh all you like, but you should develop healthy eating habits when you're young, or you'll regret it when you get to be my age."
  • Surreal Music Video: One comes completely out of nowhere when you agree to "rock" with Janina. The game ends with a reprise of the "Far Side of the World" song and an extended version of the music video from earlier. The added parts are even stranger. Not that you'll notice any of it, though, unless you purposely fail the rhythm game.
  • Technology Marches On: The game came out in 2009, around the same time smartphones began to rise in popularity. It shows, because every cell phone seen is a flip phone.
  • 3 + 5 = 4: You have to do this puzzle to help the janitor before you play tennis with Tony.
  • Totally Radical: A bit.
  • Trickster Twins: Duke and Luke Crabtree. One tells truths, and the other tells lies.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Max, who looks to be in about fourth or fifth grade, talks about breaking the kneecaps of some kids from a rival school with a baseball bat.
  • Two-Teacher School: The only two teachers seen in the game are Ted and Ms. Pruet (aka "prune face") the history teacher.
  • Valley Girl: Your friends as the girl player character, some more so than others.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can gain Persuasion Points for knocking a kid over, threatening him, and making fun of his speech impediment.
  • Voodoo Shark: Word of God explains the fact that the week only has three days as it being the last week of school. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense for a few reasons:
    • As mentioned above, a Big Game subplot is introduced (and poorly resolved just as quickly). School sports seasons typically end a few weeks before the last week.
    • No one alludes to it being the last week of school, which would obviously be a pretty big deal for schoolchildren and warrant at least one mention.
    • Both Ted and Ms. Pruet teach their classes. During the last week or two of school, teachers typically allow students to use the classes as extended study halls. Additionally, Ms. Pruet gives an assignment to Tammy and Tariq on what is supposed to be the last day of school.
  • Weight Woe: Janina. Along with her standoffish personality, this is implied to be one of the reasons everyone mistreats her. Strangely, even Max makes fun of her for her weight, despite being bigger than she is.
  • You Don't Look Like You: Duke Crabtree has been completely redesigned for this game.

Alternative Title(s): Ambition