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Treacherous Checkpoint

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You are trudging through That One Level, the Elite Mooks have worn you down and you are almost out of Healing Potion. Finally, in the next hallway, you see the benign-looking statue that marks a Save Point! Here is a chance to save your progress, possibly restore your vitality and, if nothing else, catch a much-needed breather. You eagerly approach the statue and wait for its benevolent light to wash over you.

Instead you get blasted with an attack that drops your HP to 1 and disables all your Power Ups and Equipment. To top it all off, the statue transforms into a monster and gives chase.

You've fallen victim to a Treacherous Checkpoint, a subversion of the oft-encountered Checkpoint or Save Point. It could be considered the opposite of a Healing Checkpoint (a Harming Checkpoint). It applies whenever the Checkpoint, which is usually always helpful to the player, becomes undesirable and better-avoided.

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This trope is normally restricted to Platform Hells, Deconstruction Games, and the nastiest of Nintendo Hard games, for good reason. In the middle of a dungeon full of Malevolent Architecture and Everything Trying to Kill You the Save Point may be, metaphorically, the player's only friend. A symbolic betrayal by this last friend may drive an already-aggravated player to Rage Quit. But if used carefully, this can throw some Paranoia Fuel on an already-smoldering pyre: in a well-designed game a player expects the place where the game is saved to be, well, safe. When the game betrays this expectation it hammers in the dread that nowhere is safe.

Compare Poison Mushroom and Chest Monster, in which hazards and monsters are disguised as desirable items. This trope can overlap but does not need to. And a treacherous Check Point can feel much crueler than treacherous loot because, unless the game uses a Justified Save Point, it is not the characters within the game who are deceived by it: it is the player who is betrayed.

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See also Inn Security, especially if the Trauma Inn doubles as a Save Point.

For more on the paranoia-inducing nature of the subversion, compare Interface Screw and The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You. The player naturally expects a game to challenge them with difficulty, even surprise. However it might be assumed that saving the game is merely a necessity of the medium, that the Save Point is in some sense outside the reality of the game and therefore off-limits for challenge. The game can rudely shock a player by revealing that it is not.

Contrast Point of No Return, a save point that may be ominous but not treacherous. If a fault in a game's checkpoint system makes it Unwinnable by Mistake, it is a Game-Breaking Bug.


Examples:

  • Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril contains a checkpoint that instantly deprives Timmy of the equipment he's collected, forcing him to re-gather it in the next area. The checkpoint symbol is inverted to subtly warn of its malevolent nature. However, there's no way to avoid going through it.
  • BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm has a pair of treacherous save points. The first one shows up in Chapter 4 during a stealthy jailbreak, and using it alerts two nearby guards of your presence. (This is actually needed to progress, as the guards open a path to the exit while trying to reach you). The second appears in the final dungeon, in the hallway just before the boss, and triggers a surprise fight with a lethal draconic security system. This time, the trap is entirely skippable if you know it’s there.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night contains a fake save room opposite a real one in a side area. The floating pulsing icosahedron that marks the fake save point is clearly the wrong color compared to the real ones, sending a blatant "there's something wrong here" message to the player. It's technically skippable, but using it (and going through the Nightmare Sequence within) is required for the good ending of the game.
  • Chrono Trigger has a Sewer Level full of subterranean monsters who will attack the party if they make any sound. After avoiding various noise-making hazards Crono and friends may gladly walk into a Save Point, which makes a characteristic "ding"... which the monsters "hear" and rush out to attack. Once the monsters are defeated however, it works as well as any other save point.
    • In Magus's castle, falling through a trap door in one room will land you in a large cavern with four apparent save points, one in each of the four cardinal directions. One is a save point, a second is actually a teleporter that will take you to the room you fell from, and the other two trigger battles with multiple fake save points. These switch around every time you fall into the roomHint .
      • 'Treacherous' is a bit of a stretch here, as those specific monsters have no way of dealing damage to the player, and drop an absolute ton of Tech Points upon death.
  • The Dark Souls series has Bonfires that normally serve as checkpoints, but:
    • In Dark Souls, the very last bonfire is actually the First Flame: by "activating" it, you Link the Fire, which is the ending where your character burns themselves to cinders in order to prolong the Age of Fire for a few more centuries. More than a few players got this ending by sheer accident just because they expected the final bonfire to work like all the others.
    • Subverted in Dark Souls II: If you have the DLC installed, some Bonfires explode in your face when you try activating them, sending you flying across the room and releasing what seems at first to be an unholy monstrosity. However, that fiery explosion doesn't do any damage and the "monster" is actually a talkative NPC who leaves and lets you use the Bonfire normally after a Cryptic Conversation.
    • Thankfully, the entire series never plays this fully straight, though it hasn't stopped some sadistic—err, creative fans from discussing the possibility of Bonfire Mimics, even coming up with fanart for them. The developers from FromSoftware even went on record to say they think that would be too mean (which, coming from them, is saying something).
  • In Final Fantasy V the last Save Point is guarded by a boss that only reveals himself when you first try to use it.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, the midboss Nelapa appears as a save point on the overworld. The fact it's located smack in the middle of some Chokepoint Geography makes its disguise a bit less effective, though.
  • Final Fantasy XII has monsters that impersonate save crystals and attack the party if approached. Fortunately they turn into regular save crystals if defeated.
  • Hollow Knight has a bench in the Distant Village within Deepnest. The first time the player encounters it, there are strange figures loitering around welcoming them to rest in this friendly place. The instant The Knight sits it gets immobilized by sticky webbing, and the suspicious bystanders close in. The Sneaky Spiders doff their disguises and leave the Player Character All Webbed Up with the rest of their prey. Fortunately The Knight can escape easily, and this capture is the only way to access Herrah the Beast's lair, so Stupidity Is the Only Option (or The Knight is simply a Horrible Judge of Character).
  • I Wanna Be the Guy has a save point that will attempt to kill you. In Impossible difficulty, it's the only save point.
  • Minecraft: Beds could be considered checkpoints, as they allow you to reset your spawn point and bypass dangerous events. Trying to use one in The Nether or The End, though, makes it instantly explode.
  • Poacher has rooms in which Derek jumps through a small hole to save the game. At the beginning of the Abyss there is a save room that Derek is required to use but, instead of emerging from the hole, he continues falling down a chasm to the bottom of the Abyss.
  • Undertale discusses and deconstructs what it means to "save" in a videogame. By the end it is hard to regard any save point as unconditionally good. A few are especially tricky though:
  • VVVVVV turns checkpoints into an obstacle for any player seeking that Last Lousy Point. Collecting one Shiny Trinket requires dying and re-spawning at another checkpoint on the same screen; pulling off this move means going around the long way while fastidiously avoiding checkpoints.

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