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) relax for a moment. You eagerly approach the statue and wait for its benevolent light to wash over you.
You've fallen victim to a Treacherous Checkpoint, a subversion of the common 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.
This trope is mercifully rare, mostly confined to Platform Hells, Deconstruction Games, and the nastiest of Nintendo Hard games. 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: 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; they may overlap this but don't need to. 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 — the player is betrayed.
See also Inn Security, especially if the Trauma Inn doubles as a Save Point. Compare Save Token, which can have a similar tension-raising effect: when the ability to save is limited, any decision to do it becomes a calculated risk.
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.
- Overhead lamps in Alan Wake serve as checkpoints and healing spots, and briefly cause any Taken to despawn. Sometimes, you need to activate generators to turn the lights on. Part of one level sees you weaponless and running from a set of Taken, with a generator-powered light along the route. There isn't enough time to get the generator running before the Taken swarm you, but the only way to learn that is to try it.
- 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.
- Changed contains several fake save points which, if approached, will morph into monsters and attack Colin for a Game Over.
- 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 . It is not bad, though, as these monsters are Metal Slimes that cannot damage 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).
- The Dutch game Eindeloos has a particularly vile example; deep into the maze is one save point that works completely normally, but is stuck behind a one-way barrier that can only be opened from the outside. If you died and respawned there, there would be no way to get out and your only option is to start the entire game all over again.
- Fear & Hunger: One of the only two ways to save the game is by sleeping at a bed; however, most of the beds in the game will force the player to flip a coin to see if they successfully save. If they fail the coin flip, not only will the game not save, the player will be forced to fight a dangerous enemy (or in a few cases, will be instantly killed).
- Fear & Hunger: Termina: The player can often save the game by sleeping at a bed (except in Masochism mode). However, several beds may have negative consequences:
- Sleeping in the Woodsman's house will result in the Woodsman attacking the party if he's still alive.
- Sleeping in the house in Old Town may end in a pipe-wielding villager attacking the party.
- If playing as Marina or Abella, sleeping in the bed in the Mayor's house can result in Caligura attempting to rape them, which will trigger a combat encounter.
- Sleeping in any of the beds in the Moldy Apartments will result in an instant Game Over.
- Final Fantasy
- 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 you encounter it, there are strange figures loitering around welcoming you to rest in this friendly place. The instant you do, The Knight 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 (short of a tough speedrunning technique) to access Herrah the Beast's lair, so Stupidity Is the Only Option (or The Knight is simply a Horrible Judge of Character).
- In Crystal Peak, immediately following a gauntlet of laser-shooting enemies (that will almost certainly harm some players), there is a bench occupied by what looks like a miner's crystallized corpse. Since it takes up the entire bench, you cannot sit unless you move it, and the obvious way to do that is to whack it with your weapon. As soon as you do, it wakes up. He Was Right There All Along, and you just picked a fight with the Crystal Guardian, a difficult boss.
- I Wanna Be the Guy has a save point that will attempt to kill you. In Impossible difficulty, it's the only save point. A Good Bad Bug allows one to use it as a regular save point after killing it for exactly one frame, and this is the only way to save on Impossible difficulty.
- Last Scenario has monsters disguised as save crystals, and you won't know if any given crystal is a monster ahead of time unless you've played through the game already.
- Laxius Power 3 has one save point in the Hall of Madness that after you use it, deploys a brutal boss called the Torture Maker which will chase you. Even if you manage to defeat him, he drops none other than a scratch amount of experience points.
- LISA provides campfires throughout the game, where the party can rest to recover their HP and SP. However, resting at a campfire has a random chance of causing negative events to happen, including stealing your items, poisoning your party members, kidnapping one of your party members (forcing the player to pay a ransom to get them back), or even allowing a party member to abandon the party voluntarily, meaning they're gone for good.
- It’s initially subverted in Joyful, as Rando protects Buddy as she sleeps at the campfire. After he abandons Buddy and dies either to falling down a pit or killed by Buddy in a fit of rage, however… it’s fair game, as Buddy can either be poisoned, lose items or mags, or be attacked by men, and in one case, kidnapped by someone and stuck in a remote shack (Thankfully, her captor turns into a Joy Mutant, but since it blocks the only way out…).
- In the Updated Re-release for Painful, upon obtaining all of the boat parts the very first campfire ends up becoming the access point for the new Superboss, where Brad wakes up alone in a Nightmare Sequence and eventually encounters the Manifestation of Marty. During this sequence, there exists a single save crow that instead of saving, will attack you upon interacting with it.
- 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.
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- Poacher has save rooms in which Derek can jump through a small hole and, thanks to Wrap Around, emerge at the top. At the beginning of the Abyss there is a save room that you must use but, thanks to The Judge, the Wrap Around is subverted. Derek continues falling down a chasm to the bottom of the Abyss.
- Prayer of the Faithless: When Mia goes through the final section of Purgatory and tries to use the save point, the save point disappears and she's forced to run from Gauron for the rest of the section. Fortunately, the save point after this section is real. Additionally, ignoring the false save point allows Mia to gain a slight head start on her pursuer.
- Touhou Luna Nights had kitsune enemies disguise themselves as checkpoints and attack the player when they approach. You can spot the fake checkpoints beforehand by their tail poking out.
- 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.