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Nightmare Fuel / Psychonauts

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Psychonauts is mostly fun and humorous, but some things in it are quite disturbing. Especially since it revolves around facing and defeating personal demons.

UNMARKED SPOILERS

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  • Just being a Psychonaut is nightmare fuel in itself. A Psychonaut is a psychic soldier/secret agent tasked with infiltrating minds and experiencing the darkest aspects of the human subconscious. It's essentially a A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read Up to Eleven where the user must go into the minds of others to uncover secrets and risk being killed or destroyed in the process. Best emphasized by Oleander in the intro video:
    Oleander: You shall engage the enemy in his own mentality! You shall chase his dreams! You shall fight his demons! You shall live his nightmares!
  • The most egregious example of nightmare fuel in this game, of course, would be the final mental level, the Meat Circus, perhaps one of the least comedic examples of Level Ate ever put on a video game. It's particularly jarring since of the game has been creepy at times, but not overtly horrifying, but then the final level is like a cartoon-y Silent Hill world of traumas come to life.
    • The Bunny Demons. Mangled, warped Animalistic Abominations coming out of meat grinders just randomly placed around the main tent. Body Horror doesn't begin to describe these atrocities, whose eyes are on their hands and whose bodies are skinned thin and distorted so badly that they only barely look like rabbits anymore. It doesn't help that these things are fast for something so big, capable of ganging up on Raz or Lil' Oly for a load of damage in short time, making the escort mission at the main tent all the harder because of it.
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    • The mere design of the place, with platforms made out of steaks and bones, mismatched circus paraphernalia just strewn together everywhere, and several parts of the level looking like they're falling apart into the void in chunks, helping to show just how a mental world looks when it's the result of two unstable minds crammed together inside a jar.
    • Holy crap, The Butcher. Even pre-meat grinding, that creature was hair-raising...
      • Much like Raz and the mental Augustus, this is how Oleander perceives his own father. While it's still up in the air how much of it is Oleander's own view of it, his father still apparently thought it was a good idea to CHOP A RABBIT TO BITS IN FRONT OF HIS YOUNG SON. The result is a towering brute that repeatedly spouts single-minded abuse towards Oly, chases after him and Raz with giant meat cleavers and is fully set on KILLING both of them.
      • The Butcher is scary enough, but when he hits the ground with his cleaver, look at the ground. It's bleeding. It doesn't help that he sees you as a slab of meat if you use Clairvoyance. Oleander really thinks that chopping meat, dead or alive, was all his father cared about.
      • His defeat is no less pleasant, as he falls into a meat grinder in the middle of the arena and gets completely shredded by it.
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    • On that same note of familial memories, there's the Zombified Augustus, Raz' perception of his father. Unlike the Butcher, we don't take long to learn that the real Augustus isn't abusive in the slightest, but his lack of actual communication with Razputin regarding their status as psychics caused his son's image of him to sour, turning into a disheveled corpse that taunts and belittles Raz over and over, accusing him of siding with "mentalists" before putting him through a hellish gauntlet of acrobatic challenges as the tent is filling with water, which Raz' family was cursed to die in. It then later ends with Augustus himself PSI-Blasting his evil doppelganger into the same meat grinder the Butcher fell in, where he also gets torn to bits.
      • The level of misunderstanding between Raz and Augustus is... Not great. At one point, Raz outright states he has no idea if his own father wants to kill him or not.
      • From the start of the level to the final boss, there's a horrifying Flying Face appearing sporadically that constantly, hauntingly calls Razputin's name over and over in a deep, moaning voice. While that's scary in itself, at least this detail turns out to be for Raz' benefit, since it's his ACTUAL father trying to get inside his head and help his son.
    • Just when it seems the two nightmarish fathers have been defeated for good, they rise from the grinder and clog it with more meat, now fused together into a creature that Body Horror can only describe so much of. The "Two-Headed Dad Monster" is a manifestation so horrifying, it actively opposes the idea of detangling Oleander and Raz' minds, laughing at the prospect of causing more misery to both. It also just looks so wrong, its body so mismatched that it looks like a Cubist painting made flesh-and-blood in all the worst possible aspects, with only the fathers' heads relatively intact on its mutilated, sewn-together body.
      • Finally, the final boss theme that plays all throughout the Big Top area. If it doesn't strike you as terrifying that the name of the track is "Their Own Flesh and Blood", this Dark Reprise of the game's main theme certainly will.
  • The "secret room" in Milla's mind. Her backstory, on top of being a colossal Tear Jerker, is Adult Fear to an absolutely nightmarish level, and that terrible, terrible place is the representation of it.
    • If you REALLY want to know: Milla used to run her own orphanage before becoming a Psychonaut and took care of the children there. One night, she comes to the place to find it engulfed in flames, with all the children trapped inside. And being a psychic, she was forced to hear them as they all burned to death. The insides of the chest in question take you to a burning landscape with odd nightmareish creatures looming over you, caged off from you, screaming in agony and asking why Milla couldn't save them.
    • And wouldn't you know it? THEY DO!! Later in the "Milkman Conspiracy", Raz has to fight these literal nightmares not once, but twice!
    • IT'S HOT, MILLA, IT'S BURNING...
    • And it would have been seen if it hadn't been cut: voice clips are still present on the disc and can be listened to here.
  • Crystal and Clem, the two peppy "cheerleader" campers, casually discussing their various suicide attempts.
    • To elaborate: the two were mercilessly bullied both before and during camp, not helped by their attempts to cheer others being mostly perceived as a constant annoyance, even by nicer camp-mates like Raz himself. This resulted in the pair becoming horrifyingly cynical for kids their age, with Clem just wanting to put an end to it all, while Crystal believes killing herself will somehow make the two more powerful. And keep in mind, the game portrays at least some of this with a Black Comedy approach.
  • The entire ascent to Dr. Loboto's office:
    • The decrepit, destroyed upper floors of the Asylum. Gurneys, wheelchairs and straps are scattered everywhere, abandoned and disused rather realistically as if people had left in a hurry, even despite the fact the place was shut down 55 years before the events of the game proper, as shown with the walls and ceiling always looking like they're about to crumble on you. The only "music" is the sound of the wind howling ominously. Like with Whispering Rock at night, this is one of the few times where you truly feel the crushing loneliness of the situation, with Raz being completely alone in the abandoned structure... Except you're not truly alone in the darkness...
    • The layout of the ruins also works excellently for nightmarish effect. While the bottom floors are relatively normal, all things considered, the more you climb the Asylum, the more twisted and outlandish it becomes, with furniture on the walls, a random pit of acid, and ascending flights of stairs that twist in on themselves. It gives this uncanny feeling that it's not real, as if you've entered someone's mental world by going up the elevator, when you're still in reality the whole way up.
    • You learn later that she's totally harmless, but Sheegor stalking you as you climb the ruins is seriously creepy, especially when you keep seeing her out of the corner of your eye before she hides and runs off somewhere else.
    • The Confusion Rats. Deformed little rodents that roam the upper floors, pretty much sicced on you by Sheegor to hinder your progress. Their only attack is to rush at you and explode into Confusion clouds, dealing damage and confusing Raz in the process.
    • If you look at the sky near the top of the Asylum, you see some Nightmare Faces in the clouds.
  • Every single mind has at least one nightmarish thing. Every. Single One. Milla? See above. Sasha? His desire for control mutated his Censors into abominations. Waterloo, the colourful and quirky little game field? Has a massive guillotine, with a beheaded fragment floating around it to boot.
  • Some of the "memory vaults" in the game, found while traversing the mental landscapes are very disturbing.
  • The entire game runs on Nightmare Fuel, quite literally in a number of places. Every in-brain level is, in spirit if not in body, a Womb Level. Brains are yanked from children's heads by a strait-jacketed dentist with a metal claw and a shower cap. It gets so traumatic that they hang a lampshade on it in the last level—if you ask for advice, Raz will calmly sum up the rabbit enemies as "hellish nightmare bunnies spawning from meat grinders", and Cruller will respond with "Well, at this point you might as well just whack 'em", equally unruffled.
  • The sobbing of the Emotional Baggage can be disturbing, especially if said baggage is off-screen, and it takes a while to reach it, with the sobbing in the background all the while...
    • If you listen very carefully, the crying in every mind matches the person whose mind it is. Yes, you will hear Razputin crying.
  • The strange pieces of meat in the Brain Tumbler Experiment level that start to quiver and give off green "gas" when you punch them can be deeply unsettling.
  • While it's one of the funniest levels in the game, The Milkman Conspiracy has its dark underbelly. It's not just the falsely bright and physics-defying overworld wearing on the nerves, the hinge-jawed watchers, sword-swallowing hedge trimmers, and getting pulled not once, but twice into a hellish underworld to fight with dark, horned Nightmares that vomit chunks of their former victims, then turn to glass and shatter. While silly at first, the paranoia permeating the level eventually warps the player's thoughts just a little bit towards Boyd's mindset. When you start looking over your shoulder for walking mailboxes, it's a good idea to turn off the console and have a little lie-down... and this is how Boyd sees a regular neighborhood.
    • The Rainbow Squirts. Mental constructs spawning from the Milkman placed in Boyd's mind, whose duty is to guard his location until he's ready to act. They only act as girl scouts superficially, until they register Raz as a threat to their objective. Add in the G-Men and what do you get when they corner one? A GIRL SCOUT SUICIDE BOMB. Seriously. She's only a thought, and is evil, but still...
      • Use Telekinesis on a girl scout and she'll say something to the effect of, "Put me down or I'll scream for the police!". And considering that this is Boyd's actual mind, which would include memories, it is possible that he actually heard that before.
      • Oh yeah, and they're some of the few human NPCs that your Pyrokinesis will actually ignite.
      • Which gets even better/worse when you realize that Boyd's particular "last straw" was burning down the mall that fired him with makeshift Molotov cocktails. He later burns down the asylum as part of his mental programming.
    • The Milkman subplot is surprisingly terrifying upon reflection. Boyd basically had an alternate personality forced into his head through Oleander's brainwashing, and his mind proceeded to tear itself apart with paranoia over this alien object in his psyche. When the Milkman is discovered and the censors come to remove this foreign object the Milkman instead destroys them and takes over, effectively overwriting Boyd's personality. We later learn that Boyd will recover once the Milkman completes his delivery, but when the mission is completed it looks very much like Boyd's mind has been destroyed and you were inadvertently the one to put the last nail in its coffin.
      • Even worse: the Den Mother yells - upon you entering her house to get to the Milkman - that it's too early, that he wasn't ready yet. The game never explains what would have happened if the Milkman would have been ready. Would the Milkman just quickly done his purpose and leave instead of having Boyd being stuck in front of the Asylum until triggered? Or would he have permanently overwritten Boyd, destroying everything that isn't him?
  • Some might find Edgar Teglee's mental world, Black Velvetopia, unnerving. There's just something about it that's incredibly creepy- the way it looks like a parody of an ordinary town or city in Spain, with just enough mental-world surrealism- neon colors on a black background, the giant blazing sun on a black background with a woman inside it crying rose petals, the four queen cards being pulled into portraits by angry luchadores who seem to think you're Edgar and have a bone to pick with him- to make it seem off. The sewers full of red water and high school gym equipment don't help: one gets the impression of them being Edgar's personal Black Bug Room where he's repressed his memories of high school.
    • And the boss of Black Velvetopia, El Odio, just makes things even worse. He's a giant, neon pink bull that is constantly rampaging through the streets of the city while you collect the four queen cards Edgar needs to complete his tower to the sun, and will drag you along with him if you're unfortunate enough to be in the main road when he shows up. And to add icing to the freaky-cake, El Odio is actually Edgar, transformed into a bull by his own rage and hatred towards Lana and Dean, his ex-girlfriend and the guy she dumped him for, who take the forms of Lampita Pasionado and Dingo Inflagrante in his mind. The effect is lessened slightly when El Odio is revealed to be a Bait-and-Switch Boss, but it's pretty jarring having to protect the thing from the real boss, Dingo. Who happens to be a matador. Yeah.
    • To add to this, Edgar's situation Mirrors Boyd's. The difference is while Byod has a new personality forced on him and is trying to get rid of it as it enflames his paranoia, Edgars split personality is natural Rage enflamed from repression of the truth for a lot of his life. It makes you wonder what would happen if Odio was destroyed by Dingo and be horrified that you just contributed to that in the first leg of the fight.
  • The Hideous Hulking Lungfish. The game builds up this creature with a few cutscenes and allusions to Lake Oblongata here and there, but to know that there was this towering, mind-controlled abomination under the water, waiting for its commands to kick in, is very disconcerting.
    • How about the often-overlooked fact that, for a lumbering brute of a lungfish, she's surprisingly quiet?? Keep in mind, Raz could feel its presence in the woods outside the GPC area and was only able to smell it, not once seeing it amidst the foliage. Not only that, you'd think that one of the other kids who hadn't been taken yet would have seen the creature approach and call for help, but the monster is so stealthy that it can just capture them at any moment they were alone and isolated from the others, even if only barely. Kitty and Franke, for example, were taken just outside the main lodge, along with Clem and Crystal mid-suicide attempt not much time later.
      • Except that someone else did see it. The only reason Mikhail didn't say anything is that he mistook the Lungfish for a giant, hairless bear.
    • The Lungfish boss fight combines gamer-based fear with psychological terrors. It takes place at the bottom of a dark lake, in a bubble of air that the boss can contract from "almost comfortable" to "unbearably claustrophobic" in a matter of seconds. Since the main character and his family have all been cursed to die in water, a pair of glowing green hands hover at the edge of the bubble, following the player's movements and grabbing them the second they stumble across the barrier. At three or four intervals, the boss swims off, dragging the bubble with it and forcing the player to run through a series of harrowing obstacle courses before the water closes in. The Lungfish itself is a hulking mutant, but the truly troubling part regarding it comes after the fight, when it's revealed that she's actually a very kind, intelligent lady lungfish named Linda who was mutated and enslaved against her will, and you've been feeding her boxes of nails. There are also crabs and sucker fish falling from the edges of the bubble constantly, but the latter are actually Nightmare Retardant, as they'll latch onto the top of Raz's head and wobble back and forth with an expression that can only be described as "8B".
  • Fairly subtle, compared to levels like the Meat Circus, but if you think too hard about two of Raz's throwaway lines from Black Velvetopia, a moment of "I wish I hadn't thought of that" can ensue. At one point, he remarks "I'm beginning to feel like I'm back in high school... which is weird, since I'm only ten..."; the 'Appropriate victory taunt' (to quote Psychopedia) to be used against Cobra is "I beat you just like I did in high school, loser! Wait...who am I?" Talk about an identity crisis... Earlier in the game, it's implied that Raz is telepathic, which sort of explains the phenomena, but thinking about what might have happened, were there any more inmates or if Edgar or Fred were any worse than they were already.
  • The Brain Tanks are disturbing because either the child's brain they use for a weapon is Mind Raped into trying to kill its friends, or it's constantly given shocks and prods to produce psychic power. It's implied you're only half-conscious inside it, but still...
  • There's something... fairly unnerving about Raz being one of the people that sneeze out their brains. Nearly every character eventually does, and for all of those times it's pretty scary too, (the blank stares, the stumbling and "TV...") but seeing Raz like this is... Turn-away-from-screen-able. It seems off.
    • It may have to do with the fact that unlike the others, it's made clear that knows what's about to happen, and we see him struggling in vain to stop himself from sneezing.
    • Which then turns both incredibly funny and unnervingly horrific when Raz's body stumbles off in search of a TV and you play as Raz's brain immediately afterwards for a bit.
    • The ACHOO! Raz lets out when he sneezes out his own brain...sounds really really painful and cringe-inducing. Then again, he IS sneezing out his own brain from his nose!
  • If you try to take Gloria's award statue before you've finished her level, she'll yell "You're supposed to be DEAD!!" and lunge for Raz. It's implied this is because she's hallucinating you as her estranged mother who committed suicide, but you won't know that unless you've already been in her mind and unlocked her memories, so it makes it seem like Raz actually stumbled upon a genuinely dangerous mental patient.
  • Whispering Rock gets genuinely creepy once night falls. All the campers are suddenly gone, and dangerous wild animals are now roaming the camp grounds.
    • Psychic dangerous wild animals. Imagine that you're just exploring an area, when you stumble across a bear for the first time. And it then proceeds to produce a Telekinetic claw to hold you in place so it can maul you.
      • Even worse: the bear can be found during the day (Mikhail even asks you to find it). The mountain lion, on the other hand, only appears at night. Depending on where you first meet it, you might not even see it, making it too little too late when you see the Pyrokinesis meter appear on Raz, seconds before he's ignited.
    • Just the atmosphere of the place before you set off after the Lungfish. Only Cruller (in his different disguises) remains on the campgrounds, blissfully unaware of the danger as he continues to tend to the camp's upkeep, but there's no one else. No teachers, no children, no one. The soundtrack, plus the fact that you only get the camp moving again once you recover the campers' brains, really helps to sell just how alone Razputin is.
  • Remember Raz and his family's curse to die in water? How the water forms a hand that drags him down under if he gets in too deep? Do you know what makes up most of a human being? Even though that amount clearly isn't enough to do any amount of harm to him, just the thought of most of your body wanting to kill you can un-nerve.
    • This extends inside the minds of other people. Even if they don't know that Raz is cursed to die should he go near water. Even if it's just a painting of water. What's more, this sort of curse seems to be rare enough that even a trained Psychonaut like Milla has no idea of how this is happening. Which is concerning to say the least.
    • This crosses into Fridge Horror when Raz says that the Galochio that cursed his family was a psychic. So the curse was designed in such a way that even in the mental world, his family wouldn't be safe.

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