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Video Game / Afterlife (1996)

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The last word in sims!

Afterlife is a resource management game released in 1996 by LucasArts. In it, you play as a sort of celestial mayor called a "demiurge," with the ability to design a custom afterlife for the dead. It's sort of like Sim City, only the citizens are the souls of the departed and you are punishing them for their sins or rewarding them for their good virtues.

Help can be summoned to you in the form of an angel named Aria Goodhalo, and a demon named Jasper Wormsworth. It's not all easy, though — multiple random (and weird) events can happen and mess up things badly. Like many life sims, the game doesn't end in the traditional sense, but you can lose the game in multiple ways.

Just remember not to cheat too many times. If you do, the Death Star will come and start destroying everything you've built.

In April 2015, the game was released on GoG, where it can be found here.

Not to be confused with the ITV show of the same name, or the 2009 film.

This game features examples of:

  • Afterlife Express: Inverted; there are vehicles out of the afterlife for reincarnation (buses or trains) - the SOULs just arrive in gates.
  • Alliterative Name: A few buildings (Palaces of Pincer Peril, Community Colleges of the Clouds, Flabbergasting Flatulence Ol-Factory, Creamy Candy Castle) and structures (Sickeningly Sweet Sugar Savannas, Purple Passion Pulsing Plasma Pods).
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Most of the higher punishments reach these levels by design.
    • In the backstory, Scegf0d the Ungrateful Angel (and later the Ungrateful Demon), who ticked off The Powers That Be badly enough that they turned him into a living, self-aware rock with no ability to do or perceive anything at all, and then left him to go mad.
      The Powers That Be: You are the single biggest schmuck in all of Creation. You have found no joy in Heaven, and have known no pain in Hell. We are left with no choice but to reincarnate you —
      Scegf0d: Great!
      The Powers That Be: — as a rock. As the universe‚Äôs only sentient rock, you will be unable to see, hear, smell, taste, or feel. You will be a thing of pure thought, unable to experience anything but your own, ever-increasing dementia. Have a nice day.
  • Angelic Transformation \ Demon of Human Origin: There are training centers to develop the SOULs into angels and demons.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: An automated manager option exists for the purpose of balancing Rewards and Punishments (among an axis based on how many SOULs are temporary versus permanent residents of the structure), for maximum efficiency. Unfortunately, using the manager is prohibitively expensive, which means the player will have to balance each structure manually until their Afterlife generates enough income.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Some of the blurbs for the punishments in Hell use this as their main source of black humor:
    Octoplex 666: Remember that scene in "A Clockwork Orange" where Malcolm McDowell was being forced to watch a seemingly neverending series of violent and pointless movies? This is infinitely worse. And the popcorn sucks.
  • Bat Out of Hell: Literally, in one of the "Bad Things" (natural disasters), where bats fly over the Hell plane. And Hell buildings hit by their droppings increase productivity.
  • Berserk Button: The Powers That Be do not like whiners. The Ungrateful Angel/Demon found out what They do when one doesn't stop complaining.
  • Black Comedy: Any humor a Demiurge can find while building Hell comes from the descriptions of the buildings, which go into detail about the punishments that the Damned suffer in them. If it isn't a sickening account of what's going on, it lapses into this trope. Defied with the Deadly Serious Caverns, in which even dark humor is completely banned and anyone caught getting for so much as an ironic chuckle at their fate is punished... seriously.
  • The Blank: One of the Wrath punishments, appropriately named "Illuminatiland," is specifically designed to slowly, methodically, turn every SOUL living in it into one of these.
  • Bloody Bowels of Hell: The Ultimate Gluttony punishment "The Bowels of Hell", where SOULs experience the ultimate heartburn, by having tubes connecting the stomachs of everybody in there (including an extremely acidic demon) and thus making everybody share everybody's stomach acid at the same time.
  • Call to Agriculture: Happy Harvest Farms is a 2x2 building where temperate SOULs spend eternity growing delicious food for themselves. At the Evil Counterpart, Bitter Harvest Fields, slothful SOULs are forced to grow food for the demons.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: The player goes through this (including bank interest). And in a variant, some of Hell's punishments involve forcing SOULs to work in the Infernal Bureaucracy.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: A SOUL's fate depends on what it believed in in life. If an EMBO believes that Only Cloud Realms Await, then it will not go to Hell no matter how sinful it is, but either their soul will cease to exist or it will reincarnate (presumably as something worse) depending on where their belief fell in that department. Alternatively, believing Only Pit Realms Await means that their soul will join the universal oneness (or will reincarnate, presumably as something better) if they were good.
  • Crappy Carnival:
    • The "Evil Carny" punishment building forces damned souls to suffer everything wrong with carnivals and amusement parks crammed into one location.
    • "666 Pennants Over Perdition" punishes Slothful souls by forcing them to work themselves to exhaustion keeping the demonic customers happy at an understaffed amusement park.
  • Credits Gag: The credits are organized through Circles IX-I for the main staff (before it goes to planets and stuff) with a few jokes spread i.e. Designer, Project Lead and Guy to Blame: Michael Stemmle.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The planet's religions. There's no actual Jesus analogue, but there are prophets you can inspire to spread one or more tenets.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: In addition to the basic bank structures being decorated with a flying pig statue (or a flying warthog in the case of Hell), there's one of the disasters is "Hell Freezes Over". The description evokes the trope:
    Once in a long while, little pieces of Hell freeze over. No one's sure why this happens, but many Demons attribute the phenomena to honest politicians, surprisingly strong dramatic performances by Madonna, and the occasional Rose Bowl appearances of Stanford and Northwestern.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jasper and Aria, the former more so. And they will indulge in Snark-to-Snark Combat almost every time they're both on-screen.
    Aria: Heaven's pretty little ports can't keep up with all the pretty little SOULs that want to cross the pretty little rivers. Why don't you build them a new pretty little port?
    Jasper: If I wasn't already dead, I'd get a pretty little gun and shoot myself.

    Jasper: My dear, "helpful" is my middle name.
    Aria: I thought it was "Herbert".
  • Death Is Not Permanent: If you believe in reincarnation, that is. And the player has to build infrastructure to transport all those reincarnating SOULs back to the planet successfully. (On the one hand, the karma stations are expensive to build and maintain. On the other hand, the planet's population gets a boost, which means more SOULs paying to enter the afterlife in future.)
  • Depraved Dentist: Sinful souls in the "Tooth or Dare" punishment building are tormented by evil dentists.
  • The Ditz: Aria. Though she can occasionally give good advice on afterlife management.
  • Easter Egg: Zoning a 7x7 grid in a certain manner unlocks the Mother Shak, with a hidden message about spirituality by the game's lead writer Michael Stemmle.
  • Endless Game: Like most simulation games, there is no victory condition. There are quite a few defeat conditions, though. Train too many angels and demons, and the unemployed ones decide that whole War-Between-Heaven-And-Hell thing would really solve their boredom. Lose too many SOULs, and The Powers That Be perform the Heaven and Hell Fall, everyone vanishes miracle. And if your funds go too far into the red, you'll get a visit by the Four Surfers of the Apocalypso, who will destroy everything you've built with magma.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The description of Hell states that it "DOESN'T discriminate based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, eye color, or whether you think Kirk is better than Picard."
  • Evil Counterpart: Sometimes a reward structure has an equivalent punishment, such as the heavenly "Spinner of Incredibly Good Fortune" being countered by "You Bet Your Afterlife", whose description outright calls out the difference between Heaven and Hell's game shows.
  • Female Angel, Male Demon: Your advisors, Aria Goodhalo and Jasper Wormsworth.
  • Fluffy Cloud Heaven: Of course. The underneath of Heaven's buildings are even such clouds.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: And by contrast, Hell has fiery rivers and ashes.
  • From Bad to Worse: Almost all the Envy Punishments work like this. The best example is the ultimate Envy Punishment, the Escher Pits. In it, SOULs are tortured through a variety of means, each different from one another. These are in full view of their neighbors, and they're given the chance to switch every few days. Naturally, they switch thinking someone else's punishment is not as bad... only to find ALL the other punishments are somehow WORSE than the last.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Almost everything. EMBOs are Ethically Mature Biological Organisms. When they die, they become SOULs, Stuff Of Unending Life.
  • Gameplay Automation: The automatic balancing of buildings.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: What the people on the planet believe can and will have consequences for the Afterlife. They can believe that Heaven and Hell exist, Heaven is the only thing after death, or Hell awaits everyone. This directly impacts the amount of souls coming in to the respective sides of the Afterlife. The most dangerous is when they start believing that there is nothing at all; if not addressed, it will literally put the Afterlife out of business from lack of SOULs.
  • Going Postal: A tendency in Wrath punishments ("Riot!" goes "It always starts out as a peaceful protest...but the Wrathful nature of the Damned always ensures that something goes wrong..."), specially the one named "The Post Office Game", which has the Damned forced to both sort through the mail and try to send something, with rifles on both sides.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Parodied. Aria's the nicer of the two, but she is by no means the smartest.
  • Gratuitous Disco Sequence: The Disco Inferno. A giant demon in a jumpsuit dances through Hell, demolishing everything on the dance floor. Yes, when it comes to tastes in music, fashion, and choreography, even Hell has standards.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: In the "Library of the Infinite", Diligent SOULs can find and enjoy every book, film, and recording ever made, and then some.
  • Heaven's Devils: You need demons to run Hell just as much as you need angels in Heaven. Shortages will result in SOULs not being punished efficiently. However, too many of either angels or demons will get bored and eventually declare war on the opposing astral plane.
  • Hell Is War: The Ultimate Punishment for Wrath, War: What is it good for?
  • Hope Spot: Some of the Avarice Punishments motivate and further torment the damned with the promise of "Get Out Of Hell Free" cards (that are implied to never come).
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Actually, Surfers of the Apocalypso. The manual even parodies the corresponding verses of the Book of Revelations.
  • Humanoid Aliens: The EMBOs/SOULs, they come from an Earth-like planet which itself isn't earth, and while having the standard 4 limbs, clearly are not humans. Jasper and Aria as well, being essentially divine variants thereof.
  • Ironic Hell: Most of the punishments qualify to some extent, and there's actually a low-level building that crops up every once in a while that deconstructs the concept; the amount of time the demons within spend finding the most Ironic Hell conceivable for each individual soul is actually rather inefficient.
    • The Humility reward structures could be considered the inversion of this trope: Most of them are lavish tributes to humble SOULs, from press conferences to huge "Monuments to Humility". Similarly, the Temperance Rewards are all about food and partying, and Chastity Rewards seem to focus around romance and sex. One of the generic Virtue rewards, the "Personal Freedom Park", is a bit more explicit about this. There are normally rules in Heaven, to keep things fun and family friendly, but here, Virtuous souls can eat, smoke, drink, and fornicate to their hearts' content.
    • The Peacefulness rewards are mostly pretty straightforward (a few seem to put the least angry souls to work in what would normally be frustrating positions, but it's Heaven, so it's still pretty pleasant). One mid-level structure, though, seems to allow its inhabitants to take out their more violent instincts in a harmless way by crafting unique weapons that fire a laughter-inducing substance called Splerf. It seems to be an inverse of Hell's "War: What is it Good for?".
    • Scegf0d the Ungrateful eventually got a personalized one. After complaining that Heaven wasn't good enough and building five machines to improve each of the five senses (then doing the same thing in reverse in Hell), he was turned into a rock with no ability to see, hear, taste, smell, or feel.
  • Kangaroo Court: The Hellish building "Gross Miscarriages of Justice" is about subjecting its victims to an endless procession of "pointless, vicious, media-saturated" trials.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Heaven is easier to run early in the game, because Heaven prefers short travel times for SOULs to walk to their eternal reward, while Hell prefers the Damned walk a long time as another layer of punishment. As the game goes on, and both planes' road systems become more complex, Aria will inevitably start whining about it, and there's nothing you can do.
  • Literal Metaphor: Several of the punishments in hell invoke this. For instance, "Another Man's Shoes" (a punishment for those envious SOULs who spent their lives wishing they were in another man's shoes), involves spending eternity imprisoned in someone's giant, smelly footwear.
  • Loading Screen: Which has jokes, of course.
  • Logo Joke: The winged guy falls into a hellpit and emerges like an angel.
  • Magical Defibrillator: Averted in the intro. The defibrillator, referred to as the "electro-cardial stimulator" or, when the nurse is slow on the uptake, "the jumper cable, you fool!" does absolutely no good for the patient, despite liberal and increasingly frantic use.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Jasper dresses in a snazzy business suit.
  • Mundane Afterlife:
    • A lot of the heavenly rewards bring to mind an indefinite vacation at an expensive resort hotel, something like a cross between Center Parcs and Disneyland. It actually comes off as really, really dull. Some rewards do seem more interesting than others, but SOULs appear to only get one reward each that they stay in permanently. However, the Ad Infinitum that you collect to power the Rewards (and Punishments), also functions to keep Heaven and Hell eternally fulfilling and painful, respectively, so this is more or less an Averted Trope.
    • Similarly, some of the Hell punishments are rather mundane annoyances that would only be mild or moderately unpleasant if it weren't for the fact that they went on literally forever (like the "Ampitheatres of Anguish", which subject Envious souls to all the music they hate the most, or "The Chalkboard").
  • No Fair Cheating: There is a code you can input into the game that will deposit one million pennies into your account. Players who think they can now infinitely splurge and enter the code more than four times end up summoning the Death Star to blast their planet to atoms.
  • Non Standard Game Over: Given it's supposed to be an Endless Game.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Or, "Our SOULs (Stuff Of Unending Life)". They can be turned into angels\demons, reincarnate, among other things.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: A very literal example. One of Hell's punishments places the envious damned in a literal frying pan over a fire. SOULs occasionally jump, vainly hoping that the flames will be less hot this time.
  • The Pearly Gates: The gates actually come in three versions, with bigger and better gates allowing you to process a higher volume of souls. And of course you also have their Evil Counterpart.
  • Postmodernism: One of Heaven's fate structures is... "Game of Afterlife", in which the SOULs play a Heaven/Hell building game. The game's description even lampshades this:
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child:
    • Omnibolges, massive buildings capable of punishing billions of SOUL at a time, are the remains of other Hells that were so actively evil that they collapsed in upon themselves. The horrible thing is that these buildings are still fully-functioning Hells themselves. That table? A super-compressed Lust punishment. That coffee cup? A super-compressed Sloth punishment.
    • Interestingly, Heaven gets something similar with their Love Domes. Instead of collapsing upon themselves, Love Domes are other Heavens that became so happy and peaceful that the entire Heaven ascended to pure happiness. That chair you're sitting on is composed of trillions of heavenly SOULs.
  • Reference Overdosed: The currency is "Pennies from Heaven", the structures go from the rewarding "Casino Royale" to the punishment "The Real Underworld", and then there's the Death Star mentioned above (it's a LucasArts game, after all) Just take a good look at the descriptions...
  • Self-Deprecation: The "Riddle Me This" Punishment:
    • Another case is the description of The Enchanted Forest of Cable: "Unlike the offices of a certain successful computer game company, Hell HAS shelled out the necessary sheckels to get cable television. "
  • Seven Deadly Sins: Of course this springs up. All Punishments revolve around the Sins, while all Rewards revolve around their opposing Virtues. You can imagine which side takes care of which. While the Sins are the default ones found on the trope page, the Virtues have Contentment instead of Kindness, and Peacefulness instead of Patience.
  • Shout-Out: For a non-structure case, during the map tutorial, Aria discusses the harp and pitchfork buttons that quickly toggle between Heaven and Hell.
    Aria: Heaven. Hell. Heaven. Hell. Heaven. Hell. Rabbit Season, Duck Season. Fire!
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: The tutorials consist entirely of banter between Aria and Jasper, though if you pay very close attention, you will also learn how to play the game.
  • Sugar Bowl: A lot of the heavenly Rewards give off that impression.
  • Summer Campy: Taken to a hellish extreme with the generic vice punishment of Camp Mennihackatorso. If the overbearing counselors and bad food don't get you, the hockey-masked psycho killers will.
  • Swords to Plowshares: In Heaven there is a reward structure for peaceful SOU Ls named "Swords Into Plowshares", where they get to spend eternity living in a city made out of discarded missiles, assault weapons, and torpedoes.
  • Take That!: Given it's Reference Overdosed, more than a few descriptions. Along with the case listed under Cue the Flying Pigs:
    • While in Hell, Scegf0d says that "I've seen worse things in a Pauly Shore movie!" and "The music down here is no worse than your average Michael Bolton concert!"
    • A Heavenly structure allows to build creatures such as "purple dinosaurs that sing badly, then explode."
    • The lead designer said some of the game deals with "jabs at people and things that bothered me at the time", and the fact that Hell's ports are named Copperfield, Bono and Eszerthas are probably indications he doesn't like said men.
  • The Powers That Be: These are the overseers of all Afterlifes, and are the ones who ultimately control them and the Demiurges who run them. It's rather surprising to discover that they start getting scared of a Demiurge that manages to make Heaven or Hell have 5 million SOUL's. They actually send the last gift structure as tribute to you.
  • This Isn't Heaven: A few punishments make the damned believe they're in Heaven, such as "Faux Heaven" and "Illuminatiland" (the latter, straighter to the trope as the SOUL starts to notice the flaws and suffers a mental breakdown).
  • Too Clever by Half: Scegf0d is this. He made devices that perfected the senses of everyone in a set radius in Heaven, then made terrible machines that made things even worse in Hell. As Scegf0d's story continues, it reveals that he was able to create these machines within hours near the end of his tale.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The creator of the structures you receive when you hit population milestones. He started as an angel who found issue with EVERYTHING in Heaven, no matter how pleasant, relaxing or beautiful they were, and made the heavenly ones to make the surrounding area more pleasant based on which sense it represented. Eventually, the Powers That Be tossed him down to Hell... where he proceeded to do the exact same thing in Hell , focusing on trying to make Hell even worse than it already was. Ultimately he was reincarnated into a sentient rock, unable to see, hear, smell, taste, or feel for his impudence.
  • Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object: Referenced with the "Rocks Too Heavy To Lift" that cover both Heaven and Hell. They cannot be destroyed, but their physical properties can be used to build the Ad Infinitum Siphons necessary for keeping the SOULs from growing bored and developing the Rewards/Punishments.
  • Visual Pun: Most of the random events are the manifestation of popular phrases involving Heaven or Hell. Hell in a Handbasket is a giant handbasket that floats through Heaven and transports what it takes to Hell, as an example.
  • World of Pun: Almost everything has puns in its title or description.

Alternative Title(s): Afterlife