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Video Game / Black Snow

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It's been a week since the Amaluuk Research Station's gone dark. It might just be a severed landline — it is in the middle of snow-battered nowhere, somewhere in Greenland — or it just might be the death of you.

You're John Matsuda, an IT specialist being chugged out to the Amaluuk Research Station with several other "IT specialists" to investigate why the station's gone dark. What's supposed to be a routine service leaves all of your coworkers separated, dead, or worse, and, as nightfall and below-zero temperatures take over the station, leaves you to find out what's happened.

A Half-Life 2 game mod, you can download it here. Please note that as of August 1st 2013, the mod was made unplayable following a steamPipe update. A patch was released in December 2015, though its stability is somewhat contested.


This videogame provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: There are a few logical inconsistancies ranging from the in-game mechanics and story.
    • Heat heals everything. Even what's basically animated darkness choking and freezing you to death in an attempt to use your body as a food source.
    • Despite the game being presented as a found footage, the player can experience a hallucination of a man watching you from a hill, and the camera somehow captures this.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Used to break into a barricaded dormitory room.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The ending is hardly an ending at all, as it simply ends with Matsuda making it to the communications tower, only to find the place rigged with C4. The tower blows up, throwing him through the window, and he lands through the roof of a building. Mortally wounded, he looks at the sky to see an aurora, and the camera soon cuts to several flashy scenes before going dark. Matsuda's true fate is unknown, although it seems quite unlikely that he survived.
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  • Antagonist Title: The Black Snow is the hostile fungus that killed off the researchers and Matsuda's team, and terrorizes Matsuda as he makes his way through the station.
  • Apocalyptic Log: You'll find a few of these on the various laptops scattered throughout the station that once belonged to the researchers. They provide some clues to the nature of the Black Snow that give you an idea of what may have happened, but not enough for anything concrete.
  • Berserk Board Barricade: You'll come across a few boarded over doors meant to keep the Black Snow contained. In one case, you'll find a researcher who boarded themselves in their own room to keep the Black Snow out after it spread across the station.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: The fate of Matsuda's squad leader, the implication being that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to avoid being killed by the Black Snow.
  • Blob Monster: The black fungus Matsuda encounters throughout the station is extremely harmful to the touch, but is otherwise stationary and easily avoided. The one that lurks in the dark, on the other hand...
  • Camera Abuse: Played with, in-universe. Everything the player sees is really Matsuda's head-mounted camera. The intro has a skewed, wobbly, panicked angle — which fits the fact that Matsuda just saw several men get devoured by darkness.
    • The ending displays the faces of what appears to be the researchers the Black Snow consumed as Matsuda's feed cuts out.
    • Each time the player dies, it's technically this: the camera spits out a "missing track" or "corrupted data" error.
  • Closed Circle: Nightfall and the below-zero temperatures make it impossible for Matsuda to leave the station without getting lost and freezing to death, and with the comms still down, he can't radio for help, either, and is effectively trapped with the hostile lifeform that has overrun the station.
  • Darkness Equals Death: Typically, you'll want to avoid staying in the dark for long periods of time as the Black Snow thrives in dark environments and can cut through your health within a few hits. Naturally, it's adverse to any and all light sources.
  • Deadly Gas: Maybe. The more mobile, aggressive variant of the Black Snow takes the appearance of black, wispy vapors that quickly traverse the darkness and are extremely harmful to the touch, but its exact nature is unknown.
  • Downer Beginning: The researchers are all dead and Matsuda's team is killed off mere hours into their assignment, leaving him to face the horrors of the station alone. This is the game's starting point.
  • Driven to Suicide: Matsuda finds several people — his squad leader, most notably — appearing to have committed suicide, but in the case of his squad leader, he sees a gunshot wound, but no gun, and one body that he surmises to have committed suicide has no exterior trauma.
  • Drone of Dread: The game makes effective use of one to keep up the atmosphere and tension, even when the player isn't actively being chased.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Matsuda is apparently killed by C4 rigged in the communications tower that blows him through the window and onto the roof of the station, which collapses in on itself. The game ends before it can truly confirm if Matsuda died, but chances of his survival are very slim.
  • Eerie Arctic Research Station: Your player character John Matsuda is an IT specialist being chugged out to the Amaluuk Research Station in Greenland with several other "IT specialists" to investigate why the station's gone dark a week ago. What's supposed to be a routine service leaves all of your coworkers separated, dead, or worse, and, as nightfall and below-zero temperatures take over the station, leaves you to find out what's happened.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Matsuda has little to no characterization or personality beyond his occupation as an IT technician. He's a blank slate for the player to project themselves onto.
  • First-Person Ghost: Matsuda has no discernible character model, though it can be safely assumed his attire would be similar to that of his teammates.
  • Freeware Game: The mod is completely free of charge, the only requirement being ownership of the Half-Life 2 base game, which most downloaders are likely to have anyway.
  • Fridge Logic: In-universe: one of Matsuda's teammates grumps about supposed "IT technicians" being equipped with firearms, military gear, and hazmat suits on the way to the research station.
  • Found Footage: The entire game is this: you're viewing the footage obtained by the player character.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The Black Snow, despite its seemingly fungal properties, produces strange, ghostly-sounding whispers that further elevates the creep factor. One could make the argument that the voices are in Matsuda's head, as certain species of fungi can induce hallucinations, but since the game takes place through Matsuda's head cam, which also picks up the whispers, it is entirely possible that the Black Snow possesses supernatural qualities.
  • Immune to Fire: A document on one of the researchers' laptops notes that the Black Snow is resistant to heat and this rings true. Dropping a flare only causes the fungus to shrink in repulsion of the light, but otherwise remains unharmed.
  • Impeded Communication: The primary impetus behind the game's plot. When the research station goes dark, Matsuda's team is sent to investigate, then everything goes to hell.
  • Jitter Cam: The intro, reflecting Matsuda blindly fleeing whatever the hell just ate his teammates. It goes away after that, thankfully.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The researchers are long dead by the time Matsuda's team reaches the station at the start of the game, meaning they're completely unprepared and easy pickings for the Black Snow.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Black Snow is a very aggressive, highly contagious, parasitic fungal spore that flourishes in dark environments of any sort, but is repelled by any visible light. That doesn't, however, explain the ghostly voices and noises it makes, the groan it emits as it attacks, why it actively follows you, why its presence as a Slenderman-like figure appeared in the psyche of several research team members prior to it being dug up, why said figure watches you from a laptop's wallpaper and in a hallucination, and seems to lead you into a trap at the end, why objects such as a wheel chair and the dead bodies of your crew can be moved without any external source, and why ghostly faces and images of a cave splash past at certain points, most notably when Matsuda apparently dies. It is entirely possible that a paranormal element is at play here.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: Whoever embedded an ice vehicle's key in a cinder brick and put the code to the communication tower on various X-Rays with creepy euphemisms for each shown organ or bone really needs therapy.
  • No Ending: Matsuda finally makes it to the communications tower, but the place is rigged with C4 before he can do anything, and he's blasted out a window. As he apparently dies, an aurora forms over him — which would be beautiful if the faces of the victims and caves didn't flash on the camera before the feed cuts out for real. The C4 was presumably rigged by a shadowy figure that's been tracking Matsuda... but the developers keep mum on the issue.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Much of the game is utterly empty, beyond the dark, oppressive nature of the station and its remoteness. Even the enemies themselves aren't anything but roiling clouds of wispy smoke.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The ghost-like beings known as the Black Snow are apparently a species of predatory fungus, yet do seem to possess seemingly paranormal abilities. They thrive in the dark, but fear light.
  • Primal Fear: Anyone with a fear of the dark is going to have a hard time with this one, especially now that there's actually something to be afraid of lurking in those shadows.
  • Red Herring: Loads of them. Early on, the site AI comments it's only operating at 30% power, possibly hinting at there being a task to get the generators online so it can fill you in on the details it can't at the time you meet it. Additionally, there's one computer that has its access locked, and another which has seemingly had all information wiped clean from it. You can interact with both of these, but in no meaningful way. You also find quite a few corpses smelling strongly of vinegar or with no obvious external trauma. The presence of someone watching you and planting C4 in the end to destroy the communication tower and seemingly killing Matsuda also really leads nowhere.
  • Red Shirt: Matsuda's entire team. They don't receive much characterization and are all unceremoniously killed by the Black Snow before the game starts proper.
  • Run or Die: The only option you have against the Black Snow, but this is only a temporary solution because it's actually faster than you. Light is the only effective way to stave it off.
  • Send in the Search Team: Matsuda's job in a nutshell was to investigate a communications failure at the research station. Guess how well that goes!
  • Shout-Out: The game isn't shy about being a love letter to John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), using the isolation and oppressive atmosphere of the cold as big nods to the film. There's even a bloody dog kennel!
  • Silent Protagonist: John Matsuda, the protagonist and Player Character, never says a word. The most the player can get out of him is his observations when interacting with objects.
  • Snowed-In: The blizzard and below-zero temperatures bar Matsuda from leaving the station, and he will start freezing to death if he stays out too long.
  • Sole Survivor: Matsuda is the only one to survive the Black Snow's initial attack on his team. Unfortunately, it's most likely he doesn't make it out in the end.
  • Tempting Fate: At the start of the game, as Matsuda's team is making their sweep of the Amaluuk Research Station, one of his teammates remarks, "What's the worst that can happen?" Cue the entire team, sans Matsuda, getting slaughtered by the entity mere hours later.
  • Trapped-with-Monster Plot: The game in a nutshell. Matsuda can either freeze to death in the cold or brave the hostile fungus that's taken over the station and actively trying to kill him.
  • Unseen Evil: Someone massacred the sled dogs, and it seems unlikely to be the Black Snow, given that whoever did it used both a harpoon gun and some sort of decapitation tool. You might think the dog handler did it as a Mercy Kill, but there are no weapons near his body and the method seems way too brutal. Other discrepancies you run across include your team leader seemingly dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound despite no gun being near his body. This all culmulates in you discovering the comms tower has been boobytrapped with C4 by an unknown party.
  • The Virus: The Black Snow functions like one, being highly contagious and pathogenic, similar to a fungus. One of the researchers presumes the infection is transmitted through spores, implying it could be airborne. Good thing you brought those gas masks.