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Video Game / CarnEvil

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"When the Moon is full and trees are bare -
Walk though the Cemetery if you dare.
Where skeletons rot and corpses fester -
Locate the tomb with the skull of a Jester.
Feed him the token all shiny and new -
It is then that CarnEvil will return for YOU!"
The opening narration

A horror-themed Light Gun Game from Midway Games, CarnEvil is about... well, an evil carnival, set in the fictional town of Greely Valley, Iowa. The game starts off with a hayride/ghost tour making its way through a cemetery at night. One of the patrons hops off the ride and locates the grave of Professor Ludwig Von Tökkentäkker, which seems normal enough... save for the evil-looking statue of a jester's skull on it and a token sticking out of a slot on the tombstone.

Curious to see if the legend (mentioned above) has any weight to it, our faceless protagonist takes the token and puts it in the jester's mouth, whereupon it promptly comes alive and nearly bites his hand off before ascending into the night sky with a maniacal cackle. In a matter of terrifying seconds, a haunted carnival indeed appears—erupting out of the ground with shocking speed, trapping the protagonist (and, presumably, the rest of the tour) inside. And this isn't a good place to be trapped in the middle of the night—there's all number of nasty, bizarre terrors stalking the carnival grounds in search of new victims. Worse yet, the carnival also revived Ludwig Von Tökkentäkker, and he's certain to have some plans in store for anyone who survives the creeps.

Luckily, the protagonist stumbles across the shooting gallery—which, in keeping with the macabre nature of this particular carnival, happens to have real shotguns. Grabbing one of them, with his hapless friend Betty tagging along, he prepares to blast his way out...or die trying.

Released on Halloween 1998, CarnEvil is considered one of Midway's best arcade games note , giving House of the Dead some competition (both games came out the same year). But what people remember the most about the game is its rather surreal and dark humor, as well as its highly disturbing premise. Definitely not one for the kiddies.

The game provides the following tropes:

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    Tropes A-M 
  • The '50s: The theme of the Garage, a bumper car ride.
  • Adjustable Censorship: The game has four levels of violence.
    • Full Gore: The default.
    • Red Blood: Prevents you from dismembering enemies, consequently censoring Tökkentäkker's death as well.
    • Green Blood: Turns blood green, but it also censors Evil Marie's death (she starts to fall, then it cuts to the results).
    • None: Turns blood into smoke, also removes the flamethrower and acid bath weapons.
    • Two unrelated options allow you to replace Junior with Deaddy (a giant teddy bear) and/or prevent the Guilloteens in the Food Court from making vulgar gestures.
  • Afraid of Blood: Despite being a Deadly Doctor, Dr. Klot seemingly hates blood ("Ew, icky blood!")
  • Airborne Mook: The bats in the Haunted House, the buzzing bees in Rickety Town, the human-headed flies in the Freak Show, and the Spanish-speaking imps in the Big Top level.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: Natch. The roller coaster is unfinished, so the Protagonist bails out before the car plummets over the edge and jumps onto the Ferris wheel. One of the seats of the tilt-a-whirl flies off the platform, and the Protagonist crashes through the wall surrounding the bumper car track.
  • Anachronism Stew: The Haunted House dark-ride is naturally styled after an old-timey house, but it has a microwave and fridge in its kitchen.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Both Evil Marie, and Professor Ludwig Von Tökkentäkker (of the "would be a Nazi Nobleman, except he predates the Nazis" variety).
  • Arm Cannon: Hambone, the midboss of the Haunted House level, has a minigun attached to his arm.
    • He shows up again later on, swapping the minigun for a skull launcher.
    • And Tökkentäkker plans to put your brain in the body of gorilla that also has miniguns for arms.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: Subverted in that it's not actually set around the holidays, but a large portion of Rickety Town is Christmas-themed, right down to the festive musical score and Bad Santa boss.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Regular enemies die quicker from head wounds than other types. Eyeclops can be pushed back by shooting out his eyes, and Hambone (both iterations) will stop or delay firing his arm gun/cannon if you shoot it. As for Umlaut and all the main bosses, "fill them full of lead" is about the best strategy you can adopt.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: An early segment of the first stage sees zombified arms sticking out of walls trying to attack you. They can be shot into stumps like everything else in the game.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: It's implied that most of the carnival's performers are the result of Tökkentäkker's experiments. If this is true for all the enemies, then that means that he has also experimented on animals including, but probably not limited to, monkeys (Nik-Naks), poodles (Broodles), and a gorilla (The Arm Cannon-bearing gorilla that Tökkentäkker intends to put the protagonist's brain in.)
  • Bad Santa: Krampus, the boss of Rickety Town, encountered in the ice rink. Actually based off a mythical creature that kidnaps naughty kids and tortures them.
  • Bat People: Muertitos, a species of mutant bat men that speak Spanish. They are only some of the many mutant creations of Prof. Ludwig von Tökkentäkker.
  • Bat Scare: Several times in the Haunted House level. Swarms of bats will appear, but not all of them will attack you.
  • Beware of Vicious Dog: The rabid poodles in the Big Top.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Various giant insects and worms feature as enemies. The "Museum of the Slightly Curious" in the Freak Show also features an "80 lb. Flea" as an exhibit.
  • Black Comedy: Most prevalent in the Rickety Town level, but pretty much everywhere.
    • In the food court area of Rickety Town, one of the Guilloteens gets dropped into a deep fryer.
    • Also in the food court: a sign reading "Burritos as big as your head!" - the implication being that they may actually contain severed heads.
    • At the bumper cars: an ad for "RIP" gasoline, patterned after the STP logo, and a "Who Wants an Eyescream Soda?" billboard that depicts a soda topped with an eyeball.
  • Blatant Lies: The arcade cabinet will assure you "No, that's not the walking dead/it's just a silly clown".
  • Blood Knight: Implied at the end. The Protagonist seems to have enjoyed shooting everything in the evil carnival that he decides to summon it again for another round.
  • Body Horror: Up to Splatterhouse levels in the Freak Show, but you really should've guessed that:
    • The enemy Flapjack was once two twin acrobats. They were tricked into joining the carnival, after which they were lobotomized and cut in half at the waist and their upper bodies were spliced together.
    • The two Chamber of Horrors inmates: Tort has hooks tearing open his stomach, eyes, and mouth (Making it resemble a Slasher Smile), while Rodz is impaled in several places by- What else? Rods!
  • Boss Banter: Krampus, Eyeclops, Umlaut, Tökkentäkker, and Evil Marie to a far lesser extent.
  • Burger Fool: Rickety Town's Food Court houses the Guilloteens, a group of zombie teenagers dressed in bright orange and yellow uniforms and wear little hats shaped like a box of fries.
  • Buried Alive: The zombies in the Haunted House stage try to do this to the Protagonist right before Evil Marie shows up, but he manages to climb out of the grave before the boss fight starts.
  • The Cameo: One of the titular enemies from Trog, another Midway-developed game, appears frozen in a block of ice in the "Museum of the Slightly Curious" portion of Freak Show. There's a health recovery item on the tip of its finger, just to make sure you notice it.
  • Captain Ersatz:
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Uh, the place is called "CarnEvil", so pretty much all of them. In fact, Evil Marie seems pretty proud to have that name when she introduces herself.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Nik-Nak the Spider Monkey, who you let loose about halfway through the Freak Show level, comes back later as an enemy.
  • Christmas Elves: Demented ones named "Tinsels" appear on the "Slay Ride" roller coaster. According to the official website, they're actually naughty children who were transformed by Krampus.
  • Christmas Town: Rickety Town. The player explores most of the rides and attractions here, the only exception being a rocket next to the snowglobe ice rink. While the level is presented as a Christmas-themed theme park, the game's setting is presented as a Circus of Fear, so the trope is Played for Horror and morbid humor, including a monstrous Bad Santa/The Krampus boss battle on a skating-rink.
  • Circus of Fear: The final level in Tökkentäkker's big top tent.
  • Circus of Magic: The titular magic carnival. It is hidden below the graveyard in Greely Valley, but can be summoned by putting a token in the mouth of the jester skull on Ludwig von Tokkentakker's tombstone. It's implied that many, if not all of the carnival's residents are centuries-old zombies, though their true nature is never quite explained. However, Umlaut, the skull himself, is alive and floats around with a trail of sparkles, implying that he's one of the most magical residents.
  • Clothing Damage: Evil Marie (the boss of the Haunted House level) loses clothing as you continue to damage her until she's down to nothing but her underwear.
  • Clown Car: One shows up in the Big Top, except it looks more like an ambulance.
  • Combat Sadomasochist: The enemies in the second half of the Freak Show level.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Several attacks on the player are almost instant and seemingly unavoidable. And some bosses, such as Umlaut, charge at you with obvious attacks with no way to make them flinch. The player must simply trade damage faster.
  • Conjoined Twins: The Flapjack enemy consists of a pair of freakish-looking conjoined twins who are both joined to each other from the waist down.
  • Cool Airship: The Final Boss battle with Tökkentäkker takes place on top of a dirigible.
  • Cowardly Boss: Tökkentäkker periodically teleports away in a puff of smoke, causing your character(s) to chase after him to a new part of his Cool Airship.
  • Creepy Circus Music: Quite a bit, although this is to be expected, considering the game's setting. Some good examples include Select Your Doom and Ludwig von Tökkentäkker's Big Top.
  • Creepy High-Pitched Voice:
    • Umlaut, the magical Villainous Harlequin head who taunts you throughout the game, has a very shrill voice. It goes especially high when he does his Signature Laugh.
    • Dr. Klot, the Mad Doctor clown enemy found in the Big Top level, speaks with a high pitched voice. Funnily enough, there's also a midget clown enemy called Smeek who has a deep, gravelly voice!
  • Damsel in Distress: Betty, who you have to avoid shooting. Most of the time, the monsters are chasing her, and a few scenes suggest they caught her for the moment (showing her in a cage or in stocks).
  • Day-Old Legend: Played with. The Protagonist has been drawn to the grave by an old legend about an evil carnival, and Tökkentäkker's grave is dated 1898. Yet a lot of it seems to have been based on very modern carnivals, including things like a tilt-a-whirl, a Food Court, and a bumper car attraction that's designed as a nostalgic throwback to The '50s. This is likely due to previous victims from that era influencing what would be added as new attractions.
  • The Dead Have Eyes: The skeleton enemies are somehow able to see you.
  • Deadly Doctor: The crazed surgeons who appear in the center ring. They carry large saws and hypodermic needles.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons appear as part of the crew on Tökkentäkker's Cool Airship.
  • Developer's Foresight: During the rematch with Hambone, he retains every injury you gave him the first time around.
  • Die Laughing: The Flapjacks laugh when they are damaged. When killed, the laughter sometimes degenerates into pained gagging.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Evil Marie screams quite, er... "suggestively"... when she's IMPALED on a fountain.
  • Enemy Chatter: With the exception of the Mames, Mister Ozob, Tinsels, Tort, Rodz, and the Zombies, every humanoid non-boss enemy has dialogue.
  • Enemy Mime: Zombie mimes show up in the Big Top level. May overlap with Everyone Hates Mimes, as they don't actually attack you.
  • Enfant Terrible: The boss of the Freak Show level is a giant Frankenstein's Monster baby named Junior. The developers, considering that (even by this game's standards) some arcade owners would find this too disturbing, have an option to replace him with a teddy bear named Deaddy.
  • Evil Hand: One hallway in the Haunted House has dangerous hands that come out of holes in the walls to swipe at the Protagonist when he passes through.
  • Excuse Plot: Well, a teenager is curious about this old story so he goes to the cemetery - dragging his girlfriend along — and then conjures this place up because he's curious. That's the whole excuse for him to beat the hell out of zombies. (In fact, bringing his girlfriend is just an excuse for her to appear from time to time for something to avoid hitting.)
    • And then he later finds the jester head again and starts the whole thing over.
  • Exposition Fairy: Umlaut at the start of every stage, giving the player a cute little poem about what they're in for. He's also the second-to-last boss.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Eyeclops, in addition to having a single eye on each of his two heads, has five more in his chest and arms.
  • Fade Around the Eyes: At the end, the screen fades to black around Umlaut's eyes, complete with an Evil Laugh, to show that he is Back from the Dead.
  • Fake Difficulty: On occasion, enemies can hurt you even if they aren't onscreen, making it look like you're taking damage from nowhere. It's also impossible to prevent some of the bosses's attacks from hitting you.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Evil Marie has some rather long pointy teeth. Umlaut also attacks by biting.
  • Foreshadowing: In the Haunted House level, when the Protagonist goes inside, you can see a portrait of a young girl holding an axe covered with blood. Take a guess who is at the end of the level.
  • Fragile Speedster: As expected, Umlaut during his boss battle. He goes down quickly, but man — is he a hard target!
  • The Freakshow: One of the levels is set in one.
  • Gatling Good: Machine guns are one of the weapon pick-ups in the game, and are found throughout all stages of the game.
  • Giant Medical Syringe: The Dr. Klot enemies, which are Monster Clowns in doctor outfits, are sometimes seen using giant syringe needles as weapons. If not a needle, their other weapon is a giant bonesaw.
  • Giant Spider: Stalking around the darkened corridors of the Haunted House level.
  • Giggling Villain: The Flap-Jack acrobats laugh a lot like Goofy. Even as they are dying.
  • Go for the Eye: The mini-boss in the Freak Show level, appropriately dubbed Eyeclops. He has one eye in each of his two heads, three in his chest, and one in each arm.
  • Gorn: Very, VERY bloody game. It's from the company that made Mortal Kombat, after all.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: The zombies in the Haunted House level will sometimes hurl body parts at the players.
  • Harmless Villain: The mimes in the Big Top stage, seeing as a mime wouldn't be able to actually touch you, after all.
  • Hated by All: It's pretty easy to hate Umlaut, what with his high-pitched voice, mocking poems before each level, and snide comments during your fight with him. Turns out he's not exactly popular In-Universe: In the final level, there's a chalkboard with "Umlaut is a Kiss-Ass" scrawled on it, presumably by the other Mooks.
  • Haunted House: One of the stages is based off a dark house ride version of one.
  • Hearts Are Health: Red hearts can restore your Life Meter.
  • Here We Go Again!: The game ends with the protagonist restarting the journey through CarnEvil all over again while Betty screams in despair.
  • High-Class Glass: Tökkentäkker wears a token-styled monocle on his left eye, with a pattern of Umlaut on it rather than the regular one that the Protagonist used to summon CarnEvil.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: How does Big Bad Tökkentäkker bite the dust? He gets turned into red mulch by one of the propellers on his own Zeppelin! The game even repeats the scene a few times, because it's oh so satisfying to finally kill him.
  • Hollywood Acid: One of the pick-ups you can get is an "acid gun", and it melts enemies to sludge—complete with a hissing sound.
  • Homage: The miniboss Hambone is a throwback to the Slasher Film genre, ESPECIALLY Friday the 13th. His reappearance later in the level as "Hambone the Revenge" is a throwback to their MANY sequels.
  • Hostage Spirit-Link: Every so often, Betty will pop up, and you have to avoid shooting her. Shooting her anyway costs you some of your life.
  • Human Cannonball: The bat imps are launched out of a cannon. Also, this is how the player gets up to higher ground.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Dr. Klots (or Doctors Klot?), the clown doctor enemies, seem to be Afraid of Blood ("Ew, icky blood!") yet they have no qualms about trying to cut you up with saws or stick you with giant syringe needles.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: In the last basement stretch of the Freak Show level, a Tort gets pulled into a grinder and you see several baby food bowls being filled with red mush before going on to face Junior. The implication is that Junior eats the pulverized remains of anyone who takes a wrong step in that basement.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The eventual fate of Evil Marie: she falls onto a pointed fountain ornament that goes right through her torso.
  • In Harm's Way: The Protagonist hops on evil flaming rollercoasters and barges through the zombie-invested Haunted House, climbs into the human cannonball cannon of his own free will and grabs the trapeze, and even after he wins he summons the CarnEvil again almost immediately.
  • Incendiary Exponent: When Hambone, mid-boss of the Haunted House makes his entrance, he is on fire after apparently climbing out of the wrecked car outside the door.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals:
    • Although Betty is presented as the only innocent bystander in the game, this is debatable because there are a few times she appears to be killed by zombies and spiders in the Haunted House level. The kids on the tour at the beginning of the game happen to be all Palette Swaps of the protagonist and Betty.
    • This also applies to many of the enemies, with their descriptions on the website describing them as singular people.
  • I Warned You: The ending: The player destroys CarnEvil and escapes... and immediately decides to put the token back into the gravestone, while Betty begs him not to, presumably starting the whole thing over.
  • Jump Scare: Pretty omnipresent, albeit this sort of thing is to be expected in a rail shooter.
  • Killer Rabbit: One of the oddities in the "Museum of the Slightly Curious" is a "Mechanical Killer Rabbit", with the internal mechanisms showing and holding a blood-stained dagger. But don't worry, it doesn't attack you.
  • Killer Teddy Bear: Deaddy, a giant teddy bear that can be substituted for Junior as the Freak Show boss.
  • Knee-capping: The game specifically models gruesome damage to the kneecaps on some enemies. Each knee can be damaged separately.
  • Large Ham: Umlaut...isn't a fan of subtlety. Neither is Tökkentäkker.
  • Laughing at Your Own Jokes: Umlaut loves to make jokes at the main character's expense, and follows each one with a long and ridiculously over-the-top Evil Laugh.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: How Umlaut dies. He even wails, "AAAGH! I'm 'SHATTERED!!''
  • Ludicrous Gibs: All over the damn place.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The song "Big Bunyan Ride" is a jaunty logging tune about your imminent death.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Fittingly for a ringmaster, Tökkentäkker's Desperation Attack near the end of the Final Boss battle is to launch an endless stream of fireworks at your face.
  • Made of Iron: At the end of the game, Betty survives falling from the exploding zeppelin without any signs of injury. And assuming that she's the sole innocent bystander in the game, this also means she survived being gnawed on by zombies and spiders without a scratch.
  • Magical Clown: Umlaut, a magical flying jester head. In a way, he's also the mechanism that summons the haunted carnival.
  • Meaningful Name: Tökkentäkker. A pun on "token taker". Refers to both the token required to summon him and the endless amount of tokens you need to "give him" to beat the game.
  • Messy Maggots: Among the many nauseating horrors in the Freak Show level are maggots with humanlike faces.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter: The deadly "spider-monkeys" encountered in the Freak Show.
  • Monster Clown: The last stage, the Big Top, is chock full of these - big and small. Umlaut is also one, and you deal with him at the end of the Big Top prior to chasing Tökkentäkker.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Professor von Tökkentäkker? What the heck could he teach?!
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Umlaut has jaws like a shark, full of long, pointy teeth.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Betty, who wears short shorts and a top exposing her midriff and clevage.
    • Becomes Fan Disservice with Evil Marie, who isn't someone you want to see in her undergarments.
  • Museum of the Strange and Unusual: The "Museum of the Slightly Curious", a small alcove full of oddities. Some of these include a "Thing in a Bottle", a mummy sarcophagus, an Ancient Mystery Skull of Time, and even the World's Biggest Shoe.

    Tropes N-Z 
  • Say My Name: All of the bosses, except Hambone and Junior/Deaddy, are announced to the player. Of these, Krampus, Eyeclops and Evil Marie introduce themselves when they appear, Tökkentäkker appears on a giant video screen when you reach the center ring of the Big Top to announce himself, and Umlaut gets called out to the fight (Tökkentäkker: "Umlaut! Get him!")
  • Scary Stitches: Junior and Deaddy, two Frankensteins Monsters, are both haphazardly stitched together. It's one of the most horrifying things about Junior, considering that he's an Enfante Terrible. Fortunately, the Body Horror isn't quite as strong for Deaddy, since he's a Killer Teddy Bear.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: Like Zombie Raid before it, the game supports a two player mode despite there being no second person present in the cutscenes.
  • Shoot the Bullet: A lot of enemies throw projectiles at you, especially in the Rickety Town stage when you enter the Food Court. You can use your own weapon to deflect them.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Your weapon can be upgraded to a full-fledged shotgun with ten shots.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A happy, wonderful Christmas jingle is played during the Slay Ride portions of Rickety Town.
    • There's also the 1950s style music in the Garage.
  • Stealth Insult: Umlaut's introduction to the Freak Show level insinuates that you're a freak. It takes a second. Although he could also be implying what'll become of you once the freaks get through — he makes a similar implication in the intro to the final stage.
  • Stepford Smiler: The Smilin' Bob and Flap-Jack enemies never stop smiling, even if they've barely got a face left to smile with.
  • Stripped to the Bone: Shooting enemies in certain areas enough times will expose the bones.
  • Take Over the World: The official website states that Tökkentäkker's ultimate goal is to turn the whole world into a twisted carnival via an army of giant freaks. Fortunately, he's only created two giant freaks so far. Unfortunately, those giant freaks are Junior and Deaddy, the mutually-exclusive bosses of the Freak Show.
  • Take That!: The dinosaurs in Rickety Town are one to Barney the Dinosaur. The official website even says their name is "Carnie the Dinosaur".
  • The End... Or Is It?: Subverted. The protagonist puts the token back into the jester’s mouth, thus starting the whole thing all over again. However, since the game never received a sequel, it ends on an unresolved cliffhanger.
  • Tightrope Walking: The Protagonist does this when he's at the top of the tent. Enemies seem to balance very well (unless they're shot off the tightrope).
  • Title Drop: At the end of the intro, Tökkentäkker yells out, "Welcome to CARNEVIL!"
  • Too Dumb to Live: The protagonist (assuming he isn't just In Harm's Way) who not only decides to tempt fate by bringing the carnival up in the first place, but decide to do it again after he makes it out.
    • Betty, for running around in your crossfire while not even trying to help you fight the monsters. Even worse, she sometimes gets very close to a Power-Up that you only have a few seconds to aim for. That said, even she knows the protagonist is the bigger idiot for putting them through that mess, and has the common sense to try to tell them NOT to do it AGAIN.
    • There are some scenes that suggest she's trying to help. For example, there's a torture chamber in the Freak Show where she slams the door of an iron maiden, trapping a zombie inside. Unfortunately, that only means she's really in your way when you try to shoot at three other zombies.
  • Torture Cellar: The Chamber of Horrors, a rather disturbing part of the Freak Show level. Beneath the chamber is a macabre assembly line of sorts, and guess what's being made there? Nums for the boss!
  • Tragic Monster: Lester and Chester Turvy, who were tricked by Tokkentaker, lobotomized, and turned into the Flapjack man.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: Some enemies land a hit on you seconds after they appear, so the only way to defend yourself from them is to know in advance where they will appear.
  • Twisted Christmas: Rickety Town's "Slay Ride" roller coaster and Krampus' ice rink.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: The Mimes don't do anything to harm you, and you can just ignore them and move on in the level. Or you can just shoot them anyway because they're Mimes.
  • Villainous Harlequin: Our flying skull-headed host, Umlaut.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: During the battle with Junior (or Deaddy), the Protagonist enters a giant doll house to take cover. The boss rips the roof off and proceeds to puke all over the players. Make sure to shoot the last drop of vomit, or their last meal is on you.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: If you have enough quarters to beat the game, the epilogue will have you put the token in again while Betty screams for him to stop.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of Spooky Sam and the other kids on the tour, though it's reasonable to assume that some of the girls are the bystanders you're supposed to avoid hitting.
  • Yes-Man: Umlaut to Tökkentäkker, if the graffiti in the "Big Top" level (presumably left by his fellow Mooks) is to believed.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: The last part of the last level is a zeppelin. It's basically from the afterlife.