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Video Game / Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou

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"There is a lot of zen to this whole dealie and it does get deep, but seriously look at those fucking things. It's like H.P. Lovecraft shat out Salvador Dali after eating Picasso."
Top comment on YouTube, which pretty much sums it up.

Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou is a Japanese Point-and-Click Game by OutSide Director Osamu Sato, first released in 1994 for the Apple Macintosh. An English translation and PC port followed in 1995. It was developed by OutSide Directors Company and published by Sony Imagesoft.

Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou is also a... rather strange game.

The game starts out with a guy named Rin discovering that his soul was stolen by the island of Tong-Nou—presumably to eat it—and if he doesn't get it back then he'll "weaken and eventually die in emptiness." Rin decides to go and retrieve his soul, but before he does, his friend Yashiro gives him a temporary soul which will last for forty-nine days. When he gets there it turns out that the island is a giant green human head floating in darkness, and in order to continue your quest, you have to enter the head through one of its orifices. Things only get stranger from there. By the way, it was created by Osamu Sato, who is also responsible for LSD: Dream Emulator, which explains a lot.

There was a sequel, but it was even more obscure and was only released in Japan, so for years virtually nothing was known in the West except that it was called Chu-Teng ("中天"). However after years of searching, a copy was unearthed by 4chan.

Please put tropes for Chu-Teng on its own page!

Eastern Mind contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Short Level: 4 of the 9 lives end less than a minute after they begin, with one of them even ending before it begins.
  • Art Shift: The introductory cutscene is in a simple drawn style, as opposed to most of the game, which is pre-rendered 3D animation.
  • Big Eater: The Room of Appetite from the Helix Palace is a pretty blatant one.
  • Big "NO!": Moku-Gyou reacts this way to the Koma, and his opening his mouth is used as an opportunity to enter the Tree of Life.
  • Broken Record: Fang-Shing and Ga-Show are two characters who repeat themselves quite a bit.
    • Some music is prone to this, as much of the game's soundtrack is at least 30 seconds of looping music.
  • Controllable Helplessness: The entirety of your very brief time "playing" as Zen is spent frozen in ice. The only thing you're able to do is look left and right around a nondescript hallway while listening to Zen's thoughts about how boring and depressing living in ice is, until an intruder ( you) comes in and immediately kills you.
  • Creator Cameo: Tong-Nou is depicted as Osamu Sato's head.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Tong Nou(東脳) is Japanese/Chinese for East(ern) Mind/Brain. Therefore, the title is literally Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Eastern Mind.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: The "fun" tangent the Fang Shing sing is set to the tune of the intro theme.
  • Dream Land: The Land of Dreaming, Mon-chien.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: You have to die and reincarnate 9 times in the game, and four of your lives end instantly.
  • Genius Loci: The titular island.
  • Gonk: Literally every single character is a really weird-looking creature.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: The illustrated handbook you find offers biographies of the game's characters and hints to its puzzles.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Apparently the Land of Desire is full of creatures who fit this trope.
  • Guide Dang It!: Happens occasionally, but it happens especially in Byou's life, where you have to answer who owns the Eyeball of Dreaming. It's Tou-Gyou, or the king of Tong-Nou. However, this fact is only brought up on the ending... Something that is either way after you should be here, or a bunch of Insane Troll Logic. You'd basically have to do brute force, hack into the game, or simply look up a walkthrough to figure this out, lest you wish to spend extreme amounts of time trying to force upon Insane Troll Logic to solve the puzzle.
    • For the solution to the puzzle, One of Tou-Gyou's messages mentions the eyeballs were his. In order to find out his name, you're supposed to click on his image that appears in certain locations in the game, who claims he is Tou-Gyou. When you input Tou-Gyou into the keyboard on the Computer, you will get a message regarding his name, and a slight appearance of him. You're then meant to link that character with the images, and how he is everywhere, but nowhere, and state Tou-Gyou as the true owner.
  • Have a Nice Death: Many different death scenes, although you can be reincarnated.
  • Inconsistent Dub: The packaging and title screen do not hyphenate "Tong-Nou", but in-game text does—hence the haphazard use of both versions across the English internet.
  • Jump Scare: Although there are no screamers, some monsters will appear suddenly in front of the player.
    • These can be accidental, too, due to a glitch in some dumps that speeds up some animations intensely. A rather stunning example is Retsu's death, which is normally a rather slow animation, but with the glitch, literally happens in about a second.
  • Mind Screw: Could just as easily be called "Mind Screw: The Game". Even if you take into account Rule of Symbolism, it's a really strange game.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Apparently, the Island steals souls not for eating, but for purifying.
  • Our Souls Are Different: After Rin's soul is stolen, he must find it in the strange land of Tong-Nou or die a slow death. He has a temporary replacement soul and can reincarnate if he dies, but he only has forty-nine days to find his soul.
  • Pixel Hunt: Occurs occasionally.
  • Surreal Horror: The surreal designs are very creepy-looking.
    • Surreal Humor: Of course, sometimes these are joked about in-game. T.B.C. and the Reincarnation Jin comes to mind, the latter of which dies before you can play as him due to his incarnation being unsuccessful.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: Apparently, the Japanese release of the game is just called Eastern Mind (plus its kanji title 東脳), and the English version tacked on The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou to make it sound more enigmatic.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Since the game involves reincarnation and you need to live the lives of several different creatures, there will be lots of deaths around.
  • The Soulless: Averted. Although he loses his real soul, Rin receives a temporary soul that he can use until he finds his real one.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Gyou, Retsu, Zen, and Jin. The first three's lives have very little interactivity and end in their deaths after less than a minute, and Jin is dead before his introduction finishes.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Once Rin manages to free Tou-Gyou and the trapped souls, the game ends on a philosophical monologue with no idea what happened to the other characters.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Used in an odd way. Escaping with your soul means enduring multiple deaths, or reincarnation, which is also used as a game mechanic. If you accept the gift of immortality via the Room of Immortality, you're trapped forever in Tong-Nou, represented by an endless rapid-fire slideshow of every scene in the game. This is the only way to actually lose in the game, as any other death allows you to reincarnate. The game is, of course, Unwinnable if you do this and haven't saved beforehand.
  • Womb Level: An odd one, as the game takes place inside a giant head, yet inside are entire lands, and not a womb in the typical sense.
  • World Tree: Mingke-shu, The Tree of Life, is where all of the Tong-Nou creatures and their reincarnations are created.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: The reason the game's plot is put in motion.