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Video Game / Environmental Station Alpha

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Environmental Station Alpha is a retro-styled indie platform game by Finnish developer team Hempuli Oy that draws heavy inspiration from the Metroid games, and was released in May 2015 on PC through Steam.

The eponymous station where the game takes place was an environmental habitat divided into several zones to house different kinds of alien flora and fauna. A disaster several decades ago caused the station to be abandoned - the player is dispatched to the station in the form of a scouting robot to find out exactly what happened there.

The gameplay consists of exploring the station, defeating creatures and finding new tools along the way to help you progress to new areas and uncover more of the mysteries within the station. Many challenges exist in the form of hazardous areas, violent creatures and the station's old defense systems which have not taken kindly to your intrusion.

A sequel is in the works.

No relation to The Station (which in 3D, and set in space) or The Final Station (which is about a train driver during a Zombie Apocalypse.)

This game provides examples of:

  • 100% Completion: Completion percentage appears to be increased by collecting items and defeating bosses, rather than exploring the map. Defeating each boss again during the New Game Plus will extend it well above 100%.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Just about every robotic security system on the station will quite happily attempt to murder you on sight, even more so when the power gets switched back on.
    • This trope also covers the cause of the disaster on the station, though the station's AI itself was not so much responsible for it as the alien computer virus that was uploaded to it by a passing ship.
  • Aliens Speaking English: The alien characters all speak english, but it usually comes across in a alphabet of their own that must be deciphered. Mwyah and the Council, on the other hand, speak to the robot in plain english.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Ultimately, the protagonist becomes a host to the alien virus, either betraying mankind so the virus can keep spreading further or attempting to wander away so the virus can never reach civilization.
  • Arc Symbol: There is a recurring all-seeing eye motif seen as part of the design of various characters and their attacks.
  • Bonus Boss: You don't need to face the Multicore and the Mender Unit in order to progress to the final boss. The post game also features a couple of unique boss encounters: Mwyah, the Restless Spirit and then Mwyah in their true form.
  • Boss Rush: There is one located at the Volcanic Sector which opens after defeating Mwyah. It sets your equipment to what it was meant to be at the time of each boss, but doesn't disable the Bike and lets you keep your 30 hp. Each boss beaten restores 2 hp.
  • Boss Subtitles: The bosses have their names featured on their life bar. This gets played with sometimes: Mwyah has their name written in alien symbols and both the Virus and Mwyah's true form have no name in the life bar.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: Beating the Alien ending in the first release or collecting the Crown in the update rewards, or should we say, punishes the player with a permanent mode that increasingly glitches the graphics until they become barely readable.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: Three of them! The first is an incredibly cruel (but short) gauntlet of instant death spikes and other hazards you must brave if you want to visit the planet's surface. The second is the Crystal Ruins and the White Maze, which are incredibly difficult to even find and even harder to beat. Finally, an expansion added the Research Outpost bonus area. It features an enemy and a secret boss that prevent you from using the overpowered abilities you can have by that point.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Statues in the likeness of Mwyah are seen way before you meet them in person.
  • Cool Bike: A joke bike item appears hidden inside the Derelict Ship after defeating Mwyah. It looks funny, increases your speed and adds Cool Shades to the robot's picture in its menu. Although you can use it to run over enemies, it doesn't protect yourself from Collision Damage. Hitting some of the bosses at the Boss Rush with the bike results in surprisingly high damage, though, again, you're also hurting yourself in the process.
  • Cool Crown: A crown is the subject of one of the post-game's last puzzles.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Averted. The lower volcanic areas are too hot to withstand without specialized equipment and will kill you pretty quickly if you linger too long.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Much of the post game content is about encountering alien menaces of this kind, such as Mwyah and the strange Eldritch Abomination they answer to.
  • Counter-Attack: There is an enemy at the Research Outpost which attacks by countering the use of charged shots and dashes with unavoidable blasts.
  • Creative Closing Credits: Clearing the game with certain endings turns the credits into a shmup minigame, but shooting the letters does nothing special.
  • The Darkness Gazes Back: There are places in the caverns where eyes will peek from the darkness when the robot turns his back at them. An omniscient single eye is also a recurring motif among the alien characters.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: You can beat up the local alien deity Mwyah twice, but they take revenge in at least one ending.
  • Downer Ending: Pretty much all of them! In the standard ending gained by defeating the final boss normally, the robot scout ends up bringing the virus back to base with him, where utter devastation promptly ensues with the implication that the virus will go on to heavily damage if not outright destroy human civilization.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: Hempuli has noted how people expected to be able to avoid the game's Downer Ending by doing a 100% run. In response, the other endings for clearing the many layers of the post-game are either slightly less terrible than the original or ominous cliffhangers.
  • Easter Egg:
    • Scary-looking but harmless characters can randomly pass by the screen in certain rooms as a kind of Jump Scare joke.
    • There is a map in the Research Outpost that points to various secret rooms that have no grand purpose.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Mwyah's true form when fought inside their chamber really is something else. Their superiors are a mass of giant heads who manifest in a much larger scale during the Usurper ending.
  • End-Game Results Screen: It comes with your current time and completion percentage, plus a bonus picture that changes depending of how much % you got.
  • Extended Gameplay: There is a lot of post-game content to tackle here.
  • Fantastic Nature Reserve: Most of Environmental Station Alpha is several of these combined into one.
  • Final Boss Preview: The station's AI tries to murder you in a boss fight about halfway through the game - defeating it results in it holding back and retreating instead of taking you out then and there.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The cause of the disaster turns out to be a powerful computer virus. It is repeatedly noted how it can infect any kind of machine, marking the robot as a Doomed Protagonist.
    • Among the statues of Mwyah, there's one on the volcano area just outside the temple that is surrounded by four pillars, which hints at what must be done to summon them.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Much of the game's platforming centers around careful use of the Hookshot to swing towards high places.
  • Guide Dang It!: Some of the journals you come across are written in an alien language. Figuring out how to translate this is a gigantic pain in the ass, to say nothing of the obtuse riddles you get once you do translate them. Word of God is that the puzzles were designed to be a mystery and to encourage the playerbase to cooperate to decipher the riddles.
  • Hub Level: The Cave Sector is the largest sector on the station and where you'll spend most of the game. It's also rather conveniently right in the middle of all the other sectors.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Supercharge Module makes your shots permanently charged. You can go after it even before fighting the final boss, if you can overcome the Multicore. Finding all the 12 floppy disks opens the way to the Dash Booster X, which enables unlimited air dashes.
  • Interface Screw:
    • During the last phase of the second Mwyah fight, the boss is able to make the robot invisible for a few seconds. This is not so bad when the boss is currently firing the red circle beams, but keeping track of the robot's position during the blue laser pillars attack is barely possible.
    • Resuming the game after watching the Usurper ending turns the soundtrack into creepy ambient noises until the player quits.
    • Collecting the Crown makes the graphics of the game increasingly corrupted, with wrong tilesets popping out and others turning invisible. The effect worsens the longer you play after loading the file and it is permanent. Entering the Land of Friendship further messes with the sound and the dialogue boxes, but that goes back to normal once the player quits.
  • Jungle Japes: The Jungle Sector found at the top of the station. The layout of which gets screwed around with big time when you switch off the plant growth machines, causing all the plant life to somehow die instantly.
  • Just a Machine: Mwyah becomes enraged about how a lone robot, of all things, has been researching their history in order to challenge them to fights, which the robot wins twice and then has the gall to request rewards from the aliens' higher gods.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The Volcanic Sector found at the lower right of the station, complete with deadly lava and falling stalactites.
  • Madness Mantra: "I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN...", which is said by a mad Mwyah after they're defeated a second time.
  • The Maze: The station is pretty large and labyrinthine, to say nothing of all the hidden rooms and side areas.
  • Meat Moss: A lot of this can be found on the derelict ship, for some reason.
  • Minus World: The "Land of Friendship" is a room made of scrambled graphics and populated with equally corrupted npcs. Visiting this place breaks the game's music and dialogue boxes.
  • Multiple Endings: As of the Research Outpost expansion, the game features 5 endings. Some of them can have minor changes according to the player's actions.
    • Normal ending: The robot defeats the virus and the station collapses. The robot returns to its base, but turns out it got infected by the virus and it starts killing everyone while the virus takes over.
    • Planet ending: The robot decides to wander off into the nearby alien planet, hoping to seal away the virus within itself.
    • Usurper ending: The robot defeats Mwyah's true form but leaves the station without finishing the job. The alien council appears, stating the robot needs to do more than that if it wants to usurp Mwyah. The robot is then taken to the aliens' homeworld.
    • Alien Ending: The robot meets the alien council, who are pondering if its exploits should be rewarded. Then Mwyah appears, demanding the council destroys the robot. If you did defeat Mwyah twice and found the crown, the council disagrees with them and uses their powers to begin a transformation in the robot. The station is torn apart, leaving a giant glowing eye where it was.
    • Asteroid ending: The robot defeats the virus but crashes into an asteroid as it flies away from the station. If you cleared the Outpost quests as well, the asteroid changes to what looks like a doodle of Mwyah's head. At least the virus is dead for good...
  • New Game Plus: Clearing the game with the Alien ending restores all bosses and resets most of the event flags (Thankfully, the ESA quest is not undone. The Reaseach Outpost isn't, either, meaning the Restless Spirit can't be fought again), but you keep all your items, teleports and map coverage.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: To prevent loss of human life in a place they cannot communicate to, the researchers send a robot instead. But it just happens that the cause of the station's disaster is a virus capable of infecting all technology, who is able to take control of the robot and use it against mankind.
  • Nightmare Face:
    • Increasingly deformed faces seen in the background of certain areas foreshadow the nature of Mwyah and their peers.
    • Mwyah makes some rather disturbing expressions as they get furious at the player's audacity at challenging them.
  • No Fair Cheating: The Research Outpost quests feature challenges that prevent the player from using dashes and charged attacks, which by that point have been made into game breakers by the game's ultimate items.
  • One-Hit Kill:
  • Patchwork Map: Justified, since the station was artificially created to study different biomes.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: While most of the ancient alien stuff left behind from long before the station was built seems to work just fine, this is averted with the station itself, where malfunctioning technology and faulty electrical wiring are major hazards.
  • Red Herring:
    • Before the room named The Reference, there is a darkness maze with a computer on top, but it is impossible to reach it.
    • A save room with a path of breakable blocks on its bottom used to be this, but a patch made the path accessible. You must use glitches to navigate through it.
  • Schmuck Bait: Upon collecting the Crown, a character who appears to be Hempuli's avatar baits the player into entering the next room. It's not really worth it...
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: In the second ending, the robot attempts to be the can to the virus' evil and wanders away into the alien planet to never be seen again. The virus decides to lay low for some time until the robot is inevitably found.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • The Virus was taken from another excavation site in which Mwyah was also worshipped.
    • In the Usurper ending, the protagonist leaves the station after defeating Mwyah, who swears revenge. The alien council then stops the robot, stating they're impressed by its skills, but that the robot cannot just usurp Mwyah like that. They then abduct the robot to their homeworld as the game draws to a close.
  • Sequence Breaking: It is possible to get into some places early than you should by doing things such as exploiting hookshot physics and damage knockback. The Class A Guardian, for example, can be reached without the vertical booster.
  • Shifting Sand Land: The Sandrock Sector, found at the lower left of the station. Watch out for sand worms.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A lot of stuff in the game should feel familiar to Metroid players.
    • The upper elevator shaft has a block jutting out of it that leads to a secret room with a monitor that changes pictures when shot, much like a similar secret from Lyle in Cube Sector. Fittingly, this room is marked as "The Reference" and even has the characteristic blocks from that game in it. Also, the monitor sometimes displays Pong.
    • The name George Melons is hidden behind some blocks in a certain room, referencing a Space Station 13 player.
    • The terminal that reveals how to access Challenge Mode mentions having done it before on a game called "Champion Nucleus" or something.
    • A sign that reads "That's it, folks!" can be found at the top of one room, referencing a sign in the original Cave Story that displayed the text "That's all, folks!"
  • Techno Wreckage & Fungus Humongous: The Depths, found at the bottom of the station. The upper parts have become overgrown with mushrooms, while the lower parts served as the station's control rooms and security hub. Damage and wear from the disaster and years of abandonment has made the control rooms very unsafe, especially once the power is switched back on.
    • The Derelict Ship also counts, being an abandoned alien ship that drifted in from space by itself and uploaded an incredibly nasty computer virus to the station's AI, causing the disaster. It seems to be in pretty poor condition when you explore it.
  • Temple of Doom: The Temple Sector, complete with saw blades, lasers, crushers, and other lovely traps. A crew member's journal lampshades this. The Temple was apparently on the asteroid before they built the station there.
  • Tennis Boss: The Security Overmind is totally impervious to all your weapons. The same cannot be said of its own weapons.
  • Title Drop: Typing "ESA" in certain spots of certain rooms is part of the big puzzle that leads to the alien ending.
  • True Final Boss: As of the Research Outpost update, the real last battle is against Mwyah's true form at their chamber.
  • Under the Sea: Not an actual ocean, but the Aquatic Sector counts as this due to being a water-filled dome for housing aquatic alien life. Most of which will try to violently kill you.
  • Video Game Dashing: The Dash Booster items allow the robot to Flash Step through enemies, red blocks and most obstables.
  • Wowing Cthulhu: In the Alien ending, the Council rewards the Robot for their victories against Mwyah. Mwyah themself is really angry about this, given how the Robot doesn't even seem to be a proper living being, but they cannot go against the orders of their bosses.