Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Hypnospace Outlaw

Go To

Witness the dawning of a new world, where sleeptime is no longer downtime. It's where the future is built. A future built by you. Hypnospace.

Hypnospace Outlaw is an internet simulation Adventure Game developed by Jay Tholen & Mike Lasch and published by No More Robots. It was fully funded via Kickstarter in October 2016, and was released in March 2019 on Steam and August 2020 on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. August 2020 additionally saw the release of Hypnospace Plus, a free update to the game that adds new pages, music, chances for customization, interactive content and more, which came automatically with console releases.

Welcome to the internet of your dreams — literally! Hypnospace is an online service created by Merchantsoft, from the most advanced technology The '90s have to offer, that allows you to surf the net in your sleep. With the cutting edge Hypnospace Explorer web browser and your trusty HypnOS headband, you can explore a vast variety of websites and user pages for everything from classic cartoons to your favorite flavors of ice cream. Just strap on the headband, lay back, and drift off into a brave new world of the digital era.


Of course, every new form of technology is bound to have growing pains... and Hypnospace is no different. Sites filled with copyright infringing content, harassment and trolling, and sketchy virus-laden programs abound. That is where you come in: as a Merchantsoft-employed Hypnospace Enforcer, it is your duty to police the service for content that violates the rules, remove offending content, and if need be, flag sites for multiple/serious infractions and shut them down entirely. Your diligent efforts will be rewarded with Hypnocoins, the premier (and only!) currency of this brand new online community which can be spent on everything from music and wallpapers to virtual pets. So plug in, doze off, log on, and get to work!



  • 419 Scam: Subverted. At first, you get Hypnomail from one Dimitry S Jackson, about him looking for donations to help him and a wealthy individual fund an expedition to find a hidden treasure. You can choose to fund this or ignore it. After the final timeskip, you find that he was not actually trying to scam you, but that he's gone missing. One quest involves helping catalog his last known location, which he posted the coordinates to on Hypnospace before leaving on his expedition.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of the late 90's to early 2000's internet culture, specifically sites like Geocities. Emphasis on the affectionate part of this trope as well, since it's clear from the intense care and detail put into the structure of Hypnospace that the creators really admired this time of the internet.
  • All for Nothing:
    • Abby eventually succeeds in keeping Gumshoe Gooper on Hypnospace after Merchantsoft tried to follow the Briggs estate's copyright demands. Unfortunately, she doesn't follow the new policies, which requires asking for permission to use Gumshoe Gooper imagery, letting you take down her images again. This is also before the Mindcrash event that renders Hypnospace abandoned.
    • By New Year's, Merchantsoft takes great lengths to improve after several PR disasters. There are more advertising partners on Hypnospace, several of the zones are getting overhauled to better fit the users, and there's a new update to the operating system. Dylan's uploading of his game eventually leads to the Mindcrash, which takes the lives of some of the userbase and injures several more. The industry of sleeptime computing collapses, all headbands are recalled, and Merchantsoft shuts down.
  • Alternate History:
    • Aside from the obvious conceit of a web service that can be accessed while asleep through a Brain–Computer Interface, technology in general seems a little further along in this universe compared to the equivalent tech of our 1990s. The actual Hypnospace browser is much more fluid than real-life Internet browsers of the time, and download times are practically instant. Additionally, screenshots seen of the Game Boy-alike "GameChamp Portable" appear to be around the same level of quality as the Game Boy Advance rather than the contemporaneous Game Boy Color.
    • The President of the United States since 1992 has been a "President Hughes", rather than Bill Clinton.
    • Of all things, the sport of tennis was unfairly exploited in its infancy and eventually turned into "trennis," which involves a circular court with three players and a "ball-catcher" in the center. The game of tennis that we know is relegated to a page in the conspiracy-theory zone by someone who claims to be the descendant of the man who really invented the two-player, rectangular-court tennis. Additionally, reading the Sports section of the online newspaper shows that a very different set of teams and cities represent the Hypnospace universe's version of the NFL.
  • The Alternet: Hypnospace itself, a parallel internet accessed in one's sleep.
  • Anachronism Stew: Virtual currency, elaborate website animation and audio, and strict moderation of content wasn't something common in the late nineties.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: HORUS seems like it could be this, but is really a bunch of bored executives playing practical jokes.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: While there's enough hints to solving cases scattered throughout Hypnospace, there is also a secret page designed by Jay Tholen himself which, for a small fee, gives out both partial and complete solutions to most puzzles in the game. This is accessed by searching for the keyword "Hint"
  • Artistic License: Even with the glitchy, low-resolution asthetic, the Hypnospace is a lot more fluid and dynamic than the real-world internet of the time.
  • AstroTurf:
    • Dylan mentions on m1nx that despite having a whole board dedicated to it, the Coolpunk movement boiled down to "a few kids being weird online." Though not directly stated, it's implied that Gray's Peak and Merchantsoft were attempting to make it a much bigger deal than it really was.
    • In an inversion of this trope, Counselor Ronnie is an official Merchantsoft page that's being controlled by m1nx, a group of unofficial pranksters. Because of Merchantsoft's incredibly hands-off moderation, they've essentially taken the job for real.
  • Bad Boss: Adrian and Dylan Merchant are the two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to Bad Bosses Of An Emerging Tech Company. Adrian Merchant is far too hands-off, only thinking about how he can make the most profit from the invention, and being removed at best and downright callous at worst towards how it is used by the everyday users who made it a success. Dylan Merchant is far too hands-on, having a dangerously-high emotional investment in the success of his invention, while neglecting the social and ethical responsibilities that come with his power and status because he still thinks of himself as "one of the boys".
  • Becoming the Mask: "Counselor Ronnie" started as a m1nx prank to see just how crappy they could make his content before Merchantsoft noticed. However, since Merchantsoft showed zero interest in moderating Teentopia themselves (despite it being a zone for vulnerable children), the person playing Ronnie ends up doing the job themselves for real.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: If you aren't dealing with T1MAGEDDON's destructive malice, you're dealing with Dylan Merchant's even more destructive incompetence. Most of the major problems you encounter in Hypnospace are the doing of one or the other. After Tim's Heel–Face Turn, Dylan takes center stage as a singular Big Bad — he may only be a buffoon trying to cover his own hide, but he's still the true antagonist for the final chapter.
  • Big Good: Samantha and Re3ckoning_inc, in different ways. Samantha motivates the player to find and expose the Merchant brothers' crimes. Re3ckoning_inc already did most of the heavy lifting for the player in regards to actually finding evidence to convict the Merchants, having snuck into their chatlogs and done enough digging to compile a list of solid evidence. Most of the endgame revolves around finding a way into Re3ckoning_inc's hacker group m1nx, using the allseeing3y3 program to uncover their hidden messages, and using those to find the two sets of files they uploaded showing that Hypnospace is unsafe, and that the brothers knew about this.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Adrian and Dylan Merchant's culpability in the Mindcrash is exposed, exonerating Tim who was blamed/framed for the incident... though after Tim spent six years in prison and lived with nearly two decades of guilt.
  • Blatant Lies: The jingle for "Granny Cream's Hot Butter Ice Cream" claims that the product is "very tasty and healthy too."
  • Bowdlerise: Later versions of Hypnospace Outlaw change Corey's animation of Zane getting decapitated into an animation of him being punched instead.
  • Brain–Computer Interface: The Hypnospace headbands are this, allowing people to browse Hypnospace in their sleep. The mechanism turns out to be lasers stimulating parts of the brain, which has a side effect of keeping the user in REM sleep for longer, hurting their health.
  • Brown Note: The Mindcrash has this effect, sometimes with lethal results.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Most of Merchansoft's staff is like this, but Artie Dispenza, Merchantsoft's resident visual design guy, takes the cake. Let's just say he isn't a New-Age Retro Hippie just on paper.
  • Calvinball: Trennis appears to be basically a bastardization of tennis, to the point there's a page describing how badly the latter got mangled.
  • Caustic Critic:
  • The Cameo:
    • The initial ad for HypnOS you get before the tutorial has a shot containing a plush of Dropsy the Clown. One of the food items you can buy for your virtual pet is the medicinal cake pill...thing that plays an important role in his game.
    • Dave Pino plays the massive guitar solo buried in "Ready to Shave".
    • SteveGuy, who has a bizarre page full of mouth sound effects and pictures of his face photoshopped onto rocks, is played in both likeness and voice by Neil Cicierega.
    • The "HoloAngel" sparklehaze track on Slushmouth's guide was written by Niklas Åkerblad of Hotline Miami fame.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Tamara Frost, the relatively unimportant spoken word poet/musician who you could go the entire game without glancing at the Hypnospace page of. After the Y2K Mindcrash incident, she becomes a member of the Hypnospace Archival Project.
  • Coincidental Dodge: Later on in the game, you have the optional choice to permanently ban Zane and Carl for repeat violations. Doing so will cause them to survive the Mindcrash, which kills them if they're still logged in.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Zane proudly displays the Medal of Dishonor the Dumpster gives him.
  • Computer Virus: Much like in the real world's internet, Hypnospace has programs that can interfere with the normal function of your in-game computer. Browse carefully!
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Hypnospace does not lack for them, and they come in varying levels of coherence. A few are Properly Paranoid, while others are m1nx hackers playing pranks.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Adrian and Dylan cross over from Pointy-Haired Boss to this in the leaked ChitChat logs. They commission a report on the health effects of Hypnospace, but keep the results a secret when they find out it's actually potentially dangerous.
  • The Cracker:
    • T1MAGEDDON (a.k.a. Tim), a misanthropic teenager desperately trying to impress a girl with his hacking skills. He's got limits, with viruses intended to annoy rather than destroy, but he's still a constant thorn in your side; a number of your missions are cleaning up his handiwork. In the Distant Finale, he's much nicer.
    • The members of the local hacker group m1nx are much smarter, more capable, and more subtle than T1MAGEDDON, though their leader briefly considers letting him join. Among other pranks, they have convinced users to put an annoying song on their pages to prevent their headbands from exploding, singlehandedly made and spread the Beefbrain hoax, and might have actually created Teentopia's community leader. They also have their limits, as shown when re3ckoning_inc uses what little time remains between the Year 2000 update and the Outlaw release to desperately spread the word that the headbands actually are dangerous, going so far as to post in what is probably an administrators-only zone and link to evidence. Unfortunately, the evidence is very quickly removed by other HypnoSpace enforcers (likely Dylan Merchant himself) and the page is a mess of CHIME-violation messages by the time you can access it. Tim's “Mindcrash” takeover provides a perfect scapegoat for when something does go horribly wrong.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Welcome to Hypnospace, the bold new frontier of the internet with pastel-colored websites, virtual pets, music for every genre imaginable, Trolls and other Jerkasses, meddling from big companies, malware, internal corruption, and gross mismanagement which ends up killing people.
  • Creepypasta: Parodied with a small group that make “scaries,” CYOA-style sites which often include creepypasta-esque plots. They're mostly teen-rated, of course, but Tim's are a bit more disturbing, and serve to foreshadow both the True Tranquility and Mindcrash viruses he makes.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: The player can potentially prevent Zane and Carl from dying in the Mindcrash. How do you do this? Cite them for as many infractions as possible and get them banned from Hypnospace.
  • Cyberspace: Hypnospace is a version of the internet that is accessed while dreaming.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: At first, the game is a mocking parody of early '90s internet, like Angelfire or Geocities. By the end of the game, it becomes a passionate tribute to the creative power and freedom of the early 90s internet, celebrating its creativity and the individuality of every user.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Subtle, but Hypnospace has the same general values of real-world 1999. When T1MAGEDDON breaks into Zane's page, his idea of comedy is to make the macho Jerkass into the page of a crude Camp Gay stereotype, while actual LGBT users generally avoid explicitly stating their sexuality in favor of the "hs_lifestyles" tag, whose meaning is obvious to the modern reader with its rainbow coloring but avoids directly stating anything.
  • Demonization: "The SquisherZ Deception" is a webpage run by a fundamentalist Christian who uses very strained logic to try and prove that SquisherZ is part of a demonic conspiracy.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • The operating system will gradually get slower and slower if you use it for long periods of time, and will eventually crash due to running out of memory. The speed will be restored by performing a reboot by either quitting the game or clicking the reboot button.
    • At the end of Act 3, saving Zane and/or Carl from the Mindcrash by banning them will cause the live-action news segment to announce a different number of deaths.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: One of your duties as a Hypnospace Enforcer is to enforce intellectual property laws, which can range from taking down illegally uploaded files to removing cartoons drawn by first-graders posted on their teacher's web page. However, if nobody's actively requesting a takedown, Merchantsoft quietly condones piracy on their file-sharing FLST. Dylan Merchant even participates... which gets awkward when that takedown notice does come.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When solving a case about music piracy You find the culprit is Dylan Merchant himself. Reporting him causes him to send you a furious email and use his admin status to ban your account for criminal conduct.
  • Distant Finale: The last portion of the game is an archival project in the Present Day, with the in-universe clock and calendar displaying the actual date and time on your computer.
  • Downloadable Content: August 2020 saw the release of Hypnospace Plus, a free update that also came automatically with console releases. It adds more pages, games, cosmetics, tracks and more.
  • Dummied Out:
    • Hypnospace Outlaw's directory contains a surprising amount of pages that are accessible neither through tags nor through links anywhere on Hypnospace. This was crucial in the earliest release versions of the game, as not being able to access the dummied-out pages without cheating means proper 100% Completion is impossible.
    • The Festering Orifice page was an early version of Tim's True Tranquility puzzle, but kept in for the launch of the game. This confused players that found it through searching common tags, as none of the clues on the page were solvable. The developers removed it completely after an update.
    • The game files contain alternate readings for the news report describing the Mindcrash, for each number of possible victims: six, five, four, or three. However, since it's only possible to save two victims, the "three" file goes unused.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: During the tutorial segment, the instructor's audio has been abruptly re-recorded at several points, likely to accommodate for changes to the system that were made after the original recording. The voice you hear is in fact Roddy Wall, one of the developers at Merchantsoft, but you won't know this until you hear that same voice in relation to his "Trial of the Axxelerator" hints.
  • Easter Egg:
    • Hypii gives a special message if your Hypnocoin balance is exactly 420 or 69.
    • There's plenty of secret pages made by the backers and Discord users. All of them are way sillier than the vanilla Hypnospace pages, but none of them are important to the plot.
  • Eleventh-Hour Superpower: Quite a few in quick succession. Notably, the game is so non-linear that you can stumble on a few of these as early as the first act just by being perceptive and clever.
    • allseeing3y3, which reveals otherwise-unclickable links made by Tim or m1nx members.
    • Access to FLIST, essentially letting you view the private file collections of Hypnospace users who also have access. Aside from a bunch of new music, you can get the Professor Helper uninstaller for free, and get allseeing3y3 without figuring out the secret to opening encrypted files, as well as...
    • re3ckoning_inc's personal debug/site-hacking toolkit, reverse-engineered and improved from Merchantsoft's own. Using it isn't strictly necessary, but it allows you to download songs directly from the pages that they play over (the only way to collect quite a few tracks), get as much Hypnocoin as you want, and make your virtual pet significantly less irritating by letting you set their health and happiness values to “infinite” and reducing how often they poop.
    • In the present-day final act, the Hypnospace Archival Project upgrades your browser with a tool that lets you switch between the three eras of Hypnospace you had access to (plus the HAP's intranet) on the fly, as part of your new job to back-up all of Hypnospace. Not long after, Samantha contacts you with a request to find evidence of Merchantsoft's involvement with the Mindcrash, and sends you another browser extension: a sixth rule on your CHIME bar that submits potential evidence directly to her.
  • Expy: Merchantsoft, the company behind Hypnospace, is a reference to Microsoft. They even are both abbreviated as "MS".
  • Fantastic Drug: T-Nubs, a suppository said to be taken primarily by teenagers that can cause rashes when used for weeks at a time. It's a fake one, of course, since the one who divulges this information is Counselor Ronnie, mostly to cause a stir among Hypnospace's adults.
  • Fictional Video Game: Multiple, though the one given the most prominence is SquisherZ, a Pokemon parody centered around collecting and initiating conversations between alien slime-creatures to make them feel safe enough to come with you.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Merchantsoft's chief visual designer discusses the various inspirations and themes behind the HypnOS logo. One of these is rapid eye movement, the first (and least-restful) stage of the sleep cycle. It turns out the HypnOS headbands, in order to interface with the users' brains, keep the users in REM sleep for almost the entire night which means they aren't getting enough proper rest.
    • Many, many Hypnospace users complain of or otherwise discuss feeling sleepy or restless after a night of Hypnospace browsing, with a few going so far as to say that they occasionally wake up with migraines.
    • One of m1nx's more recent pranks on Hypnospace is “Beefbrain,” a hoax medical report claiming that the service's headband technology essentially microwaves your brain. Sandy in Goodtime Valley also offhandedly mentions an earlier prank in which the group convinced several people that their headbands would explode if they didn't set some annoying song to auto-play on their pages. On their private message board, there is a general feeling of genuine distrust and unease towards the Hypnospace technology, and at one point re3ckoning_inc half-sarcastically tells Dylan to stop pushing out untested builds of Outlaw before one of them makes their headband explode. Naturally, their skepticism regarding both the tech (the headbands in particular) and Dylan's reckless obsession with finishing Outlaw is completely justified on New Year's Eve.
    • On her personal page, DarkTwilightTiff briefly mentions that she has epilepsy. While she hasn't had a seizure in years, her disorder probably didn't react well to the Mindcrash...
  • For Want of a Nail: It's possible to prevent two of the Mindcrash deaths, completely unintentionally if you haven't been spoiled, by getting the users banned. This of course means that the other victims were quite literally too pure for this world....
  • Frame-Up: T1MAGGEDON might be a trolling cracker, but he's no killer. In truth, the cause of the Mindcrash incident is actually an update pushed without proper QA, combined with the shoddy hardware of the Brain–Computer Interface.
  • Fun with Acronyms: CHIME is the officially-recognized shorthand for flagable violations of Hypnospace's rules: Copyright infringement, Harassment, Illegal activity, Malicious Software, and Extralegal commerce. In the final act of the game, the acronym is expanded to CHIME(S) when you are given the ability to Submit evidence of Dylan Merchant's wrongdoings directly to Samantha.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Invoked in the game's story: Outlaw, the pet project game of Dylan Merchant, is so insanely glitchy and buggy that it bricks your HypnOS system the first time you test it, then kills people when a second test version is pushed out.
  • Game Mod: The Hypnospace Productivity Suite allows people to create their own web pages for Hypnospace Outlaw, as well as make music with its proprietary sequencer format (currently in open beta as there is no known mod for the meantime).
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Dylan's personal user ID contains the number "80085". His M1NX password, meanwhile, is surrounded with "69" on both sides.
  • The Ghost: Bobson Dugnutt appears to be the only Merchantsoft employee to not have anything attached to his name. Not even a single picture of him on Merchantsoft's own page. Even moreso having been retconned with Barbra Dugnutt.
  • Girlfriend in Canada:
    • Both Zane and Corey's girlfriends, named Jessica and Jennifer respectively, have pages dedicated mostly to their loved ones. Aside from the obvious overromanticized plot those pages provide, it turns out each girlfriend has the exact same headband ID as Zane and Corey respectively.
    • While not a girlfriend, there is a similar case happening in the Coolpunk Zone, with a young girl gushing about how cute Fre3zer is, just like she imagined, and positive reviews of his new album. And when you check the headband, sure enough, it's the same ID as Fre3zer. The page is even completely deleted following his announcement of a "hiatus".
  • Global Currency Exception: An in-universe example; Hypnocoins are used for Hypnospace transactions but have no real-world value, and one of your jobs as an enforcer is to crack down on CapaCoin, which is part of a scheme to get around this restriction.
  • Gotta Catch Them All:
    • While the Enforcer is unable to play the widely-advertised SquisherZ game, they can participate in collecting all 10 SquisherZ stickers around Teentopia.
    • Hypnospace Outlaw itself has elements of this as well. Collect more HypnoCoin, collect software, collect new music for your Tunebox and sample packs for your SGS, collect new wallpapers and themes.... Collecting all of Hypnospace in your access device's absurdly large storage-memory serves as your final job.
  • Graceful Loser: When Dylan is finally cornered, he provides a full confession and personalized, sincere apologies to everyone who died because of him. He mostly just seems relieved to finally confess the burden of guilt that has been haunting him for years.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: About the only completely unsympathetic character is Zane, and literally everyone hates him. And if Zane dies in the Mindcrash, Dylan's message to him will remind you that his being an asshole might have just been the visible aspect of a teenager going through a phase. Even Dylan himself turns out to just be trying to cover up an accident he feels absolutely horrible about, and that he feels would sabotage a potentially revolutionary virtual-reality technology in its infancy.
  • Hanlon's Razor: The single most destructive force in Hypnospace Outlaw is incompetence, particularly that of Merchantsoft and especially Dylan Merchant. The trolls, pirates, and even virus-writing hackers you have to chase down as an Enforcer are much less destructive than the numerous poor decisions of the company that runs Hypnospace.
  • Hate Sink:
    • It seems like almost everyone can't stand Zane, and most pages that reference him aren't doing so nicely. The only exception is his girlfriend... who's completely made up.
    • Adware-claiming-to-be-assistant Professor Helper is never looked at with a shred of respect from any of the users across Hypnospace. The sole exception is Adrian Merchant, who is only concerned with how it affects the company's partner brands.
  • 100% Completion: Completing the Hypnospace Archive Project, which requires viewing every version of every page on Hypnospace, including easter eggs hidden behind obscure search words like "Communism". The reward for finding all of them is some special pages made by the developers, and a Super Search that checks against page text and developer notes, instead of just Hypnospace Tags like the basic search.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: Merchantsoft QA seems to be virtually non-existent, it relies on over-worked interns and unpaid volunteers, and its enforcement department sometimes ends up outright at odds with the rest of the company. Dylan himself is a Pointy-Haired Boss, and any competent underlings are hamstrung by his poor decisions, lack of communication, and buggy software.
  • Interface Screw: Downloading a virus can cause your HypnOS to act strangely. That is to say nothing of what happens when you play the alpha version of Outlaw, or get caught in the Mindcrash...
  • Invented Individual:
    • Counselor Ronnie is revealed later in the game to be completely made up by the m1nx hacker group. Dylan is aware of this, and allows it anyway because it earns Merchantsoft an award from the FCC.
    • Both Zane and Corey made accounts and homepages for fake girlfriends. Zane's is even listed as living in Alberta.
    • There is a page gushing about Fre3zer's music and how cute he is. After all the backlash about Coolfest '99, she's still defending him. Her ID is, of course, the same as Fre3zer. The page is deleted after he leaves Hypnospace.
  • Irony: Dylan Merchant made Outlaw to win back customers that were bored of Hypnospace's lack of features. Ironically, Outlaw turned out so buggy that it killed some of the users and the rest completely abandoned Hypnospace and its competitor.
  • It's a Small Net After All: Justified, since Enforcers can only go to their assigned zones, compared to regular users.
  • Jerkass:
    • One user, zane_rocks_14, is a bit of a blowhard, such that other users are very vocal about their disdain for him. Not that it stops one of the people he's going after from setting up a shame page in return.
    • In the M1NX board posts you can read, re3ckoning_inc comes across as this. They are very snarky and disapproving of Dylan being on the team, seeing him as a corporate sellout and a two-faced dick. And they're totally right.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • T1MAGEDDON is a troublemaker and causes you the biggest headaches early on, but he very much cares for Tiff and his other friends. After the time skip he is a happily married man with a young daughter.
    • re3koning_inc might be vocally disdainful of anyone they consider beneath them (up to and including Merchantsoft itself), but their leaks indicate a strong concern for the well-being of others, especially when Hypnospace's health concerns come to light.
  • Kent Brockman News: The Hypnospace Global Newsroom publishes stories that are blatantly slanted to portray Merchantsoft in a positive light.
  • The Last DJ: Roddy Wall takes issue with a lot of Merchantsoft's decisions, particularly their mistreatment of the geek-focused zones, and ends up creating programs to subvert his employers. His hasty replacement on the MS site's employee page suggests that he may have been fired in the month that passed between chapters 2 and 3, after you revealed that he made Axxelerator.
  • Logging onto the Fourth Wall: Websites for both Professor Helper and CapaCa$h exist.
  • Leet Speak: Pretty common among hackers; see T1MAGEDDON, the hacker group m1nx, and the program allseeing3y3, for example.
  • Leitmotif: The Millennium Anthem is composed by Dylan Merchant in-universe, and its melodies slip into various jingles and system sounds from Merchantsoft. It was based on an earlier song, "Nativity Costume" by Half-handed Cloud.
  • Meaningful Name: Hypnospace and the operating system it runs on, HypnOS, are used while sleeping. Their names include "Hypnos", the personification of sleep in Greek mythology.
  • Millennium Bug: While the Y2K bug had the same, extremely minor effects that it did in real life, the Mindcrash incident also occurs shortly after midnight at the turn of the millennium, with much more severe consequences.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Tiff tries to bring harassment she gets from ChitChat to the attention of Merchantsoft and the Enforcers. Since her page hosts the screenshots and since ChitChat is a separate service, it's her posts that get taken down while Dylan refuses to do anything about the situation at the moment.
  • Misplaced Retribution:
    • Violation points are applied to users if the page that they host ends up guilty of any of the C.H.I.M.E. rules, even if they never committed the act in the first place. Namely, the True Tranquility virus that affects different users' pages is taken down, but violation points go to the users for having the shock images on their page instead of whoever caused it.
    • More glaringly, Tiff trying to report her case of harassment on ChitChat from other people by using a page she built gets taken down and earns her violations when you send it to Samantha. This could be fixed with more programming, by Dylan isn't currently interested.
    • Zig-zagged with Zane and Corey's situation. On the first chapter, Zane makes an entire page dedicated to mocking other users while Corey makes a page and badge insulting Zane back. Zane gets let off with a warning while Corey is given a three-day ban. While seemingly a situation where the bully gets away as their victim is punished for fighting back, Corey did portray Zane's character as getting bloodily decapitated in a webzone housing a young audience (though it's an animation of him getting punched in later versions)
    • Citizens across Goodtime Valley declare war on Merchantsoft for their censoring of Gumshoe Gooper, when really they're fulfilling the wishes of the creator's estate.
  • Missing Secret:
    • In the base game, the third (actually fourth), SquisherZ-themed virtual pet talked about on a few pages is never available to the player at any point. It was added for the Hypnospace Plus update.
    • The Dumpster's article on weird FLST directories in chapter 2 lists one with some kind of “poetry” on it under a non-functional number. (The ID number is the same as Sarah Sanders - it's not impossible to imagine that she took it down after seeing it getting laughed at.) Also corrected in Hypnospace Plus, where you can see Sanders' college poetry about her depression and battles with mental illness there. Taken down by New Years' Eve, with an angry note that her husband saw it.
    • Bobson Dugnutt, the Merchantsoft PR guy who takes Roddy Wall's place on the company's Employees page after chapter 2, is a total unknown. His picture is broken, the link to what should be his personal page goes to The Chowder Man's, and no mention of him is made anywhere else despite apparently being important enough for MS to officially highlight him. Becomes further confusing in Hypnospace Plus, where he's replaced by a Barbara Dugnutt instead.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • The basic concept of the game. You're a moderator for a '90s-era Alternate History internet, patrolling for the usual stuff: harassment, copyright violations, and so forth. Then things escalate.
    • An entire, almost seven minute long prog rock song complete with epic guitar solo about shaving: Chowder Man's Ready to Shave.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly:
    • Haze, a fictional, synth-y descendant of psychedelic rock, its ancestor genres, and its descendant sub-genres. There's a whole map and fictional history with samples. It's all very plausible.
    • The genre d'jour when you first arrive in Hypnospace is Coolpunk, which is not punk but a sort of a synth movement with samples from dad rock, Christmas music, and advertising jingles similar to Vaporwave. Mostly Stylistic Suck, with some silly but surprisingly enjoyable pieces mixed in, and a couple of unironically emotional and expressive pieces. The genre collapses during your tenure as Enforcer, overtaken by the cave-themed Fungus Scene and a few other former coolpunks coming up with potential new genres.
  • Never Was This Universe: It initially seems like the 1990s were the main point of diversion from our own timeline, but then you discover what happened to the concept of tennis.
  • The '90s: The game is initially set in late 1999.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Much of the actual horror elements of the game rely on a creeping sense of dread rather than anything actively trying to harm you.
  • Only Sane Employee: Naïve Newcomer Samantha Clausson, who ends up being your Mission Control, is the only Merchantsoft employee the player interacts with who seems both sane and competent. The others are Bunny Ears Lawyers at best.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish":
    • One of the pages on WITW has a guide for setting up an easy-to-remember password, entirely using personal information. A lot of people follow it to the letter, which makes accessing some hidden pages easy since you have access to every user's info. This includes the person who wrote the page, giving you the solution to a particularly important puzzle.
    • Everyone at m1nx, meanwhile, uses much more secure passwords with random capitalization, long strings of numbers, and more obscure words/phrases.
  • Player Tic: Invoked. The player is told early on that shaking the mouse cursor makes things load faster. Surprisingly, this actually works. The tip site that tells you about this explains that no one has any idea how or why this works, and that they can only guess.
  • Playful Hacker:
    • A recurring character through the game is a teenage hacker named T1MAGEDDON, who has the chops to manipulate Hypnospace's code directly, but only uses them to impress the hacker group he wants in on and a girl he's infatuated with. This is deconstructed after the Mindcrash, which kills at least four people and leaves hundreds injured; Tim believes it to be his fault and emerges from prison a much more stable man, working in computer security with a wife and daughter.
    • The aforementioned hacker group, m1nx, seem to prefer using their skills for harmless pranks rather than anything truly damaging. Among them, the only one who takes themselves seriously is re3koning_inc.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss:
    • You don't see much of Adrian Merchant, the CEO of Merchantsoft, but his brother Dylan is a frequent sight. He isn't malicious and seems to care, on the whole, about creating an exciting product with nascent technology that makes his userbase happy. A pity he's utterly incompetent, overly interested in his (destructively buggy) video game side-project, has communication issues with his employees, and can't follow his own C.H.I.M.E. laws.
    • Adrian himself isn't great. He seems to be prone to angry rants, such as if you ban Professor Helper's page after you were instructed not to, and is clearly lacking in basic tech knowledge needed for running a major software company. The fantasy zones being condensed onto a crappy server and needing to have speed caps put on them was his idea, because all the "geek zones" were going against his vision for Hypnospace's public image for "regular people", and he didn't care about the backlash from pissing off one of the service's largest audiences.
  • Punk Punk:
    • The game has a mild '90s Cyberpunk vibe to it, and features an all-controlling corporation who has a monopoly on a peripheral that lets you directly jack-in to the internet while you sleep.
    • There's an in-universe Clock Punk fandom in place of Steampunk, as well as an ice-themed music genre called "CoolPunk" that has since been co-opted by a soda company.
  • Phonýmon: SquisherZ, which looks like it's crossed with Ghostbusters.
  • Rainbow Speak: In the most literal sense, anyone on Hypnospace can do this since your interactions are through webpages. Mechanically some hints as to what to look out for are explicitly highlighted by making the text pulse different colors.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Only Sane Employee Samatha Clausson, a programmer by trade (and a competent one, as her anti-virus software demonstrates) gets stuck on HCPD dispatch because Dylan wanted to keep her from "nagging" him — that is to say, trying to make him do his job instead of working on his game. This ends up putting her in the perfect position to discover what really happened in the Mindcrash.
  • Red Herring: Near the end of the game, the player is asked to investigate the Eye of Horus symbol that appears in various places around Hypnospace, including several official Merchantsoft sites. This leads you to a password-protected site featuring... the records of a benign Brotherhood of Funny Hats who have been hiding the Eye in random places as a sort of Easter Egg hunt.
  • Red Scare: A bunch of people in Goodtime Valley become convinced that your takedown of Gumshoe Gooper art is a communist plot.
  • Retraux: The aesthetic of the game draws inspiration from the earliest days of the internet, America On-Line, and Geocities. Low-quality videos and gifs abound, and much like in the user pages of old, almost every site has an autoplaying MIDI-alike song.
  • Schedule Slip: in the August 2020 update, a page has been added for a chistian game set to release on easter 2000, then late into that year, then finallay 2001.
  • Schmuck Bait: Savvier players will know not to click on any of the out-of-the-ordinary links or download dodgy-looking software. Apart from the fact that an early case requires downloading Professor Helper to zero in on the payment system used by the ads it forces (though it can be avoided if one knows where to look).
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!:
    • It's often a good idea to keep a copy of any illegal or pirated goods you encounter in Hypnospace before bringing down the hammer.
    • Later on, Dylan doesn't take getting caught breaking his own C.H.I.M.E. laws well.
  • Self-Insert Fic:
    • Zane's webcomics are basically this.
    • Gary outright admits this is the case with his CyberCog Interactive Fiction, down to the protagonist sharing his name and breaking the narrative to directly address the reader.
  • Sensory Abuse:
    • The auditory variety shows up as part of the tutorial, with some of the tutorial lines not narrated by the usual narrator, and instead read out with a ton of audio clipping and half-assed delivery by the poor intern who makes up half of the HSPD staff.
    • T1MAGEDDON's page serves as the visual variety with flashing, cycling images. This is a bit strange, considering that Tiff, the girl he's trying to impress with all these shocking and flashing images, is epileptic.
  • Sequence Breaking: The open nature of Hypnospace allows a knowledgeable player to get ahead very quickly.
    • While it's much harder to do without having played the game already, you can find and report Dylan's FLST page, and skip straight to New Year's Eve, as soon as you start the game.
    • On the game's release, it was possible to accidentally skip to the end of the game by searching the word "Dylan" on the HAP intranet, which would reveal the download page for Outlaw 1.0 before he joins the HAP and actually uploads it. This method was removed after launch, so the page can only be accessed via direct link.
  • Shout-Out:
    • HYPPI, the floating head that delivers notifications and reads out text on command is by name a reference to Clippy, Microsoft's most well-known Office Assistant.
    • Professor Helper, an obnoxiously-intrusive helper program that serves as a delivery mechanism for ads, can be seen as a reference to Bonzi Buddy. His phrase of 'I see you're [x], want help with that" also echoes Microsoft's Office Assistants.
    • SquisherZ can be seen as a reference to the initial popularity of Pokémon, right down to having a very popular Pikachu equivalent, a rap music video, and a religious site trying to cite it as proof of a satanic conspiracy theory.
    • Several of the SquisherZ themselves are pop culture references:
      • In terms of direct equivalents to Pokémon, Garblugh and Glopoly are takes on Garbodor and Porygon, respectively. Mushi fills Pikachu's role as the marketable mascot, while Ickygoo more closely resembles it in design and name.
      • Leaka is based on a Furby, playing on its unintentionally creepy nature. Similarly, Yuckey is based on a Tamagotchi, and also includes the four face buttons of the PlayStation on its display.
      • Goost is a fairly obvious take on Slimer.
      • Turthole, a turtle mixed with a manhole that evolves into the radioactive Shellslop, is likely referencing a particular set of mutant turtles.
    • The chorus to Seepage's "Nothing Left For Me" drops the names of Doom's first three episodes, before ending with "The Ultimate Doom".
    • Slushmouth's Guide to New Digital Music is based on an actual music map about electronic music from 2000. It's just as snarky too.
    • The Merchantsoft logo features a red spiral that looks very similar to the logo of the Sega Dreamcast. Yes, Dreamcast.
    • A few minor characters, such as Merchantsoft employee Bobson Dugnutt, have names taken directly from the infamous Fighting Baseball SNES game, where a Japanese developer came up with several bizarre American-sounding names for the American baseball team.
    • The tagline on the poster for the fake movie Blender seen on Linda's Horror Page is "Will it blend?"
    • The birthstones song on Counselor Ronnie's page lists the gemstones in the wrong order, starting with garnet, amethyst and pearl.
    • The Observer, a game review website, shows a preview of a highly-anticipated first-person shooter game called Kataklysm: Microtrooper; the reviewer notes it to be very repetitive and buggy despite its impressive graphics and marketing hype. This is likely a take on the notorious FPS flop, Daikatana, released in 2000 to similar criticism.
    • The logo of CP_Shaman's page, two hands (one with a ring) with their fingers over a peace sign, invokes the imagery of an infamous real-life Shock Site. Developer Jay Tholen, when the image was posted on a Reddit thread of accidental imagery, replied with "Accidental though? :-)"
  • Stylistic Suck: Tons of it.
    • The Enforcer video guide has portions where the professional voiceover is replaced by an intern that makes mistakes and uses low-quality equipment.
    • Various user websites abuse low-quality gifs, sound effects, and format templates.
    • The HypnOS will run more and more slowly as time goes on, simulating memory leak, until it crashes or the player performs a reboot.
    • Outlaw looks like it would be a decent game, if not for the horrendous glitches and bugs that can brick your HypnOS computer or kill you in your sleep.
    • Special mention must be given to Counselor Ronnie's horrible "Birthstone Song", which is completely arrhythmic and horribly mispronounces the name of each stone, such as "ruby" sounding like "roob-why". Ironically, this was completely intentional in-universe. Counselor Ronnie was created by m1nx to see how crappy they could make his content before Merchantsoft noticed...and they pull it off so well that “Ronnie” earns Merchantsoft an award from a federal agency for promoting forward-thinking child-friendly content.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option:
    • You're pretty much required to download the obviously-shady Professor Helper in order to crack down on its ads, which break the rule against extralegal commerce.
    • In order to get to the penultimate chapter, you have to report your own boss for copyright infringement, to your boss, which goes about as well as you would expect.
  • Surprise Creepy: A wacky, pastel-shaded pastiche of late-'90s internet, full of Surreal Humor and quirky characters. And then it gets dark.
  • Take Your Time: For most of the game, you're free to solve the cases at your own pace. There are only two timed segments in the entire game: when you get banned after reporting Dylan's illegal FLST files at the end of act 2, and when you deactivate the Mindcrash virus and Dylan pushes out Outlaw v0.99 at the end of act 3. In both cases, you're booted out of the OS after a few minutes.
  • Target Audience: Some of Merchantsoft's woes are caused by Adrian Merchant's attempt to push out the "dorks" that made Hypnospace successful and attract a more mainstream audience of teens, elderly, and professionals.
  • Technology Marches On: Invoked. The final act of the game takes place in the present day, long after the Mindcrash incident convinced people that sleeptime browsing was dangerous and Merchantsoft went out of business during the ensuing investigations. The tech world has moved on, and Hypnospace now exists primarily as a time capsule of early internet history.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Downplayed, insofar as it's a loud and troublesome minority of repeat offenders, but expect to swing the "harassment" hammer a lot in Teentopia.
  • Themed Cursor: there are a handful you can download, including a magic wand and a Squisher Z creature.
  • Time Skip: Used at a few points in the plot. First, a few weeks after Dylan sends you a buggy game that bricks your HypnOS. The next, a few weeks further after being temporarily banned from Hypnospace. The next time skip occurs after the Mindcrash, which jumps the player at least nineteen years into real-life present day.
  • Title Drop: Hypnospace is the name of The Alternet that the game takes place in, and Outlaw is the title of the computer game side project that Hypnospace's creator works on. Outlaw is also instrumental to the game's plot, and by the end of the story, Outlaw's creator is a Hypnospace (and real-life) outlaw himself.
  • That Syncing Feeling: Fre3zer gets recorded lip syncing at Coolfest, which plays a significant role in sinking the Coolpunk movement.
  • There Are No Good Executives: Throughout the game, many companies try to earn some sort of benefit from Hypnospace, and they tend to be inept or greedy. W.E. Briggs' estate wants every single use of their copyrighted character taken down no matter what it might be, the record label that Fr3ezer signs with tends to try to steal/reinvent his identity for Coolpunk, Gray's Peak Cola tries to hijack the genre for advertisement and later destroys their big Coolpunk event through sheer incompetence, and Merchantsoft itself tends to prioritize money and the boss' personal projects over the feelings and payment of employees. Merchantsoft also carries this into lethal consequences by the Y2K update. If it's gone corporate on Hypnospace, it can't be good.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Inverted, in one case. Zane can be banned from Hypno Space by taking every opportunity to strike and flag his account, including “his” new stuff on New Years' Eve. If you pull this off, then Zane will be barred from accessing Hypnospace...just before the Mindcrash incident, which otherwise kills him.
  • Troll: There are users and websites in Hypnospace that exist only to annoy or disparage other users. As Hypnospace Outlaw presents a microcosm of the late-'90s Internet, expect to meet the full gamut of a-holes, from Something Awful-style mockery sites to teenagers who just don't know any better to Playful Hackers.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Professor Helper: clearly intended for those without 'net savvy. Free to install, but costs 11hc to uninstall. Has a legal disclaimer that is hard-to-read and gives the company way too many rights and permissions. Mostly true for the player as well, as Professor Helper's ads are the primary way of finding the sites utilizing the unauthorized CapaCash service. Though it is possible to find them without Professor Helper's ads if you know exactly what to search.
  • Turn of the Millennium: The game eventually transitions to the 2000s by the third chapter. This event plays a sizable role in the story, being the deadline for upcoming updates for Hypnospace.
  • Virtual Pet: There are virtual pets you can buy in-game to raise on your desktop, such as an angelic hamster. They have a hidden feature relevant to a puzzle as well.
  • Visual Pun: While Chelsea's mail features her face on the profile picture, her Hypnospace Archival Project page only has a picture of a sea shell. And intentionally so, as it turns out.
  • Wham Episode: Things get dark after the Mindcrash.
  • Wham Line: A few in the final act/epilogue:
    • Reading the Hypnospace Archival Project's Intranet page describing the Mindcrash, and seeing Tiff and Roddy Wall listed as two of those killed.
    • Three in quick succession: First, the financial backer and co-leader of the HAP happily announcing that their latest member is none other than former Merchantsoft lead programmer Dylan Merchant. Second: Using your new Rule 6 to report to Samantha the screenshots of the chatlogs in which Dylan and Adrian admit to burying the report about Hypnospace's potential danger. To hammer in the seriousness of this, the email she sends you after closing the case is just titled “URGENT: Dear God”, and the short two-line body of the email implies that she's too shocked to do anything other than tell you to keep digging. Third: Soon after that, Dylan himself emails you regarding how strange it is that you can still utilize the violation system 20 years after it was disabled...
    • There's one as early as the end of the first act; with how unstable the alpha build of Outlaw is, it's only natural that the game ends up crashing, forcing a system reboot. What isn't natural is what the game tells you moments before you're returned to normal gameplay...and is the first explicit hint that Hypnospace's problems might be tied to Merchantsoft's incompetence as a whole:
      NOVEMBER 26, 1999

You let me down, now
You let me down, down
Down, down, down, down, down, down, down

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: