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Video Game / Middens

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"The Rift does not know what it is. It does not even know if others like it exist. Us, though, it will certainly learn to cherish."

Middens is an RPG Maker game by indie developer "myformerselves". Playing as a figure known only as "The Nomad", who flees his home dimension when his beloved culture dies via assimilation, you find yourself in an area called The Rift. The Rift is essentially the scrap yard of universes, where all the dimensions or parts of dimensions that were unwanted or broken are sent to rot. A world of anarchy, every being in The Rift is an immigrant who fled their home dimension, taking a chunk of it with them. These chunks are held together by the silk of worms known as "Virmis", and as a result, the game world appears as a mishmash collage of clashing art styles and sources that range from classical paintings to hellish pink Atari sprites.

Its plot is minimalist: As you enter the rift, a talking gun known as “Genie” offers her assistance. Now bound “like notes to a song” she informs you of your quest. The rift is sick, and the only cure seems to be to purge a chunk of its residents. Who you kill and how you justify it to yourself is entirely up to you.

In the case of the combat, most fights are initiated by the player and the enemies’ stats are hidden. You could very well challenge a boss that’s completely beyond your power level and not know it until you are already dead, which makes every fight foreboding. Its karma system is unique in that ALL killing is wrong, even in self defense (though self defense is less bad), and it's impossible (barring the services of one EXTREMELY hard to find character) to get rid of the bad karma (called “Nothings”) once you start to collect them. As you accumulate more Nothings, the denizens of the rift will start to treat you differently or become hostile.

In the case of the latter, most characters have dialogue cobbled together from occult books, celebrity quotes, short stories, the last words of death row inmates, and the occasional shockingly lucid comment, that only enforce the alien atmosphere of the Rift. Most memorable, however, are the discussions held with Genie over the course of the story. As you gain more and more Nothings, the talking gun will hold discussions about philosophy, ask you existential questions, mock you, urge on your bloodlust, try to creep you out, hit on you frequently, and try to speak Spanish

Received a successor of sorts in Gingiva. Implied to be a prequel to Middens, the game follows a woman with a turnkey for a head rebelling against the governing aristocrats while being guided by a talking set of dentures. The setting is as odd as Middens, though with a more consistent art style for the environments. Originally slated for February 2013, it didn't release until September.

This game provides examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: The Serial Killer god/goddess Quiddity was the monster used to show off the combat system in promotional materials. People assumed he would play a bigger role, but he's not even a true area boss as his territory consists of his one room house.
  • An Aesop: On how violence is wrong and only breeds more violence.
  • Afterlife Express: Appears in the subway. As a boss!
  • After the End: Not The Rift itself, as it never had a start, but many of the denizens of the rift hail from universes where this has happened on scales from cultural (like the Nomad) to cosmic. Genie herself hails from a society where guns were given their own morality and trusted to execute the wicked. If her siblings are as omnicidal as she is, the result of that plan and the condition of that society are very easy to guess.
  • The Alleged Car: The Love Bus has seen better days: its paint is chipping and its roof is rusting.
  • All There in the Manual: A few vague plot details about the Nomad's past were only revealed during post release interviews
  • Ambiguous Gender: The Nomad looks undoubtedly male, but his singing voice (the battle victory song) is undoubtedly female. It is also difficult to ascertain Genie's gender, but she has been confirmed to be female by John Clowder himself.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Just like Yume Nikki in this regard, but unlike Kikiyama of YN, myformerselves has actually confirmed several theories himself. For example, Genie's reproductive system is an allegory for how guns end up necessitating the use of more guns in the mind of society by the fear they instill.
  • And the Adventure Continues: One of the possible "True Ends". The Nomad kills Genie, and is given a second chance at life. He revives into the Rift, however, and is last seen at one of the Love Bus's stops as the bus comes into view...
  • Anyone Can Die: Including save points!
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Genie will ask these of the Nomad to unsettle him, and sometimes gives an answer herself in return if she doesn't like the one you give her. The questions range from how you would spend your last seconds before being swallowed into a black hole, to what group you would sacrifice at regular intervals if it meant averting the end of the world.
  • Badass Army: Averted with whatever regiment the "Fish Infantry" deserted to live in The Rift. They waste more turns begging for their lives than most of the enemies.
  • Badass Boast: Quiddity proclaims that time and space is for idiots and wishes to go beyond.
  • Beautiful Void: The Rift.
  • Berserk Button: Ordinarily non-hostile enemies will turn hostile if you perform actions that anger them. This can be something as minor as trying to speak to them. Soul Eater class enemies, in general, seem to hold a burning hatred of guitar music.
  • Big Bad: In the Normal Ending, Genie turns out to be an extremely powerful entity that had long since transcended her original species of "talking gun", and was simply using you to reproduce. Healing the Rift was simply a side job she took up to ensure she got a master who would kill for an ideal and therefore kill frequently. She is able to cross dimensions at will by this point, and is able to shoot without a master with her fancy new dragon body.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Have a Latin textbook nearby for maximum enjoyment. Especially when the Virmis are involved.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Normal Ending. The Nomad is dead and so is his culture, but he has faced his own inner demons and Genie has been stopped for good. With Genie's death the Nomad is absolved of his crimes and allowed to enjoy the afterlife.... Maybe.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Many of the Rift's denizens — such as Soul Eaters, who will enter a room to kill anyone who dares play guitar. This is also how Genie's mind works. She kills people because in her eyes, not only is everyone guilty enough to deserve death, they are also extremely bored with their lives deep down.
  • Book Ends: The game begins and ends with Genie in a puddle of blood.
  • Boss Game: While there are some repeating enemies, Word of God stated the game is designed to be this.
  • Braggart Boss: The Imp King.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Crossed with Player Punch in Genie's pre-final boss speech: "Is that why you play games? Because you're bored?...The credits will soon roll, but you won't be around to see them!"
  • Cats Are Mean: Subverted. The half-skeletal cats at the beginning won't attack you until you shoot them first, spend most of their time begging for their lives, and run away if not killed quickly enough.
  • Chest Monster: A monster disguises itself as the Love Bus. While the monster looks identical to the Love Bus, its location is not where the Bus usually stops. It shows its true form and attacks you when you try to enter.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Most denizens, but special mention go to the quest givers who, as a group, cannot stop talking about dreams or asking you about your dreams.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Being an anti-violence game that is violent itself, the combat systems design nuances like having enemies beg for their lives seem to be designed to make the player extremely uncomfortable as they play.
  • Determinator: The factor enemy type "Err" (as in "error") chases you at a steady pace and is known to break level geometry if it cannot get to you any other way.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: A handful of the area bosses qualify, taking the form of actual gods from actual religions. Special mention goes to the boss of the Deep Rift: Kali herself.
  • Driven to Suicide: When he has killed enough people, the Nomad is given the option to "exeunt" himself and travel to the afterlife for the ending when he, or rather the player, grows bored of the Rift.
  • Dumb Muscle: Lam fulfills this battle role, having high attack power, but not being terribly useful at anything else.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The politician seen in the trailer for Moments of Silence can be found on a tv, and is one of the few characters that has multiple phrases when talked to.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Many, many enemies. But the enemies in purgatory take the cake, especially the malevolent manifestation of the thoughts that drive every serial killer. Its game portrait just calls it "Serial Killer". Quiddity counts as well, but s/he's probably one of Serial Killer's manifestations.
  • Elemental Powers: ...Except based on the four temperaments, somehow? Om is Melancholic, Lam is Sanguine, and Yam is Choleric. Phlegmatic is strangely absent.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Inverted in the normal ending. Once the final boss-fight against Genie begins you, logically, cannot use her for your moves anymore. This means you rely heavily on Om, Yam, and Lam for most of the fight.
  • Emoticon: Genie's messages will sometimes include these, probably just to add to the Mind Screw nature of the game.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: The moon having eyes seems to be Author Appeal as it appears in the sequel as well.
  • Eye Motifs: Eyes are everywhere. As backgrounds, as disembodied enemies and even on the moon.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Genie seems designed with this in mind. She's entertaining in a Handsome Jack kind of way.
  • Fetch Quest: Some of the denizens make requests for certain items you can get as loot from bosses.
  • Final Boss, New Dimension: The Afterlife in the Normal Ending.
  • For the Evulz: Shockingly averted with Genie. She's an Omnicidal Maniac simply because she believes everyone deserves it, and the only reason she enjoys killing is because she thinks she is doing the right thing.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: There's a room full of them. Their overworld sprites alternate between having an eye for a face or a hole; their battle sprites have skeletal faces.
  • Harmful to Minors: One denizen remarks his first coloring book had him illustrating the blood of murder victims.
  • Hub Level: The "Love Bus" is the closest example the game has, serving as a transition between otherwise unlinked or far away sections of the Rift. Talking to the passengers also gives you an impression of the impact your having on the Rift.
  • Karma Meter: The "Nothings" act as something of an inverse one, as you receive one for every being you kill.
  • Killed Off for Real: Virtually all of the denizens you kill do not re-spawn until you start a new game, except for the subway area boss (though that case is obviously a glitch).
  • Idiosyncratic Menu Labels: The start menu options for New Game, Load Game, and Quit are incomprehensibly labeled O, +++, and X. Your inventory is your "Pocket", and your skill menu is labeled "Prowess". In battle, in addition to the former, the basic attack button is "Trigger", and the defend option is "Brace".
  • I'm a Humanitarian: One denizen asks for the eerily ambiguously titled "Human Fruit" and the behemoth in the afterlife attacks you simply because "You're Edible..."
  • Magic Music: The "Prowess" skill called "Acoustics" allows you to play a guitar using the down arrow key. Its effect varies by area, as does its sound.
  • Mama Bear: One area features a car monster who is very protective of her young.
  • The Medic: Om.
  • Metal Slime: The enemies around the starting area give far more experience relative to their level than they should. This is intentional.
  • Monster Clown: Shows up in the factory area, where he ambushes you as you crawl out of a vent.
  • Multiple Endings: That hinge on how many "Nothings" you have collected, a fact never brought up in-game.
  • Nominal Importance: Most characters have unique dialogue, but any character with a name and/or portrait is either a major area boss (The Imp King), a quest giver, or somehow involved in a puzzle.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: This is applied to all gaming terminology, most likely to increase the alien atmosphere the game fosters. If any part of the interface uses an actual gaming term, then it's probably accidental. Even the menu is just symbols (+, 0, and an X) rather than the universally known "New Game", "Continue", and "Quit".
  • Omnicidal Maniac: When asked whom she would feed to the world in a hypothetical situation where only blood can keep it from ending, Genie's lengthily reply can be paraphrased as "everyone". It turns out later that this is because she thinks everyone else is a sinner.
  • One-Hit Kill: Some of the moves you can use include Exeunt Om, Exeunt Yam, and Exeunt Lam, which remove your summoned chakra allies from the battle. One might wonder why exactly these are in the game, since there's no benefit gained from sacrificing an ally like that, and as such there's really no reason to use them... until you battle the Opposite Time Nomad, a doppelganger of the protagonist who also has access to those moves, and has no qualms about using them to remove your allies.
  • One-Winged Angel: In the Normal Ending, Genie grows her own body so she can shoot without a master, and it ends up evolving into a dragon-like form.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Dragons of The Rift are elementals representing different drugs (IE: Opium Dragon). Gives a new meaning to "chasing the dragon".
  • Polluted Wasteland: The "battleground" seems to be one of these crossed with an army base.
  • The Power of Love: The driver of the "Love Bus" seems convinced it runs on a combo of dreams, jazz music, and this.
  • Refusal of the Call: You are offered three chances to walk away by Genie. Accepting any of them boots you to the title screen.
  • Scenery Gorn: Both figuratively and literally; the Rift features many desert wastelands, run-down factories, and planes with skinless animals. To let the player know what kind of messed up world this is, the very first thing shown upon booting up the game is an eye-covered moon piercing a bleeding planet (which can be seen in other areas as well).
  • Spiritual Successor: In terms of tone, theme, and just plain weirdness, it might as well be Off 2. Or possibly "open-world OFF".
  • Summon Magic: The Nomad has very limited Mana, so most combat moves are accessed by summoning the aspects of his Chakra/Chi: Om, Yam, and Lam.
  • Squishy Wizard: Yam, who also specializes in Status Effects.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Genie's speech before the final fight is pretty much one giant barely veiled Take That! aimed not so much at the Nomad as to people who enjoy violence in video games and/or find their comfortable lives boring. "...Is that why you play games? Because you are bored?..."
  • Time Abyss: The Rift may very well be older than all other universes, even if the set pieces inside it are not.
  • The Unfettered: Genie turns out to not be Axe-Crazy as much as she is just utterly fatalistic and devoted to a twisted sense of justice. Exemplified by her quote in the ending "...No one is innocent, so Karma doesn't care who it kills. It strikes out randomly, assured it has destroyed a sinner... Karma is my God, and I am its angel."
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: You can murder the Love Bus driver, but if the door is closed, you'll be trapped inside the bus with no way out unless you commit suicide (if you even can). The creator himself even warns you that this is a bad idea.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Items in general, due to the lack of shops in the game and the majority of monsters not respawning once killed.
  • 20 Bear Asses: The "Nothings" needed to end the game, but because they drop from every enemy and count as a karma system it makes collecting them allot more interesting.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: It's entirely possible to rack up tons of kills simply in self defense if you know where to look, but attacking random victims makes the game go by much faster — if you can live with the guilt.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Nomad counts to some degree. As mentioned in his "Reason you Suck Speech" Genie gave you the chance to turn around and not kill people at the start of the game, and you still proceeded.
  • Void Between the Worlds: The Rift.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: Misspellings, dropped apostrophes, and homophone mix-ups are common.
  • Wham Line: Just before the final boss fight:
    Genie: A thousand pardons, but I must kill you now.
  • What the Hell, Player?: If you attack someone (rather than being attacked) to initiate combat, some turns are spent with them either begging for their lives in a tragic manner, or describing the wounds you inflict in Squick-tastic detail. This is not a feelgood game. You can spare them by fleeing the fight. Though according to Genie's explanation of how she reproduces, they will gain their own talkative revolver who will not be a good influence on their lives.
  • World Tree: Mentioned but never seen, chunks of its roots are usable in combat as items.
  • Wretched Hive: Deep within the refugee outpost one can find one of these. There are dancers with TV torsos and stripper legs and several denizens lamenting their cocaine and gambling addictions.
  • You Bastard! and Player Punch: As mentioned above, the basic premise of the game is that what you have to do in order to progress is horrible, and it makes sure you feel as uncomfortable as possible while doing so.