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Video Game / Pause Ahead

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What an innocent-seeming game!

I awake in a dark place.
The number '00' is branded on my palm.
My thoughts are not on how I arrived,
But how I escape.

A Molyjam inspired platformer from Askiisoft seeks to answer the question, "What if the pause button was a weapon?"

An indie platforming game made in 2013 by askiisoft. In this game, you play as a surprisingly adorable humanoid wolf creature who attempts to escape from within a mysterious building.

The game's overall feel and design, like its predecessor Tower of Heaven, invokes old Game Boy games.

Can be played here on Newgrounds using the Newgrounds Player.

This game contains examples of:

  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: If you beat it, yes. It's a nice pair of shades for your wee sprite.
  • Bathos: After clearing the game once, the dialogue changes to snarky humor, which contrasts amusingly with the dark and hopeless lore you learned about on that first run.
  • Bizarre Puzzle Game: The way the game handles its pause function goes against conventional knowledge of puzzle platformers. Grasping and mastering it is one of the biggest challenges to a new player.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Once you reach level 9, the game's pre-level dialogue can be interpreted to be addressed to the player character... or the player themselves. The same goes for pause messages.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: Nihil, which you can only reach if you find all 3 secrets before reaching the final boss, is absolutely littered with pointy death, and precision pausing is necessary to make any kind of progress.
  • Cool Shades: Your character starts talking quite differently as a result of his new found swag.
  • Death Is Cheap: Infinite respawns are in effect. You're going to need them.
  • Doppelgänger Attack: A double of you appears during the final boss battle; touching it kills you.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: Your reward for finding all three hidden treasures and clearing Nihil is some text on a terminal indicating that the player character has been terminated, and implying that they never lived a real life in the first place.
  • Hold the Line: The final phase of the Final Boss doesn't involve hitting any switches like the first two. You just have to outlast its attacks (and avoid your "ghost").
  • He Knows About Timed Hits: For new players of Pause Ahead, if you die more than two times on level 5 (the first instance where you will need to pause), you will be prompted with I remind myself to press [shift] or [C] to pause.
  • Informing the Fourth Wall: The monologuing from the player character can serve as a vague Player Nudge or hint at the game's backstory.
  • Little Bit Beastly: The only indications that the main character isn't human are ears and some of the pause messages. "You have fur."
  • Made of Explodium: You explode when you touch a death trap, be it a set of spikes or a smashing block.
  • Minimalist Cast: There are only three characters in this game: The test subject, the unknown narrator and the Architect. And it's not clear if the narrator and the Architect are the same person or not.
  • Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: About halfway through the game, another character (who may or may not be the Big Bad) takes over the narration, and the pause messages become increasingly pleading, threatening, or plain nonsensical.
  • Multiple Endings:
    • The normal ending has you defeating the Architect and escaping the maze into the outside world. The Architect has no problem with this, as it has a good number of more test subjects to play with.
    • The secret ending, which requires unlocking and beating Nihil, has you playing the Architect's game to its horrible conclusion. Not much is really explained, but from the status of "terminated" at the end, it's surmised that the Architect has no more use for you as a test subject. Or perhaps you've become the new Architect. It's a Mind Screw of a Downer Ending. All of this made worse by the fact that it is also implied you never lived a real life.
      To pass into that dark,
      never having known freedom.
      Never to laugh, to learn, to love.
      Is there more tragic a fate?
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Nihil, the bonus level, which is Latin for "nothing".
  • Nintendo Hard: This game features many hazard-filled corridors that you can only traverse with the Time Stands Still pausing mechanic. To make matters worse, you can't control your direction while paused, so being stopped within a death trap while paused equals death.
  • No Fourth Wall: If you're wearing the sunglasses, both the player character and the other character will make frequent references to the fact that this is a video game.
  • No Name Given: The protagonist you play has no name given. There is also the question of 'who' exactly may be talking to you...
  • Off with His Head!: Twice! You have to sacrifice yourself to two guillotines at the bottom of Nihil to clear it. The death animation is the same explosion as always, but the imagery manages to be unmistakable regardless.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Contact with a spike or saw or evilly grinning blocks will end you quite explosively.
  • Pause Scumming: The game is built around abuse of its pause function. However, it handles pausing in an unconventional way — you are invincible and maintain your momentum while paused, allowing you to travel to places you can't reach normally.
  • Platform Hell: Past the first few levels, the level design starts to get absurd as it presents hazards everywhere, reduces the amount of safe footing, lines entire corridors with Spikes of Doom, and tightens the time limit to mere seconds. These would be outright impossible to complete without abuse of the Pause function.
  • Production Foreshadowing: At one point, the pause screen mentions anagrams. What's one of the words that appears when you pause? Ozuak.
  • Race Against the Clock: Every level is this to some degree, but the later levels, requiring you to finish the level in 1 second, require liberal use of the pause button to make it through alive.
  • Sequential Boss: The Architect battle has three major phases.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Tower of Heaven; one of the later levels is a near-exact copy. Including a secret if you go past the door and all the way to the left edge. Some of the pause texts include its Arc Words "May Heaven," "Grant you fortune".
    • The game's description on the original site reads "Pause Ahead is a jumping-and-pausing action game. Pause through the caves until you reach the ending", which is a close match to a similar game's description.
    • In the Bonus Level of Hell, the pause texts "Sanctuary," "Did you Know," "The witch woman," and "Once Had A Brother" reference the spike-filled bonus level of the same game.
    • Also in the Bonus Level of Hell: "You Have 7 Days."
    • Another pause text reads "Missing Number"
    • "World" might count, given how the Pause button works in this game.
  • Silliness Switch: The sunglasses you get for clearing Nihil change all the dialogue from surreal horror to snarky humor.
  • Stop Poking Me!: Fail to pass level 5 repeatedly and the Player Nudge gets more and more annoyed, culminating in the frustrated player character declaring "I consider pressing [ESC] to quit the game."
  • Time Stands Still: How the Pause mechanic works in-universe. You only see what that would look like during the replays at the end of each level or during the boss battle, where a digital copy of you follows you around and mimics your exact moves.
  • Timed Mission: Every level provides a short time limit to finish; you die if it lapses. Some are as tight as one second.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The pre-level monologues after level 9 attempt to talk the player character (or maybe the player themselves) into giving up. As the player progresses, it gets more desperate, sometimes outright begging them to cease.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Both endings suggest that, despite your apparent triumph, your actions have been All According to Plan.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In the secret ending, your reward for completing Nihil is getting terminated after fulfilling your unstated role and performing as instructed.