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Video Game / Poacher

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Poacher is a 2D side-scrolling Metroidvania made by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw. In a departure from his previous titles, it is his first game not to use the AGS engine.

The game stars Derek Badger, an unflappable Yorkshireman who poaches game for a living. One night, whilst out blasting rabbits with his new shotgun, he is confronted by his best friend and arch-nemesis, Archibald the gamekeeper (aka "Gamey"). When Gamey accidentally falls down a hole, Derek goes down to help him out. He finds himself in a strange Underworld, inhabited by flesh-eating rabbits and spirit beings. After joining up with a spirit named Rebecca, it isn't long before Derek discovers himself involved in something far bigger than a simple rescue.

It can be downloaded for free here.


This game provides examples of:

  • Advancing Boss of Doom: The second form of the Judge turns into this periodically when it tires of attacking you from afar.
  • Aliens of London: Played for Laughs with the Blemineg, who have exactly the same accent as Derek, forcing Rebecca to use his brain as a translator.
  • Aliens Speaking English: It's been millennia since anyone in the Underworld interacted with the surface world — certainly longer than the English language has existed — but everyone down there who can speak (except maybe the Dark Ones) is fluent in some form of English.
  • All There in the Script: Gamey's full name (Archibald Stodgeley) and most of the creatures' names are revealed in the good ending. Parodied in the Golden Ending, as read by Derek himself.
  • All the Worlds are a Stage: The final stretch of the good ending thematically harkens back to previous areas; partly justified because you're exiting the Abyss and heading back up to the surface, with the final boss fight occurring on the surface outside the manor. Also occurs for the secret ending, minus the final boss, who's already dead.
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  • Alternate Character Interpretation: An in-universe example with Derek, due to interactions with the Judge. Derek/the player's early-game behaviour is brought up near the end, with his behaviour regarding the white rabbits, zombie Blemineg, and fighting Gamey the first time being commented on. This also lets Derek's comment about just wanting to walk around with his twelve-gauge at the beginning of the game be either Blatant Lies or the truth.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Beat the game once to unlock the "Zero Suit Derek" outfit, which puts Derek in a tank top and boxers (and his hat and shoes). Beat the game with 100% Completion to unlock the "Lord O T'Manor" outfit, which puts Derek in a suit and top hat (and makes his shotgun eject money instead of spent casings).
  • Anti-Frustration Feature:
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The second form of the Judge is essentially a giant mouth. One of its teeth is suspiciously a different colour, and it's what you have to hit to damage it.
  • Background Boss: The second form of the Judge, though it will periodically try to attack you directly.
  • Badass Boast: An awesome one provided by the Judge before you fight him.
    The Judge: You had the audacity to ask me who I am. The Egyptians called me 'Anubis'. The Greeks, 'Minos'. They thought naming me would help them comprehend me. I am the Judge. The Judge Of All The Earth. I have performed my function for a million generations. And I will NOT be made a mere PAWN of PROPHECY!
  • Big Bad: The Dark Lord. You kill him in all three endings. In the bad ending, this only gives the Dark Ones an excuse to wage all-out war. In the Good ending, killing the Dark Lord is entirely justified, because they were never planning to hold their end of the bargain in the first place, and attacked the surface world. In the Judgment ending, killing the Judge ends all evil and suffering; as the Dark Ones — including the Dark Lord — are beings of evil energy, they all die as a result.
  • Big Boo's Haunt: The Crystal Tombs. Even the Dark Ones are terrified of the place, and with good reason.
  • Blackout Basement: The Crystal Tombs are completely dark; you can create a small light around yourself, but doing so may disturb the Dead Men patrolling the area.
  • Blatant Lies: When Derek tells Gamey that he was just out for a stroll with his twelve-gauge. Subverting this by not actually shooting any rabbits can lead to hilarity — or even the secret ending — in the Abyss.
  • Body Horror: The Dead Men. Yahtzee once again proves that while he isn't the most amazing pixel artist, he can still pull off some very creepy things with pixels.
  • Boss Arena Recovery: There is a pipe in Krakomedusae's arena that dispenses spirit charges at regular intervals. It's there because the fight would be unwinnable to players who hadn't defeated Theridius first otherwise (as the regular shotgun doesn't work underwater), but using the Spirit of Peace in combination with it makes the fight ridiculously easy.
  • Bring Me My Brown Pants: Derek's reaction upon seeing the Barghest, a ten-foot-tall razor-fanged rabbit and the game's first proper boss fight. In keeping with his unflappable personality, even Derek's pants-shitting is understated and stoic.
    "I've just cacked me pants."
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes/The Darkness Gazes Back: In the pitch-black Crystal Tombs. Without Rebecca's light, we see Derek's eyes glowing in the dark. We also see the Dead Men's eyes doing the same.
  • Butt-Monkey: Gamey. Falling down a hole, he then gets chased by evil rabbits in the background when Derek is first exploring the caves. In a later scene, Derek can either ignore him or outright shoot him. In the Bad ending, Gamey is stuck with Magnus and never gets to go home.
  • Cassandra Truth: Depending on the player's actions, Derek's line about just wanting to see how his new shotgun looks in the moonlight can be completely true.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Only in one boss fight, mostly because otherwise it wouldn't be much of a challenge: Gamey and Magnus use two abilities you can buy in the shop, abilities that the player can't use simultaneously. Plus, an attack that Derek and Rebecca can't use at all.
  • Decapitated Army: Subverted in the bad ending. The Dark Ones are not a hive mind — attempting to decapitate them by killing the Dark Lord only gives them a martyr and an excuse to wage another war. Played straight in the good ending, however. The secret ending turns it Up to Eleven: killing the Judge eradicates all forces of evil and negativity in the world, including the Dark Ones.
  • Devil, but No God/God Is Evil: Depending on your interpretation of the Judge.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • If, at any point in the Abyss, Derek is accused of something the player never actually did, he simply brushes it off, frustrating the Judge and canceling the appropriate judgment. Making this happen with all three accusations unlocks the secret ending.
    • When encountering Gamey in the Lidenbrock Sea, shooting him after he hurts you doesn't lock you out of the Golden Ending, as Derek acted in self-defense.
  • Didn't Need Those Anyway!: Each of the globs surrounding the Dark Lord's core falls off when damaged, becoming one of the blob enemies from the Oil Rig.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Everything Derek does to defy the Dark Ones and the Judge to their faces, which is a lot.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Well, the Dark Ones count, for starters… and then you have the Judge, who is effectively the closest known thing to a god in this game. He's even the closest thing there is to a narrator for most of the game.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • The Dark Ones have practically become a whole race of these by this point.
    • The Judge outright states that humans have tried and failed to comprehend him, though, unlike most beings of his ilk, he can communicate on an equal level with lesser beings, and is even capable of things such as anger and pride. It turns out that killing him gets rid of all the negativity in the world.
    • The Dead Men in the Crystal Tombs are probably some form of this as well.
  • Evil Poacher: Averted. Derek doesn't hunt any endangered species, as far as the player is aware, and he only does it to get by. In fact, he's a very nice and rather empathetic bloke who is more than willing to lend a hand to others in need. The Judge attempts to accuse him of being one of these; it backfires if you didn't shoot any of the white rabbits at the start of the game.
  • Eye Scream: Both examples under Go for the Eye count when exploited, especially the Judge.
  • Fighting Your Friend: Gamey. Twice, although he's a deliberate and skippable Anticlimax Boss the first time.
  • Fisticuffs Boss: The illusion of Rebecca's father in the Abyss; while not considered a boss fight by the game, Derek is stripped of Rebecca and all upgrades, and must regain them by freeing Rebecca and then blasting the hell out of the illusion, constantly being bombarded by Spirit Bombs the entire time. Derek does keep his shotgun, but it's completely useless until Rebecca is freed.
  • Foreshadowing: If the Judge is killed before Derek leaves the Abyss, all of the enemies populating the exit in the Good ending disappear. This foreshadows the fact that the Judge's death brought all negativity in the world — including, but not limited to, the Dark Ones — to an end.
  • Functional Magic: Rebecca and the badges you can buy.
  • Gag Sub: In the secret ending, Derek does the credits, mainly because, well, he killed the closest thing this game has to a narrator. As a result, the new credits are hilarious.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Dead Men have glowing cyan eyes.
  • God of Evil: The Judge, in a way. His death ends all negativity in the world.
  • Go for the Eye: The weak points of the Bargest and the first form of the Judge — shooting either of them results in plenty of Eye Scream, and the Judge spends the rest of the fight after his first form bleeding from newly mangled eye sockets.
  • Golden Ending: Word of God says it's only for the "pure of heart." In other words, people who don't shoot the innocent — i.e., white rabbits, zombie Blemineg, or pre-Compact Gamey. The Judge tries to judge Derek, but can't; recalling a prophecy in which he dies at the hands of someone who cannot be judged, he falls into a Villainous Breakdown, tries to kill Derek, and is killed by Derek in the process. When Derek leaves the Abyss with Rebecca, Magnus tells them that the Dark Ones suddenly died all at once, and Gamey claims that all negativity in the world has suddenly ceased. With no further problems possible (literally) for any of them, they all head to the pub, and Derek replaces the narrator/Judge for the end credits/enemy list.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Derek wears heart-print boxers in the "Zero Suit Derek" costume and so do the Jackrabbits.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Based on the nature of the Abyss, one can assume it's run by a powerful, malevolent entity of some kind, but Derek never takes it on directly — he simply rescues Rebecca and leaves. Subverted in the Judgment ending; said entity is actually the True Final Boss.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The Bargests, rabbits taller than Derek.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: Most of the bosses, other than the True Final Boss.
  • Heart Container: Black puddings.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: Subverted in the good ending; played straight in the secret ending. The "narrator" (the one who explains new power-ups to you, etc.) is actually the Judge, a deity who rules the Abyss. In both endings, Derek openly defies his narration, but in the good one, he just escapes the Abyss with Rebecca and leaves the Judge to present the end credits. In the secret ending, Derek kills the Judge and (hilariously) presents the end credits himself.
  • Immune to Bullets: A couple of enemies can't be hurt with bullets, but can be destroyed with spirit grenades. The hostile flowers can be disabled for a short time via bullets, but they can be destroyed by spirit grenades as well.
  • Jump Physics: Justified — Derek does start off with a rather realistic jumping height, but it is increased by Rebecca's magic.
  • Jungle Japes: The jungle.
  • Just a Kid: Rebecca is treated like this by Magnus. She doesn't like it.
  • Kaizo Trap: Many bosses can injure/kill you during their death animations.
  • Kill the God: In the secret ending, according to every religion involving a divine judge of the dead.
  • King Mook: Every boss except the Dark Lord, Gamey/Magnus, and the Judge. Even the Dark Lord may count as one to the Oil Rig blobs.
  • MacGuffin: The Blemineg artifacts. Refreshingly, they can be acquired in any order. (Though admittedly, you'll have a hard time of it if you go for the sunken ruins first, since you'll be unable to shoot underwater.) They don't actually do anything — Derek and Rebecca are powering up by themselves for the most part. This is even lampshaded by the fact that they're kettles.
  • Marathon Boss: The Judge. Krakomedusae can be one if fought before Theridius.
  • Mirror Boss: Gamey and Magnus, with an added dose of The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard.
  • Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: In the Abyss, the narrator is revealed to be the Judge, the god of the afterlife and the source of all negativity, who judges both Derek and Rebecca. Derek begins defying the Judge's narration when it directs him to leave the Abyss without Rebecca, but whether he kills the Judge or simply rescues Rebecca and escapes depends on whether you've unlocked the secret ending.
  • Money for Nothing: Farming for gold is, most of the time, entirely unnecessary, especially if you know where to find chests. By the end of the game, you will likely have at least a few thousand gold left over after buying everything from the shop.
  • Multiple Endings: Mainly depending on a few factors. You need to hear the whole backstory in order to get the Good ending — the player will be outright alerted that facing the Dark Lord without doing so may be a bad idea. There is also a secret ending that is acquired by never shooting white rabbits, zombie Blemineg, or Gamey before his Compact.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Rebecca has this reaction when she realizes that she broke the treaty in ignorance.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Early in the game, to reach the Spirit Kingdom, you must find a power-up in order to destroy a Spyrite barrier inconveniently blocking the way. Later, after making it to the Spirit King, the Kingdom is suddenly invaded by the Dark Ones, thanks to someone destroying the barrier. Oops!!
    • At the end of the game, you learn that the Dark Ones only attacked because Rebecca broke the treaty by making a Compact, essentially making her responsible for the entire plot outside of Gamey falling down a hole.
    • In the good ending, it turns out that the Spirit King ended up in this position; agreeing to the Dark Lord's terms meant that their strongest warrior was taken out of action, and the Dark Ones started invading en-masse as they had no intention of honoring their side of the agreement, they just wanted Rebecca and Derek out of the way.
  • No Fourth Wall: Almost unnoticeable, but not by the end; the narrator is the Judge Of All The Earth, who interacts with — and may be killed by — Derek in the Abyss.
  • Noob Cave: The Burrow. It's the very first stage of the game, and you get the very first power there — the higher jumps.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • The Dead Men in the Crystal Tombs are invincible and will attack you on sight with an unavoidable stream of energy, complete with a blood-curdling scream. They can't hurt you by touch, however, if they can't see you. Problem is, the area they inhabit is pitch-black, and you only have Rebecca as a tiny light source that you have to switch on and off to avoid detection. In the darkness, you can only see their eyes. When you're in the right position so you can see them without getting hurt… They are still not at all pleasant to look at.
    • Most of the fight with the Judge has him mostly covered in darkness, only certain parts of his body lit up at a time. All you can tell is that his head is somewhat humanoid in shape, and he has two yellow eyes... that don't last very long.
  • Not Your Problem: The Judge tries to dissuade Derek from going after Rebecca in the Abyss, since she's the one being judged, not him. Derek, being the good-natured sort, disagrees.
  • One-Hit Kill: Colliding with the wall of father illusions in the Abyss or the second form of the Judge has this effect. So does falling off the arena, for that matter.
  • 100% Completion: Unlocks the "Lord O T'Manor" outfit.
  • Oop North: Derek and Gamey are Yorkshiremen. For some reason, the Blemineg share their accent.
  • Physical God: The Judge.
  • Platform Battle: The second and third forms of the Judge.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Rebecca noted that she wasn't really close with her father, partly because her father didn't want to educate her like he did with Magnus, but rather, keep her innocent. Derek notes that keeping Rebecca ignorant of the consequences of a Compact was a very stupid idea.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: By Derek. Granted, it's mostly in self-defence, but the fact that the Judge was torturing Rebecca a few minutes earlier does not help his case.
  • Reasoning with God: Attempted by Derek in the Abyss. It doesn't work.
  • Recycled Trailer Music: Mocked in the trailer.
  • The Reveal: The best ending states that Derek's wife is Gamey's sister.
  • Roguish Poacher: Derek himself, being a salt-of-the-earth Yorkshireman who takes rabbits on Gamey's watch mostly to put food in the pot.
  • Say My Name: The Judge when his second and third forms appear, and when he dies. (Interestingly, this is the only voice-acted line in the game; it's Yahtzee's voice with reverb and a shifted pitch.)
    The Judge: BADGER.
  • Screw Destiny: The Judge is prophesied to be killed by Derek. However, instead of simply letting him and Rebecca escape, like in the Good ending, he tries to kill Derek personally…
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: …except this gets him killed, as prophesied. Whoops.
    • Not only does he give Derek the motive to fulfill the prophecy, but his actions even complete Derek's qualification for the prophecy. The prophecy describes the person who kills the Judge as having "lightning at his back", which doesn't apply to Derek… until the second form of the boss fight with The Judge, when he begins firing lightning bolts at you.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge:
    • Minimalist Run: As of Version 1.1, there's an achievement for beating the game with only the starting three health.
    • Pacifist Run: Sort of. Killing any of the Blemineg zombies or shooting Gamey at the Lidenbrock Sea unprovoked locks you out of the Golden Ending.
  • Sequence Breaking: It is possible to skip the entire descending elevator sequence; the only thing needed is for the player to lose one hit point, thanks to a glitch.
  • Sequential Boss: The True Final Boss.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: Not doing this to Gamey at the Lidenbrock Sea earns Derek a What the Hell, Hero? and bars you from the secret ending.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Averted, so very much.
  • Shout-Out: Completing the game unlocks the "Zero Suit Derek" costume.
  • Skippable Boss: The first time you "fight" Gamey. He'll go down in one shotgun blast, but you can actually run away from the fight, and he can't jump in order to follow you. This is necessary in order to achieve the secret ending.
  • Stationary Boss: The first form of the Judge.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Gamey, who for all his goofiness and relative lack of efficacy, still has the law on his side (Derek is poaching, after all).
  • Tactical Suicide Boss:
    • Theridius, the giant spider, has one attack that can potentially leave it exposed, but it won't use it unless the blocks below it are solid. Exposing its weak point requires you to take the blocks out from under it after it starts the attack, but before it hits the blocks.
    • The second form of the Judge cannot be harmed unless he decides to attack you directly, which he will always do, even when he's in critical health and could easily whittle you down with ranged attacks instead. (In fairness, however, it is a very effective attack.)
  • Tomato Surprise: The narrator is a character in the game — specifically, the Judge — and Derek, at least, can hear him.
  • Treacherous Checkpoint: One of these drops Derek to the bottom of the Abyss.
  • True Final Boss: The Judge. With Ballos levels of difficulty. Good luck.
  • Turns Red: Every boss in the game gets harder as it takes damage — some get faster, some start spawning Mooks, and others improve their attacks. The first form of the Judge takes this literally; his eyes gradually turn from yellow to red as they take damage, and when one of them pops, it stops being used as a position for his "gun", which makes it much harder to reach the other one.
  • Under the Sea/Palmtree Panic: The Lidenbrock Sea.
  • Unfazed Everyman: Derek.
  • The Unintelligible: The Blemineg and, to a lesser extent, Derek, at least to Rebecca.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: When the King takes the floor out from under you, if you quickly go back the way you came, you can make the jump back to solid ground without being dumped into the Abyss. If you leave the room before falling in, the floor will come back, but the King will be gone. You have to fall in to progress, and you can't destroy the floor yourself.
  • Victory Fakeout: The Judge. Twice.
  • Villainous Breakdown: A gradual one as the Judge keeps trying (and failing) to judge Derek on anything, and eventually realizes a prophecy of his death is coming true.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Derek and Gamey, by far. Half the time they're enemies, the other half of the time they're very good mates. Turns out they're brothers-in-law.
  • Walking Spoiler: The Judge.
  • Wall Jump: An unlockable ability.
  • Whack-a-Monster: The worm boss.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Played straight and subverted. Rebecca eventually realizes that the entire conflict is her fault, because she entered a Compact with Derek, which her brother and the King call her out on. If you kill the Dark Lord without getting the whole story, the King will call her out on it and banish her. The Judge also attempts this on Derek, but depending on your actions, it blows up in his face, so to speak, and even causes a Villainous Breakdown.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Seems to be an ongoing theme in Yahtzee's works. The Judge is not amused when he realizes that a prophecy that results in his death is coming to pass, and attempts to kill Derek personally... which just gets him killed, as prophesied. This is in direct contrast with a certain powerful entity from another universe...
  • You Didn't Ask: The reason Rebecca doesn't give Derek the ability to breathe underwater from the get-go. She needs to be reminded that humans need air.