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Video Game / Spate

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"It is only through mystery and madness that the soul is revealed."
Thomas Moore

Spate is a Steampunk-themed 2.5D Platform Game by Eric Provan, a former Disney and Jim Henson studios artist. It was funded on Kickstarter on May 26th, 2012, and released for PC through Steam on March 27th, 2014.

Years ago, Detective Bluth's daughter died. His wife left him not long after. He has since filled the void with absinthe. In 1890, he was hired to search for a missing businessman in the X Zone, formerly a famous resort of Pearl Islands that has been reduced to a swamp by torrential rain and seemingly permanent fog. Join him on his journey into madness as he's haunted by absinthe hallucinations and his memories.


Spate contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Detective Bluth has been driven into alcoholism by his daughter's death. He has never visited her grave since then, claiming that absinthe provides enough of a closure already. At one point, he also ruefully reflects that he has no one left who is worth quitting for, and those who tell him to quit to save himself do not know that he is the last person who would be worth saving. However, that is also deflection to cope with the fact his wife left him explicitly because she could no longer handle his drinking.
    • In the end, The good ending has Bluth throw his absinthe away and rebuild his life, bringing the robot back home, patching things up with his wife, remarrying her, finally buying the house on the hill he dreamed of, and also visiting his daughter's cenotaph. In the bad ending, he is unable to quit the absinthe, but is also unable to live addicted to it any longer, and so he simply jumps off the tower.
  • Alternate History: It is set in 1890, but one that features comparatively advanced, if bulky, technology like largely sentient robots and widespread floating drones. It's unclear when exactly it diverged from our world, but it had to be no later than the start of 17th century, since 1749 featured the so-called "Steam Wars", which were an actual conflict.
  • Adult Fear: The protagonist is dealing with the death of his daughter, which happened in part because he wasn't there to look after her due to working overtime. The last thing he ever told her was a promise to make it up for being absent from home so often, which he would obviously never get to fulfil anymore. Eventually, though, you find out she actually was on Pearl Islands, and went missing along with everyone else on there when it turned into the X Zone. Thus, the main reason why Bluth pushes on through the zone's soggy hell is because he still hopes to find her alive, against all the odds.
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  • Big Red Button: The plot eventually features a big green button, but the meaning is the same. It turns out that Pearl Islands turned into the X Zone purely as a side effect of Professor Boseman's machine that was meant to keep him alive indefinitely. Once Detective Bluth finally makes it to the top of the tower, though, all he needs to do shut the machine down is to jump onto a big green button that's right in front of him, with the professor utterly powerless to stop him. There's no explanation as to why he built such an obvious vulnerability, especially given that he was unable to use it himself due to the way it was positioned.
  • Bloodless Carnage: There is no blood around, and even if Bluth happens to fall onto a bed of huge spikes, or gets hit by a huge buzzsaw, his body simply goes limp, but is otherwise unblemished.
  • Book-Ends: The game begins with Detective Bluth falling off a cliff, while he is narrating that this is just a dream, albeit one he has had for the last 6 months. In the bad ending, he jumps off the tower for real, rather than go back to his absinthe addiction.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: A tombstone in the X Zone cemetery is devoted to Benjamin "SirDregan" Reichstein, who "only killed 17 woman [sic] and children in the Steam wars of 1749."
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The humanoid robot you meet early on is literally named Robot.
  • Double Jump: Detective Bluth has a backpack with a small booster inside it, which ends up equivalent to a double jump.
  • Driven to Suicide: Scott Denton is found slumped over, and the Robot says that he shot himself. However, Detective Bluth immediately suspects foul play, and is quickly proven right. However, the "real" explanation, that he was shot by "the man in the tower" AKA Professor Bozeman, doesn't seem to make sense either, as he appears completely unable to leave that tower, and he does not have a gun with him when you do encounter him as well.
    • Then, The choice that leads to a bad ending is supposedly to "take a swig of absinthe", but in practice, Bluth is unable to do that and simply jumps off the tower instead, just like what happened in his dream at the opening of the game.
  • Fishing for Sole: In the good ending, Robot finally gets his wish of going fishing with Bluth, though the still which shows their fishing also shows him only managing to get a shoe.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Players have a button to take a shot of absinthe, so as to better understand Bluth's alcoholism. It also enhances his platforming at key points through warping the environment, and also results in plot-critical hallucinations.
  • Infinite Flashlight: The flashlight attached to Detective's gas mask is never in danger of running out.
  • Last-Second Ending Choice: Present. Unlike most examples, though, you cannot immediately reload and see the other ending, as is usually the case, because your saves are deleted after you make the choice, and so truly replaying the game is necessary.
  • Left Hanging: Bluth wonders at the start why had even bothered to go to the X Zone in the first place, given that he was a successful businessman with no reason to risk his life there. We never actually find out either.
  • Lemony Narrator: Bluth narrates his own journey, and his depression and penchant for Purple Prose comes through with every sentence.
    "It's cold here, the kind of cold that burns your fingers. It matches the dead I feel inside, while at the same time being that vicious reminder that I'm still here, I'm still alive. Like that Denton must have felt before his warmth slipped away."
    • However, he is not above a touch of wry humor either.
    (Upon seeing the entire landscape suddenly warp its shape and shift into magenta): "I am sure this is just another fun illusion the drink is gifting me. I would prefer half-naked mermaids, but the drink runs things these days, and I am just along for the ride."
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Bluth soon begins to encounter enormous, fantastical, yet still friendly and talkative creatures, and the lingering question is whether any of them are real, or if they are hallucinations produced by his absinthe addiction. He often acknowledges that himself.
    "Things are really starting to get weird now. Am I getting closer to the tower, or the madness? The answer lies either ahead or in-head."
  • Multiple Endings: Two, determined by the final choice. However, Only the good one is a true ending, with a set of stills depicting how Bluth had rebuilt his life in the aftermath; picking a bad ending ("take a swig of absinthe") straight up leads to Bluth jumping off the tower and a "YOU LOSE" screen written in big red letters.
  • Nice Hat: Scott Denton wears one when you find his dead body. Benjamin "SirDregan" Reichstein is also portrayed with a tall hat on the statue above his gravestone.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Professor Brett Boseman, or "the man in the tower", as he is usually referred to by the robot and the others. He is so completely absent from the narrative outside of having the others speak of him, that even Detective Bluth soon begins to wonder whether he is even real, or if he is just another hallucination his alcohol-saddled mind produced, and only pushes on because he no longer has anything better to do. He is real, but he literally cannot leave the tower because he is attached to the machine he has placed there that keeps him alive indefinitely, but is so inefficient that the ruination of Pearl Islands was a mere byproduct of its functioning.
  • Plot Hole: If Professor Boseman is firmly attached to his machine, has no weapon with him and cannot leave the tower, and if the Robot staunchly refuses his commands to kill people then just how was he able to get Scott Denton killed in the first place? Moreover, How did the Professor ever manage to break the robot, if he is completely powerless to stop Detective Bluth from simply pushing a button to instantly kill him and stop his plans?
  • Schmuck Bait: The final ending choice, of all things, has shades of this. When Bluth is standing on the ledge, and one of your choices is "Press JUMP if you would like to take a swing of absinthe", the key word is jump, as he really would rather jump off and end it all then to retreat back to the same addiction.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: For some reason, Professor Brett Boseman had spent a countless amount of time and resources to create a machine that would keep him alive indefinitely, yet still created an obvious big green button that would shut it down and immediately kill him. Worst of all, that button is actually way outside his reach, and could only have been pushed by a outsider like Bluth showing up, so even an explanation that he wanted an "out" for himself if he was ever tired of living does not hold up.
  • Spike Balls of Doom: Here, they are more like hammers, and they also hang off on chains from the drones suspended in midair.
  • Spikes of Doom: Spikes taller than Bluth himself are present in some areas.
  • Spinning Paper: Played straight at the start, when we are shown the exposition about the X Zone disaster through a series of "The Dander Gazette" front pages, which spin from one to the other.
  • Survivor Guilt: You eventually find out that Bluth blaming himself for his daughter's death is a form of that, as she went on a school trip to Pearl Islands just as the X Zone disaster hit. He was supposed to be with her, and so the only reason he survived is because he was too committed to an ultimately worthless investigation in order to accompany her. Of course, instead of considering himself "lucky", he believes he could have had saved her had he been there. He finally gets over it in the good ending, though.
  • Swamps Are Evil: The X Zone had turned into a malign swamp through the mysterious arrival of permanent fog and rains.
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: Of the "cut-and-paste news" variety. The first Dander Gazette front page you see leads with the arrival of the fog and rains onto the Pearl Islands. There is also the associated sub-story beneath it, "Storms Pummel Pearl Islands". The other stories are "Brilliant Exploits of General Averill" and "Woman Learns to Read!", which warranted a front page for some reason. The second-to-last front page leads with "A decade later, the X Zone continues to yield no answers" - but all of the other stories are exactly the same as on that first front page from a decade ago, including "Storms Pummel Pearl Islands", which again refers to an event from 1880!
    • There's also a naming inconsistency on the last newspaper, which reports about the disappearance of the millionaire Bluth was contacted to find: whereas the rest of the narrative calls him Scott Denton, the small print of that newspaper calls him "Jonathan Von Nug".
  • Zero-Effort Boss: All you need to do to deal with Professor Brett Boseman is jump on a big green button on the floor which shuts down his machine, immediately killing him, and potentially beginning the process that'll reverse the degradation of the Pearl Islands as well.


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