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Video Game / String Tyrant

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"No deference, no submission. You're not ready yet, but you will be. I can't wait!"

String Tyrant is a turn based survival horror game by Bottled Starlight (formerly Starlight Studios). It released on Steam on May 8th, 2020. The player controls an English 16 year old girl named Mary as she walks home with her little brother Lauren and her best friend Jessie. They become lost and are chased by an ominous figure towards an imposing manor. The manor is full of animate dolls and similar creations which all want to make Mary and her friends just like them.

Navigating around the manor takes place through a grid based map and a combination text interpreter and visual interface. When the player is spotted the enemy will attempt to close the distance to initiate combat. The player must either flee or break line of sight by closing doors. Combat can be turn based or active, using a deck system to select cards to build combos that defend against or attack their enemy. The enemies are often stronger than the player and respawn over time meaning that stealth is a necessary element of survival.

One of the game's more unusual features is that instead of a typical game over screen after defeat, Mary is instead turned into the same type of animated female construct that defeated her and must hunt down her former friends.

Available on Steam and

String Tyrant provides examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: Played with in one of the bad endings. If Mary loses to the Stranger, she becomes convinced that her adventures up to this point were her daydreaming about being... Mary. Now a glass statue, she's convinced she's a spirit that was given a form based on a fictional character she admired and modeled herself on. Lauren and Jessie end up coming to similar beliefs once Mary catches up with them. Given the lack of a proper external frame of reference, it's ambiguous at best whether this is purely a delusion as a result of the transformation, or has somehow become true as a result.
  • Apocalyptic Log: All over the place, detailing the adventures of previous guest of the mansion. They come in three types and range from fluff to giving hints necessary to complete the game. Most of the them end with the guests transformed.
  • Big Bad: Pygmalie fits this role, having created all of the monsters and being directly antagonistic towards Mary. The fact that she's obviously mad doesn't help her case either.
    • ... Until you learn that she's not the creator of the mansion, is turning people into dolls to reduce the damage that the unnamed devouring entity that created the mansion can do, and is only mad because she cut out a chunk of her own mind to prevent herself being eaten. Good All Along? Maybe.
  • Big Brother Instinct: A female example. Mary is accompanied by her little brother Lauren and always seeks to protect him. Both Mary and Jessie work from keeping him from realizing the danger they are in.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Any of the good endings. The nature of the mansion requires someone to be sacrificed if anyone wants to escape. How bitter the ending depends on who the player decides to sacrifice. In addition just getting there requires Mary to be turned into a doll.
    • The best "Bad" ending also qualifies: every sympathetic character survives without anyone having to be sacrificed, but all three of the main trio are dolls — though at least ones that retain free will — and there's no way out of the mansion for any of them. It's up to the player whether they agree with Mary that staying together and whole when any other option would have cost one of them their mind, and Mary her place in society — if she even made it back at all — was worth the cost.
  • Bleached Underpants: the game engine was developed for a re-implementation of a transformation fetish game named House of Pandemonium. The authors have openly referred to String Tyrant as a PG-rated Gaiden Game.
    • A strong clue is that there are Easter Egg commands which allow you to force an immediate transformation on yourself and to choose which doll type you are transformed into.
    • In fact, the transformation fetish community almost pioneer the development of Wide-Open Sandbox Interactive Fiction games in the modern day, because of the benefits of this structure in creating games where the player and others can assume different forms.
  • Brainwashed: All of the residents of the mansion love it there and want to help their guests love it too.
  • Booby Trap: The mansion has a grand total of five of these. All of them guard items required to beat the game. Several of them are close to Trial-and-Error Gameplay and require a careful reading of the testaments to beat. At least the game gives you a single use save item outside of each one.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: The resin titans have the most HP of any enemy in the game, hit the hardest and chase Mary relentlessly. They look the same as regular dolls except for a slight color change.
  • Came Back Strong:The stranger's core mechanic as an enemy. Every time you defeat them they come back a bit stronger, eventually they max out at the second strongest enemy in the game.
  • Clone by Conversion: How claygirls make more claygirls unless the player is careful.
  • Closed Circle: The mansion exists in it's own pocket dimension. In-story running away from the mansion has you end up back at the mansion. In-game the mansion is surrounded by impassable trees.
  • Creepy Doll: The majority of the enemies are life sized versions of these. They have six types and several skin variants though so the player doesn't see the same ones very often.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Dolls aren't trying to transform you into one of them, they just want to "play" with you. The player as a doll uses play as their fight command.
  • Determinator: Mary faces a mansion full of monsters and traps all of which threaten to transform her. She never considers giving up. Even when escaping requires her body to be transformed.
  • Downer Ending: Depending on your point of view most of the transformation endings count. The sacrifice Mary ending definitely counts. Getting eaten by the unnamed evil leave Mary so empty she can barely be made into a doll.
  • Eldritch Location: The mansion is in it's pocket dimension, and seems to exist outside of time. It has lured in victims from across several centuries and all around the world.
  • Empty Shell: Created when a mind leaves its body. You briefly play as one of these. Pygmalie is what happens when you leave one by itself for decades.
  • Equipment-Based Progression: Mary grows stronger by finding better weapons, equipment and cards. A large part of the difficulty is finding better stuff hidden in the mansion while enemies hunt you.
  • Fetch Quest: The final part of the game is one of these. Complicating things is that all the enemies have respawned and The Stranger is actively hunting you.
  • Frozen Face: This can happen to Mary and friends if she loses to the brewery trap. They get turned into rubbery figures with square hands permanently sporting wide smiles.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Can happen in multiple ways. Upon defeat in combat Mary will make one to buy time for Jessie and Lauren to run away. Can also happen at the end of the game, depending on who the player picks to sacrifice.
  • Hero of Another Story: Eileen, the person who left all those helpful testaments, was apparently just short of escaping the mansion. You meet her as the hidden doll in the clocktower.
  • Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: All over the place. All of the enemies are very happy to be in the mansion, no matter who they used to be. It's also a feature of every game over sequence, Mary has her will taken away.
    • It's played for tragedy with the hidden doll Eileen. She has been set to be very happy to guard a room. You can offer to take her with you but she will refuse because she's so very happy to be in the room. She knows that it's not her choice but can't do anything about it.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The unnameable evil that created the mansion and keeps luring people there to eat their minds. In game there is nothing that can be done against it except figure out how to escape it. The golden ending has Mary dedicate themselves to figuring out a way to stopping it.
  • Golden Ending: Ending 10. The game even calls it the best way things can turn out. It's still bittersweet though. By putting Sarah Ann-Lee back into her body; Pygmalie, and feeding it to the unnamed evil, Lauren and Jessie can escape. However Mary has been turned into an immortal doll, and in effect permanently trapped herself in the mansion until she can figure out a way to defeat the unnamed evil.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Sarah Lee-Anne figured out a way to beat the unnamed evil. She put her mind in a book so it would be safe. What she didn't count on was what their body would get up to afterwards.
  • Implacable Man: The Stranger is one. Beat them as many times as you like and it will come back to keep hunting Mary.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Twinblade, with the right deck setup it can make fighting trivial. Getting it involves fighting your way through the most dangerous area in the game.
  • Infinity -1 Sword: Two items can make most of the early game trivial, and are both easy to get if you know where to look.
    • The Torch: it enhances fire damage, which some enemy types are already weak to.
    • The Death card: it doubles the damage of the attack combo it's in. With the right set up your attack can do a third of the strongest enemy in the game's health. Limited though by only being able to use it once per shuffle.
  • Laughing Mad: Pygmalie does this in her first dialogue with the player. It's another hint that she's not all there. Literally.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle: To progress through the manor the player must find keys to open doors. These are helpfully labeled with card suites.
  • Logical Weakness: The stranger is an unstoppable pursuer made of glass. How does Mary ultimately stop them? She rings a giant bell and lets the reverberations reduce them to shards.
  • Maker of Monsters: Pygmalie made all of the dolls and traps in the manor. Most of the sequences where Mary is defeated involves a visit to Pygmalie to finish the transformation.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Jessie and Lauren fit these archetypes respectively.
  • Multiple Endings: The game has 15 endings, mostly bad endings depending on what type of monster or trap finally transformed Mary.
  • Mundane Solution: What do you do if you coated by growing magical transformative clay? Wash it off at a fountain. Doesn't work if it completely coats Mary though, at that point there is nothing underneath except clay.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sarah Lee-Anne has this reaction when she hears about what Pygmalie has been up to.
  • Mythology Gag: Jessie and Lauren are loosely based on characters from an earlier NSFW game. note  Jessie got a Race Lift compared to her original version, but Lauren got little more than a slight redesign and a change of artstyle. Said game also introduced Pygmalie, though its version of her was much different, being more of a calm, coolly amoral artiste than the eccentric, scatterbrained mad artist of this game, as well as looking drastically different.
  • Never Split the Party: Mary and her friends are big believers in this trope. After finding them again at the start of the game they only split up in front of traps and when Mary goes looking for a soul jar book
  • Nintendo Hard: The game suggests playing on easy to start for good reason. Enemies hit hard, chase you aggressively and healing items are few and far between.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted, after defeat Mary hunts down her friends.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: One of the traps seems empty. It isn't for long.
  • Objectshifting: One of the claygirl's tricks. They can randomly replicate any piece of equipment to ambush Mary when she picks it up. Falling for it get Mary covered in clay that she must wash off or be transformed.
  • Perspective Flip: the game's strange and unique feature; even after losing by being transformed into one of the monsters, you can continue to play as the monster, and even interact with the other monsters and Pygmalie as one of them.
  • Press X to Die: Pygmalie's throne room is full of hundreds of the dolls stalking the halls. You can enter it like any other room. You even get a special ending for it.
  • Resources Management Gameplay: There are a limited number of potions in the game, with the only way to get more to find them by searching the mansion. Compounding this the player will almost always take at least a little damage during combat, often having to burn one or two potions for the harder enemies. You can restore your health up to half of max at fountains but otherwise you have to constantly gamble if combat is worthwhile.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The testaments and best gear have a suspicious similarity to elements from Bloodborne.
      • Going even further, it's heavily implied, especially in a certain optional dialogue with her, in which you discover that her eye contains a rune whose description is very similar to the appearance of The Hunter's Mark, that Eileen from this game is Eileen the Crow from Bloodborne, having somehow ended up at the mansion after her apparent death at the end of her questline in that game, and ultimately ending up as the relatively free-willed doll you eventually meet her as.
    • The achievement picture for getting the golden ending on the hardest difficulty is a reference to one of the Studio's other NSFW projects.
    • The person who made all the dolls that populate the manor is named Pygmalie, in reference to Pygmalion Plot.
    • The keys required to navigate the mansion are all labeled with card suites. Just like the Racoon City police station in Resident Evil 2.
  • Slave Mooks: All of the enemies are brainwashed to be totally subservient to Pygmalie. At least they seem happy about it.
  • Slime Girl: Claygirls are a distinctly horror version of this. They are definitely female but lack any attempt at human features, instead having a featureless blank space for a face. The fact that they spend most of their time disguised as objects around the manor also sets them apart.
  • Someone Has to Die: Ultimately the only way to escape the mansion is to feed the unnamed evil and run away while it's full. The player gets to pick who is the sacrifice.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Doll Mary has the option to convert Lauren peacefully by talking to him, the same for Jessie but only if she declared her love.
  • Soul Jar: You at one point meet a talking book. It turns out to be holding the soul of Sarah Lee-Anne.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The Stranger, actively looks for Mary instead of patrolling, and respawns stronger upon defeat.
  • Suspicious Videogame Generosity: All of the traps have a single use save glyph outside of them. You are going to need it.
  • Survival Horror: Has a lot of hallmarks of the genre. Very lethal enemies, an emphasis on avoiding combat, limited supplies. Combat takes up HP which can only be completely restored by rare and limited potions which have to be found. It's even set in a spooky mansion during a rainstorm.
  • Taken for Granite: Happens a lot. Mary can be turned into a statue by the blue light. Mary can be turned into glass if caught by the Stranger. Mary can be turned be turned into ice if she takes too long in the Ice halls. Etc.
  • Tongue-Tied: The hidden doll Eileen is implied to know just about everything about the manor. She can't tell you directly but depending on your progress will give hints about where to go by "playing" a game involving a very useful poem.
  • Transformation Fiction: Transformation is a major part of the game, the enemies wandering the halls will transform the player and the player will then hunt down and transform their former friends.
  • Transformation Sequence: A feature of every lose sequence, Mary gets turned into one of denizens of the mansion and is made perfectly happy to be one. The same happens to Jessie and Lauren when Mary captures them.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Two hidden endings require this. A doll Mary with her mind can still use the "transform" command. Dolls are immortal so it might be a blessing. Hope you don't feel too bad about having to sacrifice Jessie/Lauren.
  • Was Once a Man: How does Pygmalie make more servants? She transforms those that the mansion summons into inanimate minions. Which means just about everything the player fights used to be human. Happens to Mary.