The Crooked Man is a Japanese freeware horror adventure game, made in Wolf RPG Editor by Uri. It is the first game in the Strange Men Series, followed by The Sandman (2014), The Boogie Man, and The Hanged Man.
David Hoover has just finished moving into a new apartment during a rough part of his life, but some incredibly odd happenings within the unit leave him shaken. When he tries asking about the former tenant, there's little information on the man in question. Curiosity piqued, David sets out to find him. Along the way, he runs into a terrifying humanoid monster known only as the Crooked Man, who is intent on killing David for some reason.
An English translation can be found here.
The Crooked Man contains examples of:
- Abandoned Hospital: The third and final, if the players gets the 3rd or 4th Bad Ending section of the game takes place in one.
- After-Action Villain Analysis: Paul ends up explaining what the motives of the Crooked Man are. How would Paul know such things? Having a "sixth sense" of sorts helps.
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: For one short chapter later in the game, you play as David's friend Paul.
- Apocalyptic Log: Significantly more downplayed compared to other examples, but the various notebook sheets scattered throughout the locations are the remains of Duke's journal, detailing his miserable life. They do have a use, however, as they contain subtle clues to keep you alive when you have to choose how to respond to the other characters...
- Beat the Curse Out of Him: When playing as Paul, you are given three options on what to do when you find David possessed by the Crooked Man and about to shoot himself. One of the options is punching him; choose this option and Paul will punch David repeatedly until it works. It's the only one of the three options that does work.
- Lampshaded by the preceding image showing the situation in David's first person. Trying to reason with or wrest the weapon out of the hand of a man who's literally possessed is bound to backfire horribly.
- Big Bad: The titular Crooked Man is the monster that David must evade in his journey to find the former tenant of his apartment. The Crooked Man is revealed to be a part of the spirit of the tenant, Duke MacGahan, who hates David for reminding him of his failures in life.
- Bittersweet Ending: The good ending. Duke can finally rest in peace, David is able to face life with renewed vigor and is on better terms with his friends, David's fiancee came back to him, and his mom's operation to remove the tumor in her brain successfully brought her back to her normal self… but she died a short time later.
- Bottomless Magazines: David picks up a revolver late in the game, and has to use it in two fights against the Crooked Man. It never runs out of ammo. It doesn't even have to be reloaded.
- Brick Joke: A rather heartwarming example. While exploring Duke's mother's house in the final chapter, you find a note indicating that Duke has run out of cigarettes and needs to buy more. The final scene of the game is David leaving a pack of smokes at Duke's grave.
- Broken Tears: David when he has a Heroic BSoD and gets possessed by the Crooked Man and almost compelled into shooting himself.
- Chekhov's Gun: At one point, David makes an offhand remark about how Paul has an interest in the occult. Paul sees dead people.
- Creepy Children Singing: David meets Fluffy by following Fluffy's voice when Fluffy's singing "I'm a Little Teapot". Later, Paul encounters Fluffy the same way, except this time Fluffy's singing "There Was a Crooked Man", and it for some reason has a creepy extra verse tacked onto it now. It is after this second Fluffy meeting that the player learns that Marion can't see Fluffy, Sissi, or D.
- Content Warnings: Right at the start of the game, it says: "This game contains sudden surprises and harsh images. The weak of heart and those poor with horror should not play. The author takes no responsibility for any trouble that arises from playing the game".
- Dead All Along: Sissi, D, and Fluffy, as they all turn out to be "facets" of Duke...
- Dead Person Conversation:
- Since Fluffy, Sissi, and D are aspects of Duke, technically every conversation with any of them is this.
- If you do a second playthrough, rather than simply finding Duke's corpse like in your first playthrough, David actually has a conversation with Duke's spirit before Duke finally passes on.
- Demonic Possession: The Crooked Man briefly does this to David and tries to influence him to kill himself. Thankfully. Paul snaps David out of it and drives the Crooked Man away.
- Distracted from Death: During the true ending, David's mother sends him to fetch a glass of water for her so he doesn't have to see her die.
- Dream-Crushing Handicap: David's childhood dream was to become a pilot, but being color blind (at least to certain colors, because he sure can see red just fine) disqualified him from that.
- Driven to Suicide: A possible fate for David and the definite fate of Duke, AKA the previous tenant.
- Due to the Dead: When David finds Duke's corpse, he thanks him for helping him get back on his feet and ensures he receives a proper burial.
- Eats Babies: A bit of an odd example. At one point, you catch the Crooked Man eating a model of an embryo.
- Exposition Break: After his Big Damn Heroes moment and the revelation that his interest in the occult is related to his ability to see/feel the supernatural, Paul ends up explaining to David — and the player — exactly why David's drawn to the previous tenant of his apartment, why the Crooked Man keeps attacking David, and even what Sissi, D, and Fluffy really are.
- Expy: D is one of Tsundere Blue with the phrase "smell ya".
- Sissi, at one point, says that she is not a kid afraid of the Boogie Man. Thought it may seem like a joke, the third game indeed centers around the Boogie Man as the antagonist.
- In an odd example, Bad End 2 foreshadows Bad End 4. In Bad End 2, you do the wrong thing trying to calm D down, and D stabs David and then gets killed by the Crooked Man. As David is dying, the Crooked Man says "It wasn't me, it was you. You killed him, and then yourself." In Bad End 4, you do the wrong thing to calm David down when the Crooked Man is compelling him to suicide, and this leads to David killing Paul. And then himself.
- At one point, you have to solve a puzzle which involves The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The fact that you have to encounter this book foreshadows Duke's dual motivation of hating David and wanting him dead... and yet also having pity on David and wanting him to succeed where Duke failed.
- One of the notes from the previous tenant mentions that he wanted someone to set him straight and tell him that his chasing after his dreams was foolish. Later, if you try to tell D to keep going for his dreams, you get a bad ending.
- A very subtle example. During the hospital segment, you find a notebook scrap that says that the previous tenant wishes he could kill himself when he was still a child... and in the same area, the Crooked Man suddenly starts completely ignoring David to hunt and kill some kid named Fluffy. This foreshadows that Fluffy and the others are actually aspects of Duke, with Fluffy being his inner child.
- The apartment has a big, off-angle crack in the back wall, and David's sharing it with a ghost who has four separate selves. And they all lived together in a little crooked house…
- A very easy-to-miss example: when you find the scrap of notebook paper in the hotel, it refers to the hotel as having been the previous tenant's special place with his girlfriend, and he specifically refers to it as "our special place." Later, when Sissi talks about her ex-boyfriend and why she is in the hotel, she also calls it "our special place". This foreshadows the fact that she is really a personality of the former tenant, Duke.
- Four Is Death: If you're in a building with four floors, expect to find something awful there, especially in the hospital, where the elevator is trapped on the fourth floor. The room where Duke's mother died was room 413, combining this trope with 13 Is Unlucky. The Crooked Man himself also counts as this, given that he has four aspects.
- Game-Breaking Bug: In an early encounter with the Crooked Man, you have to set him on fire. You're not supposed to leave the room. If you leave the room and set him on fire out there, the game will teleport you back inside the room for the cutscene, and when you leave the room again, you will get a game over.
- Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: The only way to stop David from shooting himself while playing as Paul is to punch him in the face. Repeatedly. In a variation, Paul is actually trying to punch the spirit possessing him, crossing this trope over with Beat the Curse Out of Him.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Sissi's death in one of the bad endings. We just hear Sissi screaming and then see blood spilling out the door. We don't see what the Crooked Man actually did to her.
- When you fight the Crooked Man in the hospital roof, if you accidentally shoot Fluffy, you'll only hear him scream before the Game Over screen appears.
- Gun Struggle: When Paul has to stop David from killing himself, you are given the option of trying to grab for the gun. This results in them fighting over it for a few seconds until it goes off... and kills Paul, leaving David so distraught that he shoots himself like he was going to.
- Hard Truth Aesop: The moral of the story is that sometimes, hard work and dedication to a dream is just bashing your head against a wall, and the harder you work toward something impossible the more miserable you'll make yourself. Sometimes, you have to give up on one dream... so that you don't give up on living altogether.
- Hard Work Hardly Works: The root of David's problems; he couldn't become a pilot because of his color-blindness and there's nothing he can do to cure his mother. Fighting an unwinnable uphill battle against things you can't change by simply working harder just doesn't work, and it's ultimately what drove Duke to suicide.
- Hell Hotel: Hotel Ruenheim.
- Heroic BSoD: David has one when confronted by an image of his mother and recalling a particularly painful memory involving her. This leaves him vulnerable and the Crooked Man takes control of him and tries to drive him to suicide. Luckily, Paul is able to save him.
- The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: Zig-zagged. David goes looking for the previous tenant, only to find himself being hunted down by the Crooked Man. Then he finds out the Crooked Man is the previous tenant. And tracks him down to his home where he defeats him once and for all.
- Implacable Man: No matter what David does to the Crooked Man, it persists in following him place after place. But then we get to the end...
- Improvised Weapon: The only weapon David picks up that is really a proper weapon is the revolver; all the other weapons are things that are just lying around. That the knife is a fruit knife means it wasn't intended for use as a weapon. Then there's the iron pipe. And the fire extinguisher. And splashing brandy on the Crooked Man and then setting him aflame with a lighter.
- Improbable Infant Survival: Enforced. When fighting the Crooked Man on the roof, you must be careful not to shoot Fluffy instead.
- Interrupted Suicide: Paul saves David from shooting himself… if you decided to punch David instead of trying to talk him out of it or grabbing for the gun.
- Invisible to Normals: David is being haunted by the Crooked Man and can see D, Fluffy, and Sissi just fine as a result. Paul can also see them just fine since he can see and feel the supernatural. Marion can't see them and gets upset, thinking Paul's pranking her.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: The plot of this game gives the "Crooked Man" nursery rhyme a whole new and more ominous meaning, especially after Fluffy adds a made-up second and third verse, with sinister unfinished final line:There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile
He found a crooked sixpence upona crooked stile
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse
And they all lived together in a crooked little house
Then he had a crooked thought
Why is crookedness my lot?
Why must I be crooked instead of being not?
So the crooked man would cry
And he couldn't fathom why
He was sad all the time and he sighed
- Jump Scare: Scattered throughout the game. There is a good reason why the beginning of the game has a warning for the weak of heart.
- Karmic Death: In one Non-Standard Game Over, D stabs David out of fury when the latter says the wrong thing to try to cheer him up. So when D goes to leave the room, he runs right into the Crooked Man and is swiftly killed. Karmic, because if D hadn't stabbed David, David would have held off the Crooked Man and given D the chance to run for it.
- Malaproper: At one point, Fluffy mispronounces hydrogen bromide as hydie-gen.
- My God, What Have I Done?: David's mother is suffering from memory loss due to a brain tumor. Because of this, she frequently forgets that David is her son, which causes her to say and do hurtful and aggressive things to him despite normally being kind and caring. One particularly bad day, David just couldn't take it anymore and briefly lost control of himself, grabbing his mother by the throat until his best friend Paul came to pull him off. He deeply regrets this, and his recollection of it later in the game causes him to plunge into a Heroic BSoD and nearly commit suicide.
- Nonstandard Game Over: All of the bad endings. If you tell Sissi not to cry, the Crooked Man kills her and then you. If you tell D to keep going for his dream, he'll stab you and then be killed by the Crooked Man. While playing as Paul and having to confront a suicidal David, trying to talk him down will result in him shooting, while trying to grab for the gun which will result in David accidentally killing Paul and then freaking out about it and shooting himself anyway.
- "Not So Different" Remark: Turns out to be the entire motivator for the whole game. David is drawn to the previous tenant because the few things he knows about him are things David relates to. The former tenant is Duke MacGahan, and is the Crooked Man who keeps following David… partly because he hates David and wants him dead because he reminds him too much of himself, and partly because he doesn't want things to turn out for David the way they did for him.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: D and Fluffy. Justified, as those are the only names they give.
- Out-of-Character Alert: David getting screamed at by his usually kind mother, who doesn't recognize him at all.
- Pipe Pain: At various points, David can pick up different weapons to use when he must fight the Crooked Man. One of these weapons is an iron pipe.
- Psychic-Assisted Suicide: When Paul finds David about to shoot himself, he sees the Crooked Man's arms, one around David's shoulders and the other one holding David's hand with the gun to his head. David isn't acting fully out of his own free will.
- Secret Test of Character: What a lot of the game essentially boils down to. While the Crooked Man is indeed trying to kill David, the part of Duke that pities him is trying to encourage him to change in order to avoid the same fate he faced. The only way for David to survive and avoid being killed in the Bad Endings is by being honest and ceasing to be the timid "yes man" he's been the entire time in order to move on. Essentially, he needs to learn to tell people the blunt truth and accept the blunt truth rather than only what people want to hear.
- Shout-Out: The main character's first name and the Crooked Man acting as an antagonist are both reminiscent of the novel The Book of Lost Things, as well as the idea of the general theme of coping and coming to terms with things like loss.
- The previous tenant and Sissi make mention of a hotel being their and their loved one's "special place". Does that sound familiar?
- Stupidity Is the Only Option: You really do have to explore all those abandoned areas. Go back to the basement where you encountered the Crooked Man. Investigate those noises instead of just leaving.
- Sure, Let's Go with That: When Marion thinks Paul is trying to play a cruel prank on her by talking to the air to freak her out, Paul realizes that she can't see Sissi, D, or Fluffy and simply apologizes to her and asks her to go outside and wait for him to return with David.
- Talking Down the Suicidal: Subverted. While playing as Paul, you are given the option to try to persuade David to put down the gun. It doesn't work (because it isn't David holding the gun) and David shoots himself.
- Talking the Monster to Death: While David shoots at the Crooked Man multiple times, it still keeps coming for him until the final battle. At that point, David tells the Crooked Man that he'll continue on living, even if he has to face hardships or suffer, so he won't kill himself. Then the Crooked Man disappears.
- The One That Got Away: Three — Shirley for David, Sissi's unnamed old boyfriend, and Duke's unnamed old girlfriend. Technically two, since Sissi's ex-lover is just a representation of Duke's ex-girlfriend.
- Time-Limit Boss: The final fight with the Crooked Man; he will shriek at regular intervals, damaging David's health, and there's no way of healing him.
- Too Dumb to Live: David. Goes back into a basement where a monster tried to attack him. Insists on going to abandoned places and hanging around them even after scary encounters with the Crooked Man. Falls asleep in a place where he has already encountered the Crooked Man, even though the Crooked Man could come to kill him any minute. Going right up to the Crooked Man to see what he's chewing on.
- Try Not to Die: Paul says this to David when David resolves that he will finish the quest he started on.Paul: You come back to us safe! I... I don't wanna go to my friend's funeral!
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: At certain points in the game, you'll actually have to fight the Crooked Man.
- Violation of Common Sense: At a lot of points, you have to do some really unsafe things. At one point, you have to fall asleep in a place that you know has a monster lurking around. It heals you thirty HP.
- Violence is the Only Option: At the part where David's been possessed and is about to shoot himself, you must have Paul punch him. Trying to talk him down will be ineffectual and trying to take away his weapon will be worse than ineffectual.
- Was Once a Man: The Crooked Man himself was the mystery tenant David had been trying to find.
- Wham Episode: The two chapters taking place in the hospital are one long Wham Episode. Fluffy's chapter ends with a flashback showing that David once had a Freak Out and almost killed his mother. The chapter immediately following reveals that Paul has some sort of sixth sense, Fluffy, Sissi, and D are Dead All Along, and at the end of it, Paul has to save David from killing himself.
- Wham Line:
- The vision of David's mother to David. "Are you going to try to kill me again?"
- Marion to Paul when they're looking for David and have just met Fluffy.Marion: Just WHO do you keep talking to?
- You Are Not Alone: David suffers a Heroic BSoD after recalling some very painful memories involving his mother, which leads to him getting possessed by the Crooked Man and almost Driven to Suicide. Paul and Marion then take out an entire day to drive to an abandoned area they've never been to before, just to make sure David's okay. Paul ends up saving David's life.
- You Monster!: Paul to the Crooked Man when the latter has David possessed.Paul: HAAAAAAAHHHHH!!! YOU DAMN MONSTER! GET AWAY FROM DAVID!!