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The Painscreek Killings is a murder-mystery Environmental Narrative Game by EQ Studios, released for PC through Steam on September 27th, 2017.

As Janet, a young and upcoming journalist, you have been asked by your editor to investigate the mysterious abandonment of a once lively town. Based on the information released by the media about the deaths of the townspeople, you set foot into the town thinking you would find an interesting story to publish, only to uncover secrets that were meant to stay hidden forever.

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Provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Playground: You find one by the river.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Played straight and averted. There are small drains that Janet can't possibly fit into, but there is also a big tunnel system under the town that she can comfortably walk through, with doors, working lights and everything.
  • Accidental Murder: Andrew's version of Sofia's death is that a fight broke out between her, Vivian, Dr. Johnson and Andrew during which Sofia fell and broke her neck by hitting her head on a well.
  • Adult Fear: Have your child been missing and later be revealed to have been drowned in the river. Have your child been accused of murder OR your child wanted to talk to a murderer OR observe a murder. Also, specifically for Vivian and Matthew: have your child potentially end up in a Brother–Sister Incest.
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  • An Aesop: Everyone makes a choice and has to live with the consequences it can carry. Becomes Anvilicious in the good endings where Janet pretty much spells it out in a letter.
  • Affably Evil: With the exception of Henry Johnson, all characters are noted to be nice or loved by at least some people and have at least at some point done genuinely good things for someone, if not the whole community.
  • The Alcoholic: Andrew Reed. Heavy guilt and being haunted by a literal ghost can do that to you.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: While drunk, Andrew babbles in Scott's present about Sofia.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Derrick Tyler, Bernard Hopkin and Matthew Brooks all have unrequited feelings for someone.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Near the end of the game, you find out that the Painscreek Killer is around and very keen to bury an axe in you.
  • Anonymous Benefactor: Steve Moss received several hints via telegraph and a key from an anonymous source. We later find out that it was Matthew Brooks who tried to use Moss to frame Bernard Hopkin.
  • Asshole Victim: Henry Johnson, Andrew Reed and Vivian Roberts.
  • An Axe to Grind: The killer's weapon of choice is an axe which he took from Bernhard's house.
  • Bastard Angst: Averted, since Scott Brooks isn't aware of being one until late and instead being treated as an Heartwarming Orphan. Ironically, Vivian Roberts causing him to become an orphan due to his bastard status is what leads to all the killings.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Oh so much.
    • Matthew Brooks wanted to find out what had happened to his love Sofia Miller, leading to the death of five people.
    • Derrick Tyler wanted Scott gone so he has a chance with Trisha, leading to both dying and him being left alone.
    • Magdalena Roberts wanted a grandson to continue the family line, pretty much being the catalyst for everything that goes wrong.
    • Vivian Roberts wanted to make sure that no mistress or bastard child can inherit the Roberts fortune. Both she and Trisha die for it.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Two of the nicest and most beloved characters are responsible for the majority of deaths.
  • Big Fancy House: The mayor's mansion is huge and well furnished. It even features an art gallery.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Roberts look like the ideal family, but they are really not. And that's not even looking into the Brother–Sister Incest...
  • Blood-Stained Letter: You find a kid's painting regarding the time capsule at the hospital with bloodstains on it.
  • Bloody Handprint: There is one on the glovebox of Steve Moss' car.
  • Bookcase Passage: Charles has a hidden room behind his study room which is opened via moving books in the right order.
  • Break the Cutie: Trisha Roberts' Trauma Conga Line.
  • Chalk Outline: At the hospital, marking the spot where Trisha Roberts fell to her death. Becomes relevant when Matthew Brooks falls on it in the same way.
  • Check-Point Starvation: The game only saves when entering a new area and the only way to save on purpose is by exiting the game. While this is fine in small areas like Dorothy's or Bernard's house, it can be incredibly frustrating in big ones like the hospital or the mansion.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The broken axe closet in Bernard Hopkin's house.
    • The typewriter with the odd "e".
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The one who send both PI Steve Moss and a journalist to Painscreek was Dorothy Patterson.
  • Close-Knit Community: Everyone knew everyone and most people were on first name basis with each other. Even the servants called the Roberts by their first names.
  • Concealing Canvas: There is a safe behind a painting at Charles' art galery.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Not exactly a CEO, but Henry Johnson is later revealed to have put 160k on his private bank account from the funds meant to support the ill and elderly of the Painscreek hospital.
  • Creepy Basement: The hospital basement, complete with a morgue.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: All deaths in this town are very gruesome.
    • Vivian Roberts got an axe to her forehead.
    • Henry Johnson got an axe to the head, then was put into a car that got dumped into the river.
    • Andrew Reed got his lung punctured by a knife, then had his house set on fire with him in it.
    • Magdalena Roberts got poisoned by heart medication overdosis, leading to a fatal heart attack.
    • Scott Brooks got stabbed multiple times.
    • Sofia Miller had her head crash against a well, breaking her neck.
    • Trisha Roberts threw herself off the hospital roof.
    • Matthew Brooks accidentally ran off the hospital roof.
    • It can also be assumed that Steve Moss died of "axe to face".
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: It definitely killed Scott Brooks and Steve Moss. Also potentially Janet.
  • Cycle of Revenge: The reason of how the deaths spiraled out of control. Vivian took out her frustration and jealousy on Sofia and killed her. Matthew killed her for it. Bernard killed Matthew's adopted son, thinking the boy is the killer, leading to Matthew trying to frame Bernard as Vivian's killer and murdering all who don't believe it.
  • Dark Secret: Almost every single character in the game has one. The only persons that never did anything wrong are probably Oliver, Steve, Ann and Trisha.
  • A Deadly Affair: Both Number 3 and possibly 6. Specifically, Vivian ends up killing Sofia and then has the baby disappear without regard to where.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Multiple people cross it.
    • Vivian Roberts when she finds out that a mistress and her bastard child could inherit the entire family fortune due to the child being a boy.
    • Bernard Hopkin when he not only believes Vivian Roberts to cheat on Charles, but then finds her murdered without her potential killer being persecuted for it.
    • Matthew Brooks when he finds out about what had happened to Sofia Miller.
    • Trisha Roberts when not only her mother, but also her boyfriend got brutally murdered.
  • Determinator: A few people show this quality.
    • Scott Brooks stops at nothing once he realizes he could find out who his biological parents are.
    • Vivian Roberts escaped poverty by this, she in fact even kills a woman to protect what is now hers.
    • Matthew Brooks puts his entire savings into the defense of Scott Brooks.
  • Dies Wide Open: Derrick witnessed Sofia die with her eyes starring right at him which gave him nightmares ever since.
  • Disposing of a Body: Four obvious cases.
    • Sofia Miller got thrown into the well that killed her, though her son later found her by accident and buried her properly on the cemetery.
    • Henry Johnson was put into a car and the car sunk into the river. It took about two weeks until a diver found it by accident.
    • Scott Brooks was hidden in a bush at the border of town, though he was easily found by a passing jogger.
    • By the end of the game, it is still unclear what happened to Steve Moss.
  • Driven to Suicide: Trisha Roberts.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The game goes into quite some detail on how Andrew Reed alcoholism effectively destroyed his entire life and personality.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: To get the Missing Journalist ending, the player usually has to find at least 80% of all clues and keys since they need to access the church attic.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Some citizens see one around the playground and Janet/the player see her leading them to safety once they're hunted by the killer. You can also witness the character in other places.
  • Evidence Scavenger Hunt: You run around town, enter houses and go through their stuff in search for letters, diaries and keys.
  • Females Are More Innocent: Of the five people to be directly responsible for a murder, only one is a woman.
  • First Person Snapshooter: Janet has a camera as part of being a journalist. It can be used to make pictures of notes, objects or just the scenery.
  • Foreshadowing: Since diaries and letters can be collected mostly in any order, it is possible to figure out major parts of the story quite early.
    • It is possible to find quite early: the confession of Derrick, the knife of Bernard, the notes of Steve Moss and some revealing letters and diaries of Scott Brook.
    • If a player knows who the cross on the graveyard belongs to, then a visit pretty much gives away the ending.
    • In the alibi paper, Derrick Tyler claims to have been with a friend, but never gave a contact number. Cause that friend didn't know he was there.
    • The open bill for room 201 in Ann's Inn gives away that Steve Moss never returned from the hospital basement.
    • When knowing that Vivian got killed via axe, then seeing the broken axe closet in Bernard Hopkin house shows that he is only a Red Herring.
    • It's mentioned at the beginning that an anonymous source wants the paper to investigate the murder. Over the course of the game, the only person that a) has an interest in solving the murder, b) doesn't believe it was Scott Brooks and c) definitely leaves the town alive is: Dorothy Patterson.
  • Frame-Up: The reason why so many clues point to Bernard Hopkin as the killer? Cause Matthew Brooks wants people to believe that, most likely due to that person's role in Scott Brooks murder.
  • Gameplay Grading: At the end, the game will give you a grade based on how many clues you found and if you figured out the killer and murder weapon.
  • Ghost Town: Painscreek is deserted by the time Janet arrives or so it seems.
  • Guide Dang It!: Some letters and/or keys are incredibly difficult to find. Considering that most walkthroughs only give hints, stuck players are often struggling quite a lot.
    • Matthew's riddle, the cross "key" and the garden gate key are probably the worst offenders. Also the trick with Scott's secret passage and how to access the hospital basement.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: Andrew Reed feels horribly guilty for being somewhat responsible for Sofia Miller's death and especially for hiding her death all those years. He became an alcoholic and regularly breaks out in tears about it and has a mental breakdown when confronted about it twice.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: While still relevant until the end, chances are the player will stop being curious about who had killed Vivian Roberts about halfway through and instead be obsessed with the story around Sofia Miller and Scott Brooks.
  • Harmful to Minors: Derrick witnessed Sofia's Accidental Murder when he was five which rendered him traumatized for a good part of his childhood. It didn't help that his mother told him not to tell anybody about it.
  • He Knows Too Much: Steve Moss. Also potentially Janet in Missing Journalist.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: If Matthew Brooks hadn't tried to actively make Bernard Hopkin look like the killer, both Janet and Steve Moss might have never figured everything out.
  • Hollywood Darkness: While the flashlight is useful to find tiny stuff such as keys or keyholes, all rooms are usually lit enough to see. Including window-less basements.
  • I Didn't Mean to Kill Him: Matthew Brooks claims this in regards to Andrew Reed.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Both Scott Brooks and Derrick Tyler got badly bullied as children until they met Trisha Roberts.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Only a handful of houses can be entered, in most cases Janet doesn't even try to reach the house door, if there is a closed fence in the way.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Andrew Reed got saved from three suicides. Sadly, no one saved him from being murdered.
  • It's All My Fault:
    • Charles Roberts confesses to feel this way in his last diary entries.
    • While not thinking it is ONLY his fault, Andrew Reeks is definitely feeling extremely guilty for both Sofia Miller's death and covering up her disappearance.
    • Interestingly, neither Matthew Brooks nor Vivian Roberts nor Henry Johnson ever express honest guilt for the deaths they caused.
  • Joggers Find Death: How Scott Brooks body is found.
  • Jumpscare: The power outage in the hospital.
  • Justified Tutorial: The Sherrif's office.
  • Karma Houdini: It is never mentioned, if Bernard Hopkin suffered for what he did.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Both Derrick Tyler and Scott Brooks got badly bullied in school. A letter also mentions that Derreck Tyler tortured and killed animals as a small child due to the trauma of having witnessed a murder.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed: Used interestingly to make Bernard Hopkin quickly highly suspicious. In the end, the actual killer is never revealed anywhere to be this, though it can be assumed he is.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Trisha Roberts thinks like this about Derrick Tyler, much to his displeasure.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: And you don't even hear or read anything from more than one quarter of the town.
  • Locked Door: Your bread and butter in this game is to find keys and keycodes to unlock doors and drawers behind which vital clues are hidden.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Dr. Johnson's murder was covered up to look like a car accident. The coroner's report reveals that Johnson died before drowning.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It is never really explained what is up with Sofia's ghost.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: While not exactly minor, looking into the murder of Vivian Roberts reveals a sickening amount of related murders that were all deemed as accidents, suicides, missings or even not important enough to properly investigate.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Bernhard kills Scott, wrongly assuming him to be Vivian's murderer.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Bernard believes that Vivian Roberts is cheating on her husband with her banker, but her diary entries reveal that they are only on friendly terms and she wants to properly reconnect with Charles.
  • Motive Rant: Both Bernard Hopkin final diary and the audio recording in the church attic have one.
  • Multiple Endings: The game - based on the ending achievements - has four:
    • You're Fired: Have less than 50% of clues and make a mistake about killer or murder weapon.
    • Case Unsolved: Have at least 50% of clues and make a mistake about killer or murder weapon.
    • Truth Revealed: Have at least 50% of clues and correctly name killer and murder weapon.
    • Completionist: Have all the clues and correctly name killer and murder weapon.
    • Missing Journalist: get killed by the axe man.
  • Mysterious Employer: Moss is hired anonymously by Dorothy.
  • Never Found the Body:
    • Poor Steve Moss...
    • If it weren't for Scott Brooks, then this would have been Sofia Miller's fate as well.
    • What happens in the Missing Journalist ending.
  • Never the Obvious Suspect: Chances are, the player will think that Charles Roberts, Bernard Hopkin, Scott Brooks or Derrick Tyler was the killer. They will be very wrong with that.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Entering a building will immediately change the nice music to a creepy track. Even worse when exploring the hospital, only for the power to suddenly go out...
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Charles outlived his daughter and, though unbeknownst, his son.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • What Scott Brooks thinks to be the case. He's wrong.
    • Both Matthew Brooks and Sofia Miller were orphans.
  • Parental Betrayal: When Scott Brooks gets accused of having killed Vivian Roberts, what does actual killer and adoptive father Matthew Brooks do? Stay quiet, get a lawyer to defend his son and after the kid gets murdered due to not being persecuted, the only bit of former love for his son that shines through is that he tries to frame his son's murderer for his crimes.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Several keycodes are derived from birthday dates. E.g., the code to Charles' safe is Vincence's birthday and the compartment in the church's confessional box can be opened with Father Calvin's birthday.
  • Personal Effects Reveal: Adding to the Tragic Villain theme, you find an engagement ring Matthew Brooks bought for Sofia.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Trisha Roberts diaries are flowery, pastel and two of them clearly pink.
  • Pixel Hunt: Some keys, buttons or even keyholes are VERY hard to see.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The murder of Sofia Miller.
    • Even discussed in the letter of the good ending:
    It was true that Charles and Sofia's affair was wrong. But Vivian had a choice, either confront Charles about it or take it out on Sofia. She chose the latter.
  • Police are Useless: A private detective finds out more about the deaths and potential killer(s) in a few days than the police in multiple months. Heck, a single journalist finds out more in one day than the police ever did.
  • Red Herring:
    • Everything points at Bernard Hopkin being the killer.
    • There is also the questionable alibi of Derrick Tyler.
    • The cole mine incident from 1973 turns out to have no bearing on the plot.
  • The Reveal: Quite a few reveals.
    • Scott and Trisha are half-siblings.
    • Derrick could have given Scott the perfect alibi but didn't, leading to Scott being murdered.
    • Bernard had a crush on Vivian and killed Scott.
    • Sofia is the biological mother of Scott and has been murdered shortly after his birth.
    • Matthew is the Painscreek killer.
  • Revisiting the Cold Case: The case of Vivian's murder was closed a few years back due to lack of leads. Can your investigation now shed new light on the matter?
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Matthew Brooks violently kills Vivian Roberts, Henry Johnson and Andrew Reed for having killed Sofia Miller and hidden her body twenty years ago.
  • Run or Die: When confronted with the killer, the only thing Janet can do is run into the sewers.
  • The Scapegoat: Scott Brooks. Initially, most people note how they find it unlikely that the killer would be them. After a few weeks, most are absolutely convinced it was them despite the lack of evidence, simply cause no one else has been deemed more suspicious.
  • Scenery Porn: As is standard with Walking Simulators, the town of Painscreek is absolutely gorgeous.
  • Secret Diary: There are 15 characters in the story who left behind diaries. A welcome way to provide the necessary amount of exposition to unravel this web of dark secrets.
  • Secret Passage: Quite a few characters have one in their closet/bookcase, such as Charles Roberts, Matthew Brooks and Scott Brooks.
  • Sequence Breaking: It is possible to just guess the killer and weapon literally at the beginning of the game. It will consider it properly solved when at least 50% of all clues have been found, which still leaves most stories unresolved.
  • Serial Killer: There are - in a way - two: Matthew Brooks and Vivian Roberts.
  • Shipper on Deck: Both Charles and Dorothy find Trisha and Scott a cute couple. They don't know the two are half-siblings though.
  • Silent Protagonist: Janet never utters a single sound.
  • Stalker with a Crush:
    • Derrick Tyler for Trisha Roberts. The only one who knew was Dorothy and she is creeped out by it.
    • Bernhard notes this about himself while stalking Vivian and her banker.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: Scott Brooks for the Roberts family, once he realizes that the Roberts are somehow related to who his parents are.
  • Surprise Incest: Scott stopped seeing Trisha after learning that they were half-siblings. But he doesn't tell her the reason for his decision which contributed to her nervous breakdown.
  • Surprise Witness: A late-game letter reveals that six-year old Derrick Tyler had watched the murder of Sofia Miller.
  • The Topic of Cancer: Wanda Tyler having cancer is mentioned by most characters and one of the drives for Derrick Tyler's state of mind. All make very clear how horrible the disease is.
  • Tragic Villain: Nothing can excuse the murders, but having the love of his life murdered over money at least somewhat explains the motivation. And later having his adopted son murdered for his own crimes probably were the nails in the coffin.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Trisha Roberts - out of all characters - suffers this the most. She is getting ignored by her parents, her best friend becomes dismissive, her mother is against her relationship with her boyfriend, her mother dies, her boyfriend is claimed to have killed her mother, her father stops her from meeting her boyfried, her boyfriend breaks up via letter without telling the reason and avoids her and - as the final cherry on the cake - her boyfriend gets brutally murdered on the street. It is little surprise that she ends up a mental wreck and finally suicidal.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The game is a calm, if scary, walking simulator. Once the player listened to the audio tape in the church attic though, the game changes to being chased by the killer and having to follow a ghost along a very specific route to escape.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: On tape the killer notes how killing Vivian didn't make him feel at ease.
  • Vigilante Execution: Bernard Hopkin decides this is the best way to deal with his grief over Vivian's death and stabs Scott Brooks multiple times despite the boy having been let go due to a lack of evidence.
  • You Killed My Father: Subverted. Scott Brooks never harms Vivian Roberts for having murdered his mother, he simply yells at her and then leaves to cry. His adopted father on the other hand...
  • Your Cheating Heart: Charles Roberts had a fling with a maid, Sofia Miller. Also, Bernard believes Vivian Roberts to cheat with a banker, but that is proven to be a misunderstanding.

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