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Video Game / They Breathe

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They Breathe is an indie game developed by The Working Parts for Xbox Live, PC, iOS and Android, and was originally created using Adobe Flash. It's a short game, taking no more than half an hour to complete, but it's a remarkable study in atmosphere.

You play as a frog who swims down into a submerged forest where something strange and terrible has happened. On the way you'll have to rescue your brethren from drowning, as well as avoiding hostile aquatic moose.

They Breathe includes examples of:

  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Shortly into the game, you'll encounter a poisonous green moose, which isn't a color seen in Real Life moose. It's because it isn't a moose.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: If your frog is killed by a green jellyfish, it'll show them suffocating the frog and turning it into its new 'head'. Dying to a jelly during the boss fight also has the jellyfish drag your frog to the floor of the area and the queen spawns a frog-jellyfish from its body.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Moose really aren't supposed to be the size of a small dog. Subverted, because they're not moose, but something far more horrible.
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    • The frogs have small stubs for arms and lack webbed feet. This was a design choice done on purpose to make the "moose" heads less easy to recognize as frogs.
  • Assimilation Backfire: In a case of gaining the weaknesses from assimilation the jellyfish become dependent on oxygen and susceptible to drowning once they assimilate a frog. The green jellyfish take it even further by becoming unable to breathe air altogether, meaning that without a way to replenish air they will die after some time.
  • The Assimilator:
    • The monsters. If they successfully kill a frog and bring it to their queen, she'll fuse it to them, allowing them to move quickly underwater as well as breathe air. It however also makes them vulnerable to drowning.
    • The green ones take this further. They can immediately assimilate a frog they kill without needing to bring it to their queen.
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  • Atop a Mountain of Corpses: The parasite queen is surrounded by hundreds of dead frogs and half-formed jellyfish monsters. She also uses said corpses to create more frog-jellyfish monsters — if your frog is dragged down by a jelly during the battle, she uses part of the pile to form a frog-jelly from your frog's dead body.
  • Big Bad: The parasite queen.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The monsters are incapable of breathing air and will expand and explode if they take in too much. However, their queen is capable of using dead frogs to transform them into "moose" with dead frogs for heads, allowing them to breathe air but also making them susceptible to drowning. The jellies are also capable of "trading" dead frogs between them. Then there are the green jellies, which are poisonous, incapable of trading heads or having a head traded to them, and can immediately assimilate a frog they kill instead of requiring the queen to do so. Those who manage to assimilate a frog are unable to breathe air in any way and will perish after some time.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: The jellyfish have two methods of reproduction. One is via a budding polyp structure similar to real-life jellyfish, the other is via dragging a dead frog down to the Queen, who then transforms it into a frog-jellyfish out of frog and jellyfish remains.
  • Body Horror:
    • The 'moose' that chase you throughout the game are actually Necromorph-style corpse-monsters built from the remains of dead frogs. This is most evident when you look closely at their 'heads' and 'tentacles' (frog bodies and frog limbs, respectively).
    • The queen parasite rests Atop a Mountain of Corpses, and expels its buildup of oxygen through the lungs of the frog cadavers fused with its body. 'They Breathe', indeed...
  • Boring Return Journey: After the jellyfish queen is killed, the player's frog swims back to the surface without any enemies or issues save for nearly drowning thanks to a lack of Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles.
  • Cannibalism Superpower: The "Jellies" obtain the ability to exhale excess air once they become "Mooses", although it seems they then become dependent of oxygen.
  • Dark Lord on Life Support: The queen jellyfish has to use four frog corpses to continuously expel the air buildup within her, otherwise she explodes. You beat her by tricking the jellies into removing her life support.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: A little green frog manages to kill an Eldritch Abomination at the bottom of the lake by cleverly tricking its minions into removing its life support.
  • Disaster Dominoes: At one point, you'll be accosted by a huge group of jellyfish. When they explode from too much air, they'll release a huge air bubble that will instantly kill another jellyfish should they touch it. This can start a chain reaction and kill them off quickly — but this also means you have to also deal with a huge mass of "tentacles" they leave behind.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Look closely at the "heads" of the jellyfish. The assimilated frogs sport rictus grins.
  • Electric Jellyfish: Touching the moose/jellyfish shocks you.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The parasite queen at the bottom of the lake, a creature capable of fusing itself with frogs in order to use their lungs to expel oxygen from its body, and is responsible for the creation of the jellyfish monsters found throughout the game.
  • Flunky Boss: The parasite queen is incapable of attacking, instead calling in jellies into the battlefield or spawning frog-jellies via the piles of corpses below.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: On rare occasions, the final boss will simply not spawn! Even worse, the developers have no idea what causes this.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Healthy frogs, including the player, are vibrant green. Dying frogs and the creatures that hunt them are a sickly brown. Subverted by the green toxic jellyfish which are the deadliest enemies in the game.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • One way to defeat the jellyfish is to let them grab you, then struggle your way into an air bubble.
    • This is also how your little frog deals with the final threat: tricking the jellyfish into stealing heads from their queen.
    • The whole reason why Glenn the frog was able to venture deep down and defeat the jellyfish queen was because of the Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles expelled by the queen via the dead frogs attached to her. In the same vein, this also allowed Glenn to defeat several of her jellyfish minions to go further.
  • Instructive Level Design:
    • Each new threat is always introduced as a lone enemy to teach the player how they work and how to defeat them.
    • The "wave" before the first green moose lacks any enemies, instead having a few toxic bubbles rising to the surface. This is to teach the player that the green bubbles it produces hurt instead of heal.
    • The first "headless" jellyfish you face starts slow but will eventually start swimming faster until it catches the player's frog. This will instinctively prompt the engulfed player to find air, discover that air causes the headless jellies to expand and release the frog, and that too much air causes them to explode.
    • Shortly after the first jellyfish is introduced, a jellyfish and two 'moose' are introduced to show the player that they can "trade" heads with each other.
  • Interface Screw: The screen becomes blurry when you start running out of air/health.
  • Involuntary Smile of Incapacitation: When frogs are captured by jellyfish and incorporated into their bodies, the frogs' facial expression gradually changes from terrified to happy, indicating how quickly the jellyfish take over their minds.
  • Kick the Dog: You can rescue your fellow frogs by bumping them into air bubbles, but you'll probably end up snatching air bubbles from them, or shoving them into the paths of the jellyfish to escape.
  • Light Is Not Good: The flashes of light that you see from below before a wave of enemies appear or after a frog is abducted and dragged below? That's caused by the process which the parasite queen uses to create frog-jellyfish from dead frogs.
  • Losing Your Head: The jellyfish can trade 'heads' back and forth whenever they touch. This is the key to slaying their queen.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: This game has moose swimming around a completely submerged forest. It's because they're not actually moose, but something far worse.
  • Moose Are Idiots: The first enemies in the game that you face are moose that attempt a simple pattern of charging at you. They do not even try to regain oxygen from the bubbles, and can be defeated by luring them away from bubbles until they drown. Of course, they aren't actually moose.
  • Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles: One of the main mechanics of the game are these, which you need to touch to regain health and avoid drowning. Moose also require said bubbles to avoid drowning, and the bubbles are harmful to jellyfish without frogs attached to them. It soon turns out that these exist because of the parasite queen using dead frogs to expel the air from her.
  • Oxygen Meter: This doubles as your Hit Points. It slowly drains over time, faster if the player is captured by a jellyfish, and getting hit by enemies or toxic bubbles will hit a large amount off. To replenish it, you need to touch the Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles rising from below. "Moose" also require oxygen to survive and if they run out after some time they die as well. Against "head"-less jellyfish, the oxygen meter doubles as their damage meter which kills them once they take in too much, but poison bubbles will "heal" them by removing oxygen.
  • Poisonous Person: Green moose have the ability to emit poison bubbles that harm frogs, and if these moose touch a regular bubble, it turns that bubble into a large and highly damaging poisonous bubble. Green jellyfish will very quickly kill any frog they touch by suffocating them, including you, and do not require dragging a frog down to the queen in order to assimilate them.
  • "Pop!" Goes the Human: When a jellyfish without a head takes in too much air, it explodes. This also applies to the final boss once it loses all its heads.
  • Puzzle Boss: You beat the jellyfish queen by having its jellyfish minions steal the frog "heads" attached to it. This causes it to expand from the air, and once all four are gone it explodes.
  • The Reveal: At some point, you'll realize that those aren't moose, those are jellyfish using dead frogs as "heads" to help them expel air.
  • Rule of Three: It takes three bubbles to kill a jellyfish that doesn't have a frog attached to it.
    • The Queen has four frogs supporting her, and as each one is removed she sends out a wave of moose. However, as removing the final frog kills her, she sends out three total waves.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: The moose are every bit as vulnerable to toxic bubbles (from the green moose) as the frogs are, meaning that by careful maneuvering you can get them to die a lot faster.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The title is a reference to They Live!.
    • In the Steam Trading cards, the frog you play as is named Glenn.
    • One of the achievements: "Echos of The Past" is unlocked by jumping out of the water at the beginning. Like a Dolphin. Fitting, considering the similar atmosphere these games share.
  • Stationary Boss: The parasite queen is anchored to the middle of the room and cannot move from there. She doesn't attack, but summons minions to do the work for her.
  • Sugar Apocalypse: Something very bad has happened to these cute frogs...
  • Surprise Creepy: And, boy, oh boy, you'll be in for quite the treat.
  • Survival Horror: The player's frog is incapable of attacking and spends most of its time swimming away for its life from the horrifying monsters, with a resource that has to be managed in the form of oxygen. The methods it has to use to defeat enemies are taking bubbles or luring them away from bubbles to deprive them of oxygen, guiding them into oxygen bubbles until they take in too much and explode, or in the case of the boss, luring another mook to take away its life support.
  • Symbolic Blood: Whenever the player's frog takes damage, a rush of red coloured bubbles will be released from it. When it's close to death, it'll start emitting small red bubbles as an indicator that it's low on health/oxygen.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: If the jellyfish queen didn't send in headless jellyfish to attack you, you would have no way to remove the "heads" to kill her.
  • Taking You with Me: The jellyfish without heads will explode if they take in three air bubbles, throwing their four "tentacles" everywhere. These can collide into and deal damage to you.
  • Turns Red: Every time the jellyfish queen loses one frog, it expands thanks to the air buildup and causes the playing field to become smaller. Each frog is also a bubble-producing spot, which means it also becomes harder for you to recover.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: You can help your fellow frogs by guiding them towards air bubbles...
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: ...or use them as bait for the creatures.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: If you let the frogs die and get dragged away by the creatures, they'll be transformed into a fast-moving frog-jellyfish that will relentlessly attack you.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The jellyfish have an explosive weakness to air. This is why they assimilate dead frogs to allow them to expel air.