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Video Game / Total Distortion

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A 1995 Adventure Game for the PC and Mac.

Taking place within an Alternate History setting, mysterious devices have suddenly appeared on Earth that scientists have found to be useful teleporters (albeit dangerous for living beings as it puts the them into a six-week coma). They also noticed that they can teleport to different dimensions, most of which are based on pop culture. You play as a music director whose just recently come into a large sum of money and somehow come up with the insane idea to invade a dimension of chaos based on rock music to shoot music videos out of the weird imagery there. However the endeavor is quite risky as you spent most of your money building a tower to transport in and getting the go ahead to transport there which your government has starchly warned will not bring you back if you don't have the funds. What's more there's the matter of the dimension's dangers as well. So your mission? Get in, get the footage needed and hope you come out of this alive and financially sound.


It was acclaimed for its creativity though was criticized for the numerous backtracking and limited editing of the videos.

Total Distortion provides examples of:

  • A Winner Is You: There's no ending here, you basically head back to Earth. Your score is totaled and you're presented your award for how you did, along with a specialized song either mocking or praising you. Surprising considering how in depth the game was in establishing it's world and your backstory.
  • Aborted Arc: Along the journey you find a memo from the Metal Lord who knows of your presence in the dimension and orders his troops not to kill you if possible as he doesn't want to draw suspicion of his invasion plans of Earth. However the game never follows up on this. Heck you don't even see the Metal Lord through your adventure.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • Before you begin the game, there are three optional videos that explain the setting, your base, and your mission.
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  • Apocalyptic Log: One of the books in your base is a notebook from the CIA, containing a transcript of dimensionauts who first visited the Distortion Dimension and came in contact with the Metal Lord.
  • Bag of Holding: Your guitar case serves as a handy portable gateway into a dimension purely used for storing items such as multiple guitars, your video camera and, more likely, the metric ton of synthesized sandwiches and drinks that you wasted your food goo experimenting to make.
  • Book-Ends: The game starts with your Media Tower leaving Earth, and ends with a return trip. Similarly, Mr. Red talks to you at both points.
  • Cool Chair: The elevator chair in your Media Tower, and the chain-mounted audience chair in the L.A. Stage area.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • The game's developers have their own FMV clips in-game, which you can buy and insert into your videos if you wish.
    • Joe Sparks himself plays Edgar Death.
  • Creepy Cemetery: The Sonic Cemetery, late in the game.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Edgar Death. When you summon him from his grave, he only wants to sing, not harm you.
  • Data Pad: Your DataBrick Video Phone, which folds out into 3 screens, for good measure.
  • Diegetic Interface: Your inventory screen is a guitar case that you carry around.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: In-universe. The whole reason the Metal Lord wants you to leave is because videotaping in his dimension is stealing, so much that Guitar Warriors may steal your camera and other items from your guitar case, if you run out of mental energy and pass out.
  • Dimensional Traveler: NASA has a branch dedicated to exploring the other dimensions, with its members termed "dimensionauts". You essentially become this before the game starts, as well.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: If you pick the lowest settings for difficulty and danger, both Mr. Red and your status screen will make fun of you. Heck, the guy snickers even if you pick the second easiest setting.
  • Eldritch Location: The entire game is you traveling through these. Why did your character come to these dimensions in the first place? To get good footage for music videos.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: The Distortion Dimension has some of this, and the TV maze halfway through it cranks it up to very trippy levels, particularly when you first enter.
  • Evil Laugh: The Guitar Warriors do this if they kill you, and when dropping in from the sky in one area.
  • Evil Overlord: THE METAL LORD. He's also a Dimension Lord, according to the Guitar Warriors.
  • Exact Progress Bar: Shown when you launch the game, and just before you get your endgame award.
  • Expository Theme Tune: "Alien Bomb", a song that has lyrics describing the game's premise and motive, which strangely can only be heard in an in-game book about the game's creators.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Your body is never shown in the game, though you can choose between a male and female voice at the beginning. Humorously, your male voice sounds like a fast-talking text-to-speech program that sings its dialogue.
  • Food as Bribe: You can bribe the ticket woman with a sandwich instead of your bank card.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: Food Goo, sold by the rectangular prism by Taft Foods. It's a cheap but effective way to handle shipping costs, as the sandwich and drink maker in your tower are state of the art machines which can turn the base nutrients of the food goo to something edible.
  • Game-Over Man: The Guitar Warrior. It remains one of the most hilarious examples of this trope.
  • The Ghost: We never do see what the Metal Lord looks like.
  • Give Me Your Inventory Item: Putting out a fire with booze qualifies.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: Your Tower's book collection, ranging from instruction guides to your equipment, small minigames, celebrity interviews, and even an in-game book on the game's creators.
  • Have a Nice Death: In addition to unique animations, deaths are accompanied by a truly catchy theme: "You are dead. Dead. Dead."
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": The red-haired man on the box cover and start menu is your government agent, Mr. Red.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: Famously delivered in regards to the player's demise in the Game Over song.
  • Large Ham: The first Guitar Warrior you meet talks to you in a deep, loud voice.
  • Let's Play: A 3-part stream by Vinesauce Joel, a complete LP by ravensdive, and an in-depth one from Taoc.
  • Meaningful Name: The Distortion Dimension gets its name from the abundance of loud guitar noise heard there.
  • Mini-Game: Lots and lots of them, specially in your tower's book collection.
  • Multiple Life Bars: You have three.
    • Physical energy which measures whether you can open doors or move objects, replenished by food.
    • Mental energy for solving puzzles.
    • Life Force, which is your overall health. If it drops to zero, you die. It also slowly increases if the other two bars are full.
  • Mundane Utility: Alternate dimensions are used to expedite shipping in this game's universe (mainly because it's incredibly dangerous to teleport living creatures).
  • Musical Assassin: The Guitar Warrior, of course.
  • No One Should Survive That: The newspapers and game show hosts John and Jenna in the intro videos think your character couldn't possibly survive the Distortion Dimension. The game's goal is to prove the world wrong.
    John: Someone this stupid deserves to die!
  • Ominous Multiple Screens: Two hallways are covered wall-to-wall with monitors, all showing videos that negatively impact your health in different ways. You have to upload a positive video to them in order to pass.
  • Parody Commercial: The Radio Aquarium in your tower is full of these between songs.
  • Planet of Hats: The Distortion Dimension's hat is Grunge Rock.
  • Player Headquarters: Your Personal Media Tower.
  • Plug And Play Technology: Occasionally you have to use video chips to upload or download footage from devices in the environment.
  • The Power of Rock: A common theme.
  • Recurring Riff: Possibly unintentional. Some of the game's background music reappears in a few rock songs near the end.
  • The Rock Star: You get to watch three rock star characters play a number of songs near the end, with background effects controllable from your keyboard. The characters in question are a Zombie Goth called Edgar Death; Punker Betty Pink complete with oversized Mohawk, and an Axl Rose-sounding rocker named Johnny Fang. Viewing all of them is your largest source of Fame points, and finding recorded footage of them is the most valuable resource you can get in the game.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Subverted in Hell's Garage, late in the game. Some of the files you can steal from a computer inside contain appropriately hellish sound effects, and a few songs dedicated to the location. The place's owner never shows up, though.
  • Sequence Breaking: As noted by one Let's Player, your in-game video editor can export projects to your computer's hard drive if you so choose. This allows you to effectively bypass making new music videos entirely if you have existing ones with very valuable content.
  • Songs in the Key of Lock: Guitar battles go back and forth with this trope, depending on difficulty. Low difficulty adds colors to each note, while high difficulty requires playing entirely by ear.
  • Stylistic Suck: The songs and video clips you start with are intentionally low-quality, and aren't likely to make profitable videos.
  • Surreal Music Video: You get a whole editor dedicated to making these and In all honesty a good majority of the game's fun comes from messing with this editor.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Travel to alternate dimensions consumes a lot of energy, dependent on the size of the object being sent. Living creatures sent through are put into six-week comas - as such, you have to use a highly durable nutrient-fluid-filled tube when you want to travel to and from your base, and the sheer energy cost means it has to be preapproved. (Also, the millions of dollars in energy bills it took to get your tower across put you in hock, and your tower's fuel will run dry if you can't come up with some good videos fast.)
  • Television Portal: With a maze between channels.
  • Totally Radical: Some of the game's songs and radio commercials run on this. Justified, since it's set in an alternate 1990s. Even better, one of the commercials advertises "Hooked-On Slang" tapes to learn it.
  • Trauma Button: The three TV producers each have some form of traumatic past, and they will reject any video containing elements that remind them of that.
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: If run on modern systems, most of the minigames run faster than players are able to keep up with, some of them with time limits. This means players won't have enough time or reflexes to keep up with them, making the game fit this trope without locking the CPU speed through Dos Box or similar emulators.
  • Useless Item: A teleporter has to be assembled by finding its components around the environment, then putting them together. Only problem is, it has to have its destination set first, and the "EXIT" button to back out wasn't coded, rendering the thing unusable and requiring players to restart the game due to said glitch.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Being a rude jerk to the various sponsors you can talk to is an easy way of losing out of a ton of potential money and eventually lose the game.
  • Void Between the Worlds: Your Personal Media Tower is stationed on a guitar-shaped asteroid inside a purple nebulous void of stars, with a wormhole into the actual Distortion Dimension that opens up when the tower first appears.
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: Almost identical words ("What a pitiful waste of a human life") are actually part of the lyrics of the Game Over song. Quite fitting since the protagonist is basically an entrepreneur who wanders an alternate dimension chock-full of hostilities merely for profit...
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Literally with Yuji, whose real last name is apparently "Dude".
    Joel: Dude-san? DUDE-SAN!?
  • Wolverine Publicity: Mr. Red is prominently shown on the box cover, but he only appears in-game to mock you in the start screen, and to authorize your trip home at the very end.


Example of: