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Video Game / Varicella

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In this game you are Primo Varicella, Palace Minister at the Palazzo del Piemonte. This title is unlikely to impress anyone. Piedmont is the laughingstock of the Carolingian League, and the Palace Ministry has devolved into little more than a glorified (and not even especially glorified) butlership: your duties include organizing banquets, overseeing the servants, and greeting visitors. It is safe to assume that the War Minister and the Coffers Minister lose little sleep over your presence in the King's Cabinet.

If this letter you've just received is correct, a disease has claimed the life of the King. This leaves the principality in the hands of his son, Prince Charles. Prince Charles is five years old. Piedmont, it seems, will be requiring the services of a regent for the foreseeable future. And you can think of no better candidate than yourself.

Of course, you shall scarcely be alone in seeking the position. The King's Cabinet is not a small body. And your fellow ministers will no doubt try all sorts of unseemly tactics in their quest for the throne. Some will try bribery. Others will employ treachery. A few may even resort to brute force. But would Primo Varicella stoop to using one of these methods? Perish the thought! You're better than that. You shall employ all three.

It will be an uphill struggle, to say the least. Of those soon to be clamoring for the regency, you are among the lowest in rank. But you are not without a number of advantages. The drama to unfold will play out in the palace — your palace. Time is also on your side: at present, only you and the Queen know of the King's demise. And you've known of his illness for a couple of days now, days in which you've hatched a flawless plan. There should be little to stand in the way of your ascent to power so long as you put your plan into action immediately.

Or at least as soon as this pedicure is finished. One must have one's priorities.

Varicella is a piece of interactive fiction written by Adam Cadre and released in 1999. You can get it on his page.

This game contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Miss Sierra
  • Alternate History: It's either this or...
  • All Just a Dream: One of the Easter Eggs. Featuring I0's Tracy no less.
  • Anti-Hero: Varicella. And if not for the fact that the other contestants are worse than himself, he'd be a straight-up Villain Protagonist.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Prince Louis, though he initially comes off as merely an Upper-Class Twit, and in the winning ending, Charles the Terror On the other hand, most of the contestants for the regency show that you don't need blue blood to be a horrible person.
  • Barefoot Loon: Charlotte (at least the game promo art depicts her without footwear).
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Charlotte, while incoherent, is friendly and upbeat enough if you free her from her cell. However, give her a chance to attack one of the many people who have hurt her or someone she cares about, and the result won't be pretty.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Varicella is scheming, ruthless, and feels no compunction about taking lives. He's an upstanding human being compared to his rivals, though.
  • Blood Knight: General Wehrkeit. According to Miss Sierra, slaughter turns him on.
  • Body Horror:
    • Queen Sarah's description of what happened to the old King's body (including bits falling off) prior to his death from Variola's poison.
    • One of the ways of getting rid of Prince Louis is tricking him into touching the green glop in the palace fountain, with similar results.
  • Book Ends: The game opens with Varicella getting a manicure. If you defeat Wehrkeit, his last action before the ending starts is to check his fingernails to see whether the manicure has been damaged.
  • Broken Bird: Prince Charles. And how!
    • Also Queen Sarah, who was sexually molested as a child.
    • Charlotte, who became mentally ill after seeing her bridegroom murdered at their wedding. A bit of a pattern here.
  • Catchphrase: Varicella tends to comment "how unseemly" about just about anything in the palace that doesn't fit his demanding standards.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The "best" ending has Varicella being tortured to death. On live television, and over the course of an entire week.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Rico is the Coffers Minister, but otherwise fits the type.
  • The Dandy: Varicella himself. He begins the game in the process of getting a manicure.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Played for Laughs when Varicella rats out Wehrkeit to the Venetians.
    Minister: And you just gave away the information for free? How do I know this isn't a trick?
    Varicella: (suppressing laughter) Oh, it isn't free. I demand ten thousand francs for this information!
    Minister: You fool! You've already told me the secret! You expect a bribe now?
  • Downer Ending: The "best" best ending is by far the worst ending for the protagonist.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Miss Sierra is a ruthless murderess if given an excuse, and has No Sympathy for Sarah and Charlotte, but she draws the line at allowing Pierre to molest Prince Charles.
  • Evil Overlord: In the "best" ending, Prince Charles grows up to become one of these. And he's not content with just ruling Piedmont, either...
  • Evil Versus Evil: Varicella versus the other Ministers. Varicella is almost certainly the least evil minister in the Palazzo, though.
  • Family Theme Naming: Every King of Piedmont is named Charles.
  • Freudian Excuse: Not Varicella's rivals, but Prince Charles himself, who was sexually abused as a child and grows up to become a ruthless and sadistic conqueror.
  • Heroic BSoD: Queen Sarah will have one if you show her the tape of Father Bonfleche attempting to molest her son.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Modo.
  • Idle Rich: Prince Louis. Not even a prospect of The Regency can get him to do something. If he does end up Regent, he promptly runs Piedmont into the ground.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Justified Trope; Varicella can't very well become the Regent if Prince Charles dies. Wehrkeit probably kills Charles if his coup succeeds, but it doesn't happen onscreen.
  • Insanity Defense: Nobody is going to bother trying to punish Charlotte if she murders someone.
  • In the Back: Played with. While the game is full of figurative backstabbing, when you stab the defeated and wounded Wehrkeit, Varicella lampshades the fact that he's doing it from the front.
  • It's Personal: Wehrkeit isn't just Varicella's rival for the regency, he also had Varicella's brother Terzio murdered.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In one of the endings where Wehrkeit kills you, he says that the two of you are going to hell, and that he expects to meet you there and keep doing this over and over again. That's a pretty accurate description of the game itself, which is meant to be played many times in order to learn from your previous failures.
    • In another ending, he says that we haven't all had the chance to do things over and over until we get things right. The player, of course, has had exactly that opportunity.
  • Last Plan Standing
  • Mad Scientist: Modo Variola has done some crazy stuff with biological weaponry.
  • Marry for Love: Implied to have been the case with Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the king of Paris, and Terzio Varicella, a younger son of a noble house in a country widely regarded as a joke. Hence, Charlotte took it particularly hard when he was murdered in front of her.
  • Meaningful Name: Some of the characters:
    • Wehrkeit is in charge of Piedmont's defence, and the "Wehr" in his name means "defence" in German (as in "Wehrmacht").
    • Coffers Minister Argento Rico's name translates to "Money Rich".
    • Variola is named after the Latin word for smallpox, a deadly and infectious disease, and specialises in biological weaponry.
  • Military Coup: Attempted by Klaus Wehrkeit, who is luckily currently in Venice.
  • Mind Screw: Typing "wake up" ends the game with The Reveal that it was actually All Just a Dream of a female university student in what is presumably our own universe, caused by her musings on European history in the early Middle Ages. For extra mindscrew, the student is named Charlotte, implying that Princess Charlotte is her avatar and Varicella himself is just a side character in her dream.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Both Varicella and Variola are named after diseases. See Theme Naming below.
    • Charles the Terror.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the ending where Varicella finally gets to become Regent, Prince Charles grows up to become an Evil Overlord who conquers Europe. Of course, given that all the other endings have Varicella dying, we don't know whether he would have ended up the same way anyway.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: More like "nightmare fuel executive toy": Charlotte rearranges Rico's magnetic sculpture thingie to depict an angel impaled on a pitchfork. She titles it "Picnic in the Park".
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: If you manage to disarm Wehrkeit, you can finish him off in one of these. (Or if you have Charlotte with you at the time, she'll do it for you.)
  • The Ophelia: Charlotte.
  • Parental Incest: According to Miss Sierra, Queen Sarah was sexually abused by her adoptive father, the king of Paris.
  • Pedophile Priest: Pierre Bonfleche
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    Miss Sierra: (to Bonfleche) I have some differences with your pedagogical practices.
  • Rape as Backstory: Queen Sarah by her stepfather, Charlotte by Louis and Rico. Also Charles by Pierre.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Nearly all of Varicella's rivals. Even Variola has a mechanism to drug Miss Sierra.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Coffers Minister Rico uses his considerable wealth to get his way.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Prince Charles murders his mother, among several other atrocities, in one ending.
  • Shout-Out: a good half (or all of them?) of Charlotte's ramblings are references to popular culture (in 1999).
  • Taking You with Me: If you stand around too long after the wounded Wehrkeit shows up, he will take you out before dying.
  • Theme Naming:
    • Varicella and Variola are both named after diseases: varicella is Latin for "chickenpox", variola means "smallpox". Unsurprisingly, Variola is the nastier one.
    • Varicella's given name is Primo, or "first." His younger brother is Terzio, derived from "three."
  • Timed Mission: The game always ends when General Wehrkeit returns from Venice. If you haven't managed to subdue all your rivals by then, you lose.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Prince Louis: spoiled, lazy and stupid. Though he turns out to be a more horrible person than most examples.
  • Wedding Smashers: Varicella holds a personal grudge against Wehrkeit for killing his brother Terzio at the latter's wedding to Princess Charlotte.