Ju-lie: Deception in Games

Welcome to Ju-LIE! Today, we explore times where games have used lies or deception either to fool characters or YOU, the player! This article might contain a few spoilers, but I’d like to think a lot of these games are old enough where this won’t be necessarily an issue. What are some games you can think of where you’ve been tricked?

10)”Try Again.” – Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts (SNES 1991)

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts

Hello? Is this the armorer? Yeah, I’d like to make a complaint. Your product sucks! Yeah. What happened? Okay, well, I was traversing a land filled with dangerous monsters to rescue the Princess. First of all, when I wear this thing, I have like NO control over my jumping… though, despite how heavy this stuff is, it is handy that I can somehow jump twice… Anyway, out of nowhere, a zombie sprung up out of the ground! I tried to jump out of the way, but a second zombie sprung up in that very next spot. I *barely* tapped it and then, you know what? MY ENTIRE ARMOR FELL OFF!! Yeah! And then I was running around in my underwear!! How can you seriously sell protection this shoddy? What? No, I did not have an upgrade. What does the upgrade do? Better weapon, huh? What about defense? SERIOUSLY? It goes back to my old armor if I get hit just once? That’s barely any better!! Listen. I am calling corporate. You need to seriously rethink your business model. I had to go through this entire process once already, and if I lose my Goddess’s Bracelet in just one hit before defeating Emperor Sardius, I am going to lose my mind. GOODBYE!

9)”We’re Not in Wily’s Castle anymore.” – Mega Man 2 (NES 1988)

Mega Man 2 alien

Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion ran toward the great chamber in the palace of Oz. Red sludge dripped from the ceiling. Finally, the door slid upward and there he was. The Wizard! But wait, no, it wasn’t the wizard. His form changed and suddenly he was a green alien who circled the room firing shots of light toward the group. “Use the Bubble power you obtained from the Witch!” shouted the Scarecrow. Dorothy searched her basket and found the small bottle that she acquired in one of her previous encounters. She pulled the plastic wand from inside which was covered in the bottle’s liquid contents and held it in front of her face. She drew in a deep breath, thought of home, and then blew forward toward the menacing alien. “Arrrrrgh!” the alien screamed! Bubbles flew through the air, one by one connecting with the skin of the creature. Each pop left a red mark on its body. “Nooooo! My weakness! BUBBLES!!!!” it wretched. Before long, the alien disappeared and the room flashed. Suddenly, the room was bright. A mechanism was on the ceiling that controlled an arm moving in a circular motion. In the corner, an old man sat behind a purple machine wildly pulling at levers and pushing buttons. The group stared at him agape. “Pay no attention to the man behind the purple machine!” the man yelled into a microphone that clearly was no longer working. A horrible, high-pitched sound filled the room as the machine tried to reconcile its malfunction. The old man’s efforts to restart the machine were in vain. With a loud sigh, the machine powered down and the arm crashed to the ground. Immediately, the man jumped forward and begged for forgiveness. Dorothy and her crew finally understood what had happened. This old man had been trying to trick them from the beginning! “Please! Let me go!” he pleaded. They didn’t listen. He would pay for his crimes. After handing him over to the proper authorities, they began their walk home.

Wily revealed

Er, wait a minute. I think I mixed up stories here.

8)”Moogles and Cats living together.” – Final Fantasy 7 (PS1 1997)

Cait Sith

Hiring Director: So, Reeve, what makes you think you’d be a good employee at Shinra?
Reeve: Well, I can use magic to control a stuffed cat that rides a giant, robotic moogle.
Hiring Director: Okaaaaaaay…
Reeve: Ummmm, and then we can spy on people!
Hiring Director: When can you start?

Cait Sith spy

I’m not even going to try to explain this one. Check out this video by 4-8Productions if you want to know more about Cait Sith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VMC01M-wbE.

7)”Steal from the Dark World and give to the Dark World.” – The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES 1991)

Blind as a maiden

Phew! We rescued the maiden! And…you wants to go outside? You’re not going to rise up inside a big giant diamond thing and recite a bunch of text about breaking the seal of Ganon? Okay, let’s go outside. Alright, we’re at the exit! Oh, you don’t want to go outside? Well, why did you tell me you wanted to go outside! What if… instead of taking you outside, we go upstairs and bomb a hole in the ceiling. Then, let’s go back downstairs and shine light on you from the hole we made. That’s the next logical step, right? Wait. You don’t like light? OH CRAP YOU’RE A DEMON!

Blind the Thief

When you stop to think about it, the story of Blind the Thief in A Link to the Past does not make a lot of sense. According to the official Hyrule Historia book, Blind and his gang traveled to the Dark World to seek the Triforce but, like Link as a bunny without the Moon Pearl, were transformed into demons to reflect their true nature upon arriving. So, why is it that Blind takes the form as an imprisoned maiden when we meet him in Gargoyle’s Domain? Is this supposed to be a trick? Or, was he imprisoned by minions of the Dark World. How did he get to the Dark World in the first place? One assumption that can be made is that Blind possessed the Titan’s Mitt when he entered the Dark World. His hideout was formally in the northeast corner of Kakariko Village (a terrible location for a hideout, by the way), so he likely used the portal to the north on the way to the Lost Woods by removing the large boulder with the strength of his Titan’s Mitt. His hatred of light is what earned him his nickname, but… how did Link even allow light into the dungeon in the DARK world? The only explanation I can come up with for the situation is that Blind was asked by Agahnim to guard the maiden of Gargoyle’s Domain. When he refused, he was turned into the likeness of the maiden, his powers were removed, and he was locked in a cell. To punish him further, the only thing that would break the spell was the one thing that Blind hated most: light. Perhaps, by taking him outside completely, the light would have been too much, and it would have destroyed him completely. Blind, cleverly, knew that there was a room inside the dungeon that would allow just enough light to break the curse but not enough to kill him. So, he redirects Link to this room, which his gang had patched up before to not allow any light, and uses it as one final chance to defeat Link. This theory still leaves a lot unexplained… but, it’s a start!

6)”Love/Death Triangle.” – Catherine (PS3/Xbox 360 2011)

Catherine

What if your bad decisions in real life forced you to fight for your life in your nightmares? Vincent Brooks, a 32 year old man-child who is unable to commit to his longterm girlfriend, meets the title character, Catherine, at the Stray Sheep bar. He shortly becomes addicted to her affection but finds that every night after their encounters, he is haunted by nightmares where he must climb a giant tower or fall to his (very real) death. Over time, he learns that other people are having similar nightmares, and it becomes more real to him when a fellow bar-goer is discovered to have died in his sleep. Vincent struggles with moral dilemmas as he continues to spend night after night at the Stray Sheep with his friends waiting for Catherine to show up again. This game is unique in that your choices can alter the story drastically. The mystery surrounding Catherine becomes all the more intriguing as the game presses onward. Developed by the same team who worked on Persona, a version for the Switch is set to release in July 2020. If you haven’t played it before, check it out!

5)”The bigger they are, the more bones they break.” – Shadow of the Colossus (PS2 2005)

Shadow of the Colossus

Someone important to you has died, so you decide to steal an ancient sword, enter a forbidden land, and ask the help of a mysterious, disembodied entity to revive your friend. The voice then tasks you with slaying 16 giant colossi throughout the region in exchange for its help. Little do you know that each time a colossus is defeated, a piece of the disembodied entity enters your body, and you slowly start to deteriorate over time. Furthermore, a group of men have been actively pursuing you for the theft of the sacred weapon. Upon destroying the final colossus, the men catch up with you just in time to watch your body transform into the full monstrous figure of the entity who had promised to help you. Now a colossus yourself, you begin attack the men, barely able to control your own actions. The leader of the group takes hold of your fallen sword, plunges it into your weak spot, and the evil is sealed away along with you. When the dust settles, the men leave, and your friend awakens. She walks to a nearby fountain and discovers a baby with horns – the very same horns you had grown as you continued to slaughter the colossi. Is this supposed to be you now? The player is never given a complete explanation. You’ve saved your friend, but at what cost? The entire time, you were just a pawn being used by the entity so it could restore its body. Meanwhile, the colossi were generally docile creatures who had no reason to be driven to extinction. In a game that’s supposed to be all about giant boss battles, your emotions take a toll when you realize the true meaning behind the violence. If you didn’t catch this game when it first came out on Playstation 2, check out the remake released in 2018.

4)”I didn’t know you were called Dennis.” – Super Mario Bros. (NES 1985)

Mario 1 ending

According to the original Super Mario Bros instruction manual, the people who you rescue in the first seven castles are the “Mushroom retainers.” They are described as “seven Mushrooms who originally served in the court of Princess Toadstool, but are now under the spell of the evil Koopa king.” Now, this is an interesting plot point that has never fully been explored! Initially, it seemed to me like the mushroom people were simply captured and locked in the back of the castle… But, maybe they, under the magic spell, were leading Bowser’s forces from each of these locations. However, what the mushroom people say upon being rescued is where this theory falls apart. “Thank you, Mario! But our Princess is in another castle!” When I first played the game, this line led me to believe that Mario was constantly being tricked in his quest to rescue the princess. It wasn’t about the mushroom retainers. He was only trying to rescue the princess and being misled every step of the way. Had Mario chosen first to pursue Bowser’s main castle in world 8, he might have never gone after the mushroom retainers. Though, it could have been a great source of entertainment if you rescued the princess in castle 7 and she said, “Thank you, Mario! But there’s still another missing Mushroom retainer!”

3)”Oh, brother.” – Myst (Macintosh 1993)

Myst brother

Within 10 minutes of wandering around the strange island of Myst, you encounter two brothers. One brother is trapped in a red book and the other is trapped in a blue book. Talking to them separately through scrambled static, they tell you not to listen to the other brother and bring them the pages that correspond to their colored book so that they can be freed. Which one do you trust? The first brother seems mild mannered and collected. The second brother appears to be wild and chaotic. As it turns out, the answer is… neither! The first time you play the game, though, you have no idea that there’s a hidden third option, and upon freeing one of the brothers, they immediately trap you inside of the book where they were imprisoned. You eventually learn that both brothers had been locked away for good reason as their Father, who is on a separate world, tries to figure out what to do with them. As a kid, I had never played a game like this before where no matter what you did, you still technically “lost,” and the solution to find the true ending wasn’t immediately apparent. I loved that Myst remained a puzzle through and through, and the emotional hell you get to experience when you find out that your choices didn’t matter is a nice touch, too.

2)”We’ve sensed it. We’ve seen the signs.” – Undertale (PC/Mac 2015)

Flowey

Here’s another game that challenges you to question your choices in how you play. As a long time fan of RPGs, I went into this game and quickly fell into the same old routine. Experience and money were my primary focus early on. I knew if I spent a little extra time grinding, it would be easier for me to finish the game in the long run. Encouraging me from the start was Flowey, the happy little flower (likely inspired by the flowers in Magicant of Earthbound) who tells me to “kill or be killed.” Okay, pretty standard RPG stuff here. Except – there was something off about Flowey. He seemed a little crazy….but I was just thrust into a new world inhabited by a civilization of monsters instead of humans. Maybe that was normal. How could I know!? If you want to know for sure, play the game yourself. There are severals ways to approach it that never even crossed my mind the first time I gave it a go. Now, especially if I’m playing an Indie game, I am extra hesitant about my in-game decisions!

Honorable mentions:

“No wings allowed.” – Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (PS1 1996)

Kain wings

“It was all a dream.” – Super Mario Bros 2 (NES 1988)

Mario dreaming

1)”The cake is a lie.” – Portal (PC/Mac 2007)

Portal cake

Probably the most famous “lie” in a video game is GLaDOS’s promise of cake when you finally complete her testing chambers. As you play through, hidden rooms are found with the message “the cake is a lie” sprawling all over the walls. This, of course, is now a popular internet meme to mean, according to Wiktionary, that you are “chasing after an empty, unattainable goal.” The in-game story behind the message is actually quite interesting, and it involves an Aperture Science Lab Worker known as Doug Rattmann. His adventure is outlined in the Lab Rat comic series which you can read here: https://www.thinkwithportals.com/comic/#1. While our main character, Chell, eventually does get some cake, it was by no means earned through the original promised method. It kind of makes you wonder, though… was there cake hidden away this entire time for subjects who are able to complete the chambers as normal? Perhaps something was programmed into GLaDOS to make her believe that the goal existed even though it’s totally unattainable. One thing is for sure, though… I want to know how her cake measures up to the baking expertise of Princess Peach!

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for another list next month!

Published by erichagmann

Arranger / Pianist / Vocalist / Educator / Gamer

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