Adventure Narrator Syndrome

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Examples Need Sorting by genre (4X, FPS, Beat'Em Up, Visual Novel, etc.), to remain consistent with the rest of the wiki. See the full list of genres here.

Oh, yes, I will create... nothing.
Dr. Fluke Hawkins, MDK2

In Video Games, Adventure Games in particular, characters often talk to themselves. Not only is this pretty odd in itself, but also they tend to do so in a way that people simply do not in real life. None of the other characters find anything odd about their friend wandering around saying "It's a shiny key." "That doesn't seem to work." or "Hmm, this door appears to be locked."

This can become one of the Acceptable Breaks From Reality on occasions where the dialogue is in the character's head, but when spoken aloud, this can be on the verge of He Knows About Timed Hits.

Contrast with Heroic Mime; where the hero either keeps his mouth shut, or seems to communicate via a form of telepathy that only other game characters can hear. Compare with Expospeak, which also uses awkward dialogue for the viewer's benefit, but is used to drive the plot instead of the gameplay. Luckily, My Powers Will Protect Me is a very similar trope found mainly in comic books. The difference between the tropes is whether or not the character is responding to a player request. Both tropes can exist separately in the same work.

This is not the same as You Can't Get Ye Flask, which is where the text parser for a text-based adventure game interprets what you're saying wrong, preventing you from completing your action.

Examples of Adventure Narrator Syndrome include:

  • Pick an adventure game from LucasArts. Go ahead.
    • Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders: "That doesn't seem to work."
    • Grim Fandango lampshades this all the time.
      • When examining recurring character Eva, Manny remarks "It's my boss's secretary Eva". She responds, "It's my boss's whipping boy, Manny". Later in the game, this becomes "my ex-boss's secretary Eva" and finally "my ex-boss's ex-secretary Eva". At this point, Eva looks up and says "Think you could let the secretary thing go, Manny?"
      • "They're locked." [From the other room] "They're LOCKERS!"
      • When Manny steals a pair of Mercedes' stockings and comments "Good enough for me", she hears him and asks "What is?"
      • Not a lampshade, but similar, due to the lack of a UI, Manny's head follows objects he can interact with, as he's walking around. Imagine, for a moment, how odd it would be to watch someone walking down the street and spend an overly long amount of time looking at something as they past. And keep on doing that.
    • The Dig drives the point home in a truly sarcastic way:

That won't do anything!
That won't accomplish anything.
That won't work.
I can't use these two things together!

      • Interestingly, since the first act of The Dig takes place entirely in outer space with the characters wearing space suits, all actual conversation has a radio/static filter added to it. However, any "inner monologue" (such as observations and other "that won't work"s) don't have that filter, implying that Boston is talking to himself inside his suit and that the player is in there with him. It also implies that since his radio is off while he's saying that, the other characters can't hear what he's saying and probably just see him mouthing to himself. Which is just as well, because if the mission commander was heard muttering that he couldn't combine random pieces of vital equipment, he'd probably be removed from duty.
      • There's also a particularly unsettling (or funny) moment early on in the game, where Boston, exploring the ruins alone, starts ranting about how he'd really like to have an instruction manual to the apparatus he's working on, a map, a sandwich, a hot jukebox and a cold beer, and/or a starship heading back home, in that order. He finishes with a sigh and an admonition to himself to "get it together."
    • Sam and Max Hit The Road: Repeatedly requesting that Sam pick up a particular object gets him frustrated, and eventually reduces him to tears. Max berates you for breaking his spirit.
      • Receives a Lampshade Hanging in a Telltale Games The Adventures of Sam & Max: Freelance Police episode Chariots of the Dogs, Sam meets his past self, who wanders around looking at things and commenting on them as if there were a player controlling him. "I can't shoot my future self!" "That doesn't need to be made radioactive." Past Sam even pauses during conversations with the playable Sam, as if his player were choosing what to say. Seeing Past Sam, Present Sam asks Present Max if he's really that annoying when solving cases, to which Max responds "I always assumed you were dictating your memoirs."
        • And in the same episode, Sam meets his future self, who is old and has grown senile. Future Sam blurts out various stock adventure game phrases (including I Can't Use These Things Together, which the playable Sam Hand Waves as "all those years of adventuring have taken their toll."
      • On the other hand, since he does have a buddy on-screen almost always, Max will sometimes banter back at Sam. This happens quite frequently in the original Lucasarts game Hit the Road.
    • In Full Throttle, the main character (Ben) needed the ability to suck fuel out of gas tanks to fix a Broken Bridge, which means that you can try to get Ben to use his mouth on any object. (It usually means you want to talk to people.) Nothing like a leathered muscular mass of square jawed kick-ass standing alone in an alley looking at a dumpster and proclaiming to himself:

I'm not putting my lips on that.

  • In The Legend of Kyrandia Malcolm's Revenge this is taken to hilarious levels with the Malcolm and Gunther's running commentary on the players decisions. Especially Malcolm's twenty-four different responses to eating a Fish Cream Sandwich.
    • In Loom, the PC (Bobbin) complains aloud about things that are green (and voices his preference for the color white).
      • Guess what color the Big Bad's city is? (hint: it's not orange)
    • The Secret of Monkey Island: the rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle.
      • In the later Telltale Games game, Tales of Monkey Island, Guybrush is locked in a swordfight on his ship with pirate-hunter, Morgan LeFay. Clicking repeatedly on the ship's mast will cause Guybrush to loudly proclaim, "It's the mast!" and Morgan will, in a increasingly annoyed tune, answer every time that she already knows that, until she only emits an annoyed grunt. This even unlocks a trophy in the Play Station 3 port.
      • In the 5th chapter of the game, Guybrush can utter the same proclamation on LeChuck's ship if he looks at the mast before taking the Cursed Cutlass of Kaflu. The response? Both LeChuck and Elaine pause at look at him with a very clear "WTF?!" expression for about five seconds.
    • In the second game, Guybrush gets shushed by the librarian in the Phatt Island library whenever he talks to himself, even though he's not loud and there are no other people there.
  • Sierra adventure games are slightly different: there is a narrator, in the style of Interactive Fiction, which tells players not just the result of their actions, but also describes anything that is examined. (Or tasted. Or smelled.) Initially it was mostly flat and expositiony, but as the years went by, even in more serious series it has no qualms about poking fun at the player for the attempted actions. And then CD versions were made, complete with full voice acting...
    • Space Quest, especially from number 4 onwards, just hams it up. Appropriate, for a series that is mostly a parody of the sort of Snark Bait that Mystery Science Theater 3000 made a fortune off of.
      • "This rough area tastes strangely like blood. Oh, that is blood! You shredded your tongue! Your mother should have warned you about licking strange areas..."
      • There isn't actually anything useful to be done in SQ 4 with the "smell" or "taste" actions, so they're pretty much Snark Bait from the start. This is probably why they didn't make an appearance in other games that took themselves more seriously (ie. King's Quest).
    • In Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail!, there are a few lines traded between Larry and the narrator himself. Mostly about Larry criticizing the narrator's intentionally awful jokes.
      • On a few occasions, the narrator even interacts with other characters.

Captain Thygh: Who the hell is that?
Larry: I don't know, but I hear him all the time!

    • Quest for Glory IV. John Rhys-Davies. Hurricane of Puns. That is all.
      • Of note is his "That doesn't do ANYTHING!" delivered in the most exasperated tone of voice.
    • Space Quest 6 adds these gems from the narrator:

"Careful! Combining those items might cause a rip in the space-time continuum, a tear in the very fabric of space itself! (Or not.)"
"Excellent guess, Kreskin. Wrong, but excellent."
"Don't touch that. We don't know where you've been."
"You drool in that general direction, but no one notices."

"I hope I never get so far gone that I start talking to myself... like... this."

  • In The Longest Journey, April occasionally lampshades how absurd she must sound when talking to herself, and occasionally seems aware of the player's presence.
    • On top of that, there are moments when April responds, and an NPC responds back, like in Sam and Max. The most memorable example being describing the old man on the docks, whereupon he responds that his hearing is fine.
  • Done with flair in Edna and Harvey The Breakout . Edna and Harvey (her talking rabbit) have a fully voiced individual response for nearly every combination. One time Edna says “This doesn’t work”, only to state how unimaginative this reaction was.
  • In the Tomb Raider series, when requested to use an item or medipack that she can't use in the current situation, Lara flatly responds "No."
    • And in Tomb Raider Legend she shrugs her shoulders, which is just as strange.
      • Finally, in Tomb Raider 2 she says "Aha!" every single time she picks up an object, except of course when she's underwater.
  • Realms Of The Haunting has the protagonist spending most of the first disc mumbling to himself about doors being locked or rattling off stats about his weapons. Later the trope is averted by having the protagonist discuss things with psychic Rebecca, who follows him around. The developers were thorough, which meant that you could interact with most objects, even if only in a limited way, and there was often a back-and-forwards chat to be had.

Adam: Plain old chair.
Rebecca: Guess so.
Adam: Candle.
Rebecca: Tallow, I believe.

  • Limbo of the Lost handwaves this trope by establishing that the main character is not actually under the player's control, but is constantly advised by an 'Earthly Guide'...that is, the player. Which means that he narrates his thoughts to the player as opposed to himself.
  • In MDK2, Dr. Hawkins' levels are all about combining items. Naturally, you'll end up hearing variants on the theme of "that won't work" pretty frequently until you hit upon whatever bizarre combination of items the developers decided should yield the item you need.
    • Particularly memorable: "AAAAAAAAAHHHH! No."
  • Snatcher attempted to justify this by having the main character's Robot Buddy take care of most of the environmental analysis and rattle it off to the main character, since, being a robot, he is able to sense more than the human main character. Most of the main character's dialogue was just to add colour.
  • Shadow of Destiny.
  • Used in Pokémon games, where most of the time the main character tells himself stuff he doesn't know (as well as possibly yelling stuff like "Go, Squirtle!", "It's super effective!", or "Marowak gained 370 Exp. Points!"). However, in the Gen. I games, Professor Oak still suddenly appears (at least in voice) to tell you can't use THAT item HERE for some reason.
    • Most of those make sense if you consider it as the Pokédex talking, which it likely can do. Though the character probably is saying something when they send out their Pokémon.
      • It's also possible that the professor is talking to the player, not the character, as he does during the intro (Are you a BOY... or a GIRL?).
    • This was a translation error, but even Nintendo Power got in on the act when they answered a fan's question on the subject, stating that Oak had set up a complex system of cameras and speakers across the Pokémon world to keep an eye on his students. The error was finally fixed in Diamond and Pearl.
    • Rowan's voice echoed: "There's a time and a place for everything! But not now!" This can become extremely annoying with the bicycle, because one tends to use it reflexively as a "run" button after awhile.
      • It's been somewhat fixed for a while since Ruby and Sapphire by referring the voice as so-and-so's advice, assuming the character was just recalling something they (but not the player) was told. After a while it also involved more than just Oak (such as Dad/Norman or the prominent professor in that new region).
  • Raz from Psychonauts, like all good adventure game protagonists, tends to talk to himself, especially about whatever he's holding. "This is a rose. I should give it to someone who'll appreciate it." Occasionally, though, other characters will notice him muttering to himself, and respond to it. For example, in Ford's secret HQ, he'll talk about how he can't use the Web Spinner machine until he's bought some delicious taffy... And Ford, overhearing this, will get angry at him and quickly correct him, saying that he needs a Cobweb Duster. But then, Ford is an Exposition Fairy...

Raz: (holding a rifle) It's fake. I'm afraid the other assassins will make fun of me.
Nearby G-Man: Shh! Don't advertise the fact, they look real.

    • And later:

Raz: Well here I am, up in the tower of an abandoned insane asylum... wearing a straight jacket... *Beat*... talking to myself

  • Jade from Beyond Good and Evil has a tendency to do this, saying things like "I'll never be able to push this box on my own" or "We can't open this door without a special key." Since she is usually accompanied by an NPC buddy, this could be justified as her talking to them. Oddly, though, when she gives her sidekicks orders, she doesn't say anything—apparently relaying her commands through telepathy. They still react as if she'd given them a vocal command.
  • In Tex Murphy games from Under a Killing Moon on the protagonist's voice has a echo that implies this sort of dialogue is purely internal. This is also used humorously via dissonance, such as the protagonist's monologuing about how nice a cigarette feels... while he's shown nearly choking on it.
    • The internal voice in Broken Sword is consistently clearer and louder as though the voice is going directly into your head whilst the external factors in other things such as character distance from screen and room echo.
  • Done in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People; however, several times it is made clear that Strong Bad is talking to the player, the same way he would talk to the viewer in a Strong Bad E-Mail.
    • Most annoying is "That's not flammable!" while in possession of the lighter.
    • One has to wonder how the other characters felt watching Dangeresque 3, when most of the time Dangeresque was wandering around doing random things and talking to himself.
    • My favorite comes when you try to use the lighter on a person. "I'd love to see him not not on fire, but not not not now."
  • The protagonists of Silent Hill will remark to themselves (one assumes in their head, although with Silent Hill you can't ever be sure) that 1) the door is inaccessible for whatever reason, 2) this particular object in their inventory can't be used, or 3) whatever the contents of the latest bit of text that they come across.
    • Justified because it's Silent Hill, most of the protagonists are probably insane by the time you start playing.
    • It even becomes a Continuity Nod / Shout-Out in the third game: if you have a save from SH2 on your system, at one point Heather is in a bathroom and can look into a toilet just like James, the protagonist in 2, had to do. The difference is, just before actually reaching into said toilet (which, coincidentally, is actually MUCH less grody-looking than the previous) she stops, looks directly at the player, and says "Ugh, who would actually reach into such a disgusting place!?"
  • World of Warcraft, most often when trying to use/attack something from too far away or when you're out of mana.
    • Need more rage! I'm out of range! Need more rage!
    • I can't do that yet. I can't do that yet. That skill can't be used yet. I can't do that yet. Auuuughhh.
      • At least it can be turned off.
    • One humorous example is that if you try to loot an item you're not entitled to loot (i.e. it's still being rolled on by the group), your character will say "that would be stealing" in a perfectly innocent tone. Even if you're a rogue who specializes in stealing, or a warlock who regularly sucks the souls out of your enemies to feed them to demons in exchange for serving you.
    • "Ah can'tuse that!"
  • Jurassic Park: Trespasser decided to do away with the player HUD. How to let the player know how many bullets are left in the gun? The main character counts them down out loud as you shoot. Wanna find out how much health you have? Just look down at the tattoo on your character's breast. Yes, really.
    • Peter Jackson 's King Kong had something similar, where you had to press a button to check the ammo, which would cause the character to exclaim "I've got about X bullets left!" Worked pretty well, though, especially since you usually have teammates, so the character might be informing them.
      • Worked not-pretty well when the character would proclaim "I've got enough bullets" (or something to that effect). Well, opinions on that matter differ greatly.
        • The character in question usually considered any more than five magazines for a weapon "enough," though it was the player's job to know how many shots a full clip had.
  • The player characters in Darkstone will do this. It's quite annoying that a fighter/priest/sorceress will be wandering along on their quest and suddenly, loudly announce that "I am getting hungry!"
  • Averted in Primal. Jen talks to Scree. Scree talks to Jen. Sometimes Jen tries to pick up something that only Scree can handle. If Scree is nearby he'll say "Let me get that" and pick it up.
  • Valdo, protagonist of Secrets of Da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript, makes observations about things he sees and the player's attempts to do things. "I can't use that here," "No, it's not time for me to go there," "I don't think this is a good idea," etc. Subverted somewhat, in that these comments are made in a slightly different tone of voice than he uses when addressing other characters, giving the impression that these may be his thoughts rather than his "outside voice."
  • Mona, the protagonist of A Vampyre Story, makes observations like these when the player tries to do something the game won't let them. One of them is actually "I can't do that! Well, I could, but I don't see what that would accomplish."
    • This was probably in response to Yahtzee's complaint (in general, not Yahtzee specifically) against puzzle games that say "that doesn't work" with combinations where yes it motherfucking does! but the game doesn't want you to do that to make progress. It doesn't totally solve the problem, but at least it acknowledges that yes, that could be done, if it were the solution to a puzzle. Of course sometimes Mona doesn't even bother to give any excuses for why not and just flat out refuses to do it.
  • Rincewind in the Discworld games: "That Doesn't Work."
    • A phrase that, due to it's constant repetition (because you had to try everything, just in case), drove players mad. In Discworld Noir, Lewton says "I resisted the temptation to say 'That doesn't work'". Noir specifically had the creators work as much as possible to avoid this aspect of the trope; practically every combination has a specific line describing it.
  • Simon the Sorcerer had a few of these lines, depending on the objects you wanted to use together. Use Crowbar on any person: "Very tempting and very illegal."
  • Resident Evil. The remake has the ol' 'Not necessary use this now." Really.
  • Star Trek: 25th Anniversary (video game) and Star Trek: Judgment Rites usually had the player controlling an entire away team of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and a disposable redshirt. Despite the option of various characters stopping the others from doing things the game doesn't want you to do, Kirk still resorts to self narration.
    • The big exception to this is when you inevitably get frustrated and start trying to phaser everything, Spock or McCoy will chastise you for getting frustrated and trying to phaser everything.
  • In Star Wars Obi-Wan, it almost seems like Obi's catchphrase is practically, "I'm not sure" in a godawful Ewan McGregor impression.
  • In Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Jack Walters (the protagonist) talks to himself a lot. The weird thing is that he always sounds very calm, even when seriously scary things are happening.
    • Jack (in a cool, disinterested voice): "Just looking at that thing is making my head swim!"
      • Even weirder is that when his "sanity" count drops low, he'll begin whispering to himself like a crazy person... but suddenly switch back to that same calm tone to inform the player that he Can't Use Those Things Together. A strange example of game experience made worse by full voice acting.
  • Clock Tower does this oddly. For the first game, any text in blue means Jennifer is thinking to herself, while white text means she's speaking. Naturally, most of the text is blue, but occasionally she'll remark something like "I don't have to go right now", "The door is locked!", or "Oh.. my head...".
    • The second and third games, which had voice acting, had a different way to differ between thoughts and speech. If something was a thought, it lacked voice acting, while if something was spoken, it had voice acting. The second game has a few optional scenes where they forgot to add voice acting, though, which resulted in entire conversations being totally silent.
  • In Diablo whenever the player tries to make his/her avatar do something that it can't, it'll explain why:

There's no room!
I gotta pawn some of this stuff!
Not enough Mana!

    • More humorously, if the player clicks on a cow over and over, the avatar will confidently state: "Yup, that's a cow, all right." "I'm not thirsty." "I am no milkmaid."
  • These exact words used in The white chamber.
  • Runaway: A Road Adventure, along with its sequel Runaway 2: The Dream of the Turtle take this trope to the extreme. Not only does the hero Brian use such lines to describe things the player tries that don't work, but he also uses them to describe the ones that do. Every time a puzzle is solved, Brian explains, out loud, exactly what he's doing and how he's doing it. He also describes every item picked up.
  • RuneScape lets you "Examine" EVERYTHING, and even nothing. This sometimes gets hilarious results. For example, examining a chicken will get "Yep, definitely a chicken." while examining a summoned slime familiar will get the memorable "In Soviet RuneScape, acid digests YOU!"
    • Also lampshaded back in Classic when you could even examine posts. "What am I examining posts for?"
    • The game literally tells you that "nothing interesting happens" when you try to use two items that don't go together with each other.
    • Your character used to say "I can't reach that!" when trying to take an item, talk to an NPC, etc. that is out of his / her reach.
  • Like the RuneScape example, in 5 Days A Stranger, examining doors makes Trilby get more and more sarcastic before culminating in a story about how his girlfriend left him for the singer of The Doors, which is what the door reminded him of.

Trilby: "Sorry, I tend to get sidetracked when players WON'T STOP LOOKING AT THE BLOODY DOORS."

  • In Jolly Rover, this is commonly lampshaded by both the protagonist Gaius James Rover, and the characters around him:

Captain Howell: Are you always talking to yourself like that?

  • Attempting to give Final Fantasy VII characters their final Limit Manuals before they've learned their other Limit Breaks will cause them to complain in their own voice.
    • Or when you try to use the final Limit Manual that doesn't belong to them.
  • Osiris of Voices combines this with Did I Just Say That Out Loud? for interesting results. It's theorized that as the voices (i.e. the players) have been in his head so long, he's speaking these things out loud for the reader's benefit (and is in a mental asylum as a result). The other three, being newer to the voices, only think these things, rather than actually say them.
  • The Nancy Drew adventure games, especially the earlier ones in the series. (That doesn't go there. Something's missing here. Iiiiiinteresting. It's locked. It's locked. It's locked. It's locked. It's locked....)
  • One of the best things about Ben There, Dan That! is that, while generic 'that doesn't work' placeholder text does exist, most of the useless responses are individually and carefully written, even for things so illogical most people would never even think to try them, like talking to trails of blood, using Dan on himself, trying to to cut a wire with a poster of Sam and Max... Most of the best lines in the games are failure speech.

Ben: I'm not talking to my bedroom door.
Door: Fine. Then I'm not talking to you either.

  • Lampshaded in grand fashion in Telltale's Wallace and Gromit series, where the solution to two different puzzles is based on the fact that Wallace will describe things aloud for no obvious reason.
  • Used in the second Thief game, with an underwater Garrett informing the player that if he doesn't get some air soon, he'll die.
  • In Drakan, Rynn has several responses to impossible actions when the player tries to make her do them:
    • Try to get Rynn to pick up items she cannot use (such as standard dark union weapons dropped by orcs/wartoks when they are killed), and she'll respond with "I can't use that" (she can however pick up normal human use weapons like axes, battle hammers, and swords dropped by them if they wield such weapons).
    • Try to make her open a locked door without the necessary key, and she goes "It's locked" or "Hmm, I need a key".
    • If she's equipped with a bow, try to make her fire an arrow when she has no such ammo: "I don't have any arrows!"; conversely, if she has arrows of any type but doesn't have a bow and you try to equip her with the former: "I don't have any bows".
    • Lastly, try to pick up any item when her inventory is full or has no necessary contiguous space for the item: "I don't have any room."
  • Pajama Sam: "I don't that'll work." "That's not gonna do me any good." And when you try to use a weapon-ish object (like a crowbar) on another object, he replies, "That would get me into trouble.". And against another character? "That wouldn't be very nice".
  • Super Paper Mario: Having Bowser trying to climb a ladder will have him attempt to climb the ladder and then say "I can't climb this...". This is due to his enormous size.
  • In the Famous Five PC games, when you are controlling Dick he will make silly comments about things you click on. Clicking on a tap elicits the response "I wonder what that does," and equally sarcastically if you click on a fusebox he says "It's a fusebox. How exciting." Clicking on a shovel lets you know that "Digging holes is one of my favourite pastimes!"
  • In Sin, if you "use" a locked door, the PC will say out loud "Hmm, a security door.". If you "use" it repeatedly, the PC will keep saying "Hmm, Hmm, Hmm, Hmm, ...".
  • All the hedgehogs have their moments in Sonic the Hedgehog 2006:

Sonic: Lava shoots up from that fiery ground!
Shadow: The instability of time caused this space-time rift.
Silver: I can't grab lasers with my psychokinesis!

  • Syberia: "No need to go down there." (At least in Syberia 2, the "purely decorative" doors that caused this in the first game are unclickable.)