Bleak Level

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

You're playing a video game that so far has been good fun—perhaps not all sunshine and light, but still, fairly safe. The story is interesting and everything's going well. Then... things get a little drearier. The color scheme turns drab, the music plays in a minor key, the creatures seem fearful--if they're there at all.

Such a choice may foreshadow something scary, mark a place of evil, or denote the Despair Event Horizon. Sister tropes include the Womb Level for levels made out of flesh in an otherwise un-fleshy game, and Vile Villain Saccharine Show for when there's that one boss that seems out of place. See also Darkest Hour and Surprise Creepy.

Examples of Bleak Levels include:
  • The last level on Eversion. It is silent. And you will scream, even if you know about THE HAND.
    • In general, this happens gradually throughout the entire game, with each level/world looking bleaker and bleaker.
  • Post-Virmire Normandy in Mass Effect, there's even somber music. Also, the Normandy crash site in Mass Effect 2.
    • Mass Effect 3 in general is fairly bleak, but Thessia takes the cake. The most advanced race in the galaxy, the asari, is getting ripped apart by the Reapers, and Shepard is forced to watch, helplessly, as the Reapers continue to pour in. Shepard also gets roundly defeated by Kai Leng, who steals vitally important data on the Catalyst and taunts Shep over it. It's about as close to a breaking point as Shep gets.
  • Gilneas in World of Warcraft, especially in the initial worgen starting experience before you get bitten.
  • La-Mulana's Confusion Gate. Dear lord, between the creepy organ music played in an eerie minor key, the dull background colors, and the sacrificial pit, it's easily the most disturbing part of the game.
  • Lower Maridia from Super Metroid
  • Dark Souls has the Kiln of the First Flame. The sky is stuck in an infinite dusk, the landscape is a rusted gray, and there are only about four or five enemies despite the large size of the area. It really hits its mark considering that it actually unnerves the player even though every other level wasn't exactly sunshine and flowers either.
  • Some of the caverns in Donkey Kong Country may count as well.
  • "Villi People" level from Earthworm Jim 2.
  • Shadow Temple and/or Spirit Temple from Ocarina of Time.
  • The beach in Final Fantasy X, post-Sin attack.
  • Final Fantasy XIII has the ruined, Cie'th-infested village of Oerba.
  • Meanwhile, Final Fantasy XIII-2 has New Bodhum in the year 700 AF.
  • Lost Kingdoms: the Burial Grounds level, and the final level, Broch Black.
  • In Cave Story, Mimiga Village, specifically when you return there after escaping the Labyrinth. All of the inhabitants of the village are missing, and the level music is replaced by an ominous, minor-key song, "Quiet".
    • The 'Egg Corridor?' ( The Egg Corridor post-destruction) counts as well.
  • NieR has the mansion on the hill. Everywhere else is bright and sunny, then you find Emil's mansion. Suddenly your screen loses all colour and everything goes grey, and the camera somehow picks up grime. There's also a couple of portraits that slowly change the first time you go in. And the soundtrack starts screaming at you.
  • Cubivore has entirely different bleak levels early on, which are purely WHITE and desolate.
  • Super Aleste's 12th and final stage: A Womb Level with organic enemies and a very grisly background. Feel the power of Mode 7!
  • The (optional) "Deep Sector" in Iji. At the beginning, the heroine comments that the air smells like human blood, it is extremely dark and the music is eerie.
  • The Bad Future time zones in Sonic CD. They are basically the current levels, but completely run down, with a dose of Gaia's Lament thrown in. Considering all the other timezones including the Good Futures are brightly coloured, this only serves to make them seem even more gloomy.
  • A favorite trope for endgame in the Kingdom Hearts series.
  • Ballade's special stage in Mega Man 10.
  • In Okami, the Sunken Ship, Yoshpet Forest, Sei-an City under the Blight, and most dungeons qualify, especially the last one.
  • Dog's Life (PlayStation 2): All levels so far have been, if not all of them cheerful, and except some creepy moments like the dog catcher's doberman chasing you around and a couple of criminals you thwarted, relatively safe. Then, all of a sudden...the dog pound.The sky is dark,the ground is an ominous blood red, there are no other animals or life (except for the creepy doberman chasing you), and then an ominous background music that seems there just to make you want to get the Precision F-Strikeaway.
  • The City of Ancients in Final Fantasy VII. Hardly any enemies, strange scenery, and unsettling music that only plays there.
  • The first time you enter the Sammer Kingdom in Super Paper Mario, it's akin to every other level in the game, being quirky and fun, right up until it's destroyed by the Chaos Heart. When you go to revisit it, it's replaced with a white void. Fortunately, it gets better.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn nails this trope with the Grave Eclipse that sucks the light out of most of the world, leaving some awesome images of destroyed towns, complete with decomposing bodies.
  • EarthBound's final level, the Cave of the Past.
  • Dragon Age is pretty much a game-long Bleak Level, but the Dead Trenches take it a few steps further. It starts out with ominous music and a dead city, includes some really creepy poetry from a traumatized dwarf, and ends with a boss whose origin and appearance are 190-proof Body Horror. Congratulations! You now know where darkspawn come from. Chances are you really wish you didn't.
  • Your return trip to Cyrum Kingdom in Grandia II fits this trope perfectly. The dead and dying are everywhere, and the dark god's minions just won't stop coming. All but one of your party members are stuck in Heroic BSOD mode (since it is, after all, partially their fault that this is happening) and no one has any idea what to do. Oh, and THIS music is playing.
  • An Untitled Story has The Bottom: The very bottom of the game world with barely any music, no enemies and no means of escape aside from using a Save Point. There is, however, a Heart Container and entrance to another definitely less scary area.
  • Chrono Cross gives us the Dead Sea, a city where time is essentially broken. It's every bit as eerie as it sounds.
  • Dino Run kicks it off with a scarily dark volcano section, with some seriously creepy music. Since before this level the oncoming apocalypse was treated fairly lightheartedly, it's a fair bit of Mood Whiplash.
  • In Glider PRO, "Slumberland" has a sudden "Wrong Turn!" into a graveyard area.
  • In the exploration platformer flash game Phoenotopia, the worlds are largely colorful, the enemies are silly and strange, and the music is upbeat or emotionally charged. Even the ancient temples and city dungeons still feel like they belong in a light-hearted adventure. And then you get to the Dread Lands... the ruins of a city from modern-day Earth, where the palette is brown and gray, and the hollowed-out buildings are overrun by T-800-type robots, some of which chase you without warning, and some which remain still and sickeningly sputter acid. There's even a jump-scare or two (the only ones in the game, mind). The remaining levels return to a more comfortable mysterious melancholy.