The Halloween Hack
This is THE most descriptive, shocking, and most psychologically warping game you will ever play. You’re a bounty hunter who is given the duty to track down a mysterious creature who mutilated and ate a little girl’s parents and encounters various horrible things as the adventure goes on. This game isn’t your average Halloween game; its content is comparable to games like Silent Hill and Yume Nikki. This game also has the added effect of making you depressed as you played. Counting real games and fan games, this could be one of the most traumatic and horrifying games in the world, and we're not joking. This is easily one of the most disturbing hacks to come out... well, ever, really.
—The description of The Halloween Hack on Starmen.net
The Halloween Hack (also known by fans as "Press the B Button, Stupid!") is a Fan Sequel ROM Hack of the 1995 SNES cult-classic EarthBound, created in October 2008 by someone known as Radiation. You probably know him better as Toby Fox.
The Halloween Hack follows the exploits of bounty hunter Varik (of Brandish fame) as he spends his Halloween answering the call of duty, and is sent to hunt down a monster that's killed a mother and father. His mission leads him through the sewers of Twoson, and into the very depths of hell itself...
You can download it and find out more about it here. While the site's description of the game does oversell a lot of the game's aspects, and much of its contents haven't aged particularly well, at the time of its release it was a pretty ground-breaking hack - you can also easily see the presence of themes and motifs that Toby Fox would heavily refine in his later games.
- Absurdly High Level Cap: The default level cap of 99 remains from the original EarthBound, but you'll likely still be straining to reach the thirties by the time you complete the game.
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The Twoson sewers, which are filled with hippies and rats. As you travel across the ocean to Winters, the waters become blood red, the hippies are zombified, and mutated roaches and blobs start emerging.
- Adaptational Villainy: Dr. Andonuts - from eccentric good-hearted inventor to murderous, mind-broken madman. Good lord.
- All There in the Manual: The Monster Book item gives a short explanation of which Standard Status Effects affect which types of monsters. It serves as a major hint (albeit one easy to miss) that those typically neglected status-effect PSI are gonna come in handy down the line.
- Alternate Universe: The game is set in one where the Chosen Four's time travel created a new timeline that they ended up in after defeating Giygas. In the "original" timeline you play in, the world believes them dead since they never returned. Poo (or the Courage you encounter in Magicant that represents him) confirms this.
- An Axe to Grind: The Amalgamates can shapeshift into an axe and swing itself at you.
- And I Must Scream:
- In Dr. Andonuts' Magicant, one denizen states outright that they're all doomed to repeat the same action over and over again, as they are all representations of a single memory.
I'm... I'm doomed like this forever, doomed to always be opening the yogurt lid.
- Anticlimax: Two instances in the ending. Refusing to kill Andonuts when the game tells you to, then finishing the story out nets you the "good" ending, where you've killed him anyway - but the monster outbreak is subsequently dealt with, and Varik unquestionably comes out of it alive. The second examples occurs on a lesser and funnier note in the same ending, where a ghost farts in Varik's face while he's trying to unwind after his adventure.
- Animate Body Parts: Dearkhart and the Anxiety Attacks. The "NO NO NO" boss combines this with Cognizant Limbs, as defeating the "chest" takes out the other two.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Bound to occur, given how much time you spend in Dr. Andonuts's Magicant. Dearkhart, NO NO NO, and the Phaze Destrotur personify different aspects of his mind - respectively, Jeff's (presumed) hatred for him, his repressed homosexuality, and his guilt over supposedly causing the deaths of the Chosen Four.
- Anti-Frustration Features:
- Psychic Point-restoring butterflies are way more common, it seems, which helps given how low your levels will be.
- Apologetic Attacker: The Desperate Survivors. Subverted in that they barely attack.
- Art Style Dissonance: From recolors of normal Earthbound enemies to more visceral and dark resprites to completely original art, and then back every so often.
- Autobots Rock Out: "Dr. Andonuts' Rage", better known as "Megalovania".
- Barrier Change Boss: Dr. Andonuts in his second and third forms, where he even hints at which PSI he'll use beforehand. The Monster Manual recommends changing equipment mid-battle to resist the attacks - a mechanic that was present but little-used in the original game.
- Beef Gate/Difficulty Spike: Monster levels jump quite a bit between major areas.
- Blinding Bangs: Varik sports red hair that cast a shadow over his eyes.
- Blob Monster: Evil Ectos, which are palette swaps of Soul Consuming Flames.
- Bittersweet Ending: The 'good' ending. Despite Varik's best efforts, Dr. Andonuts is too far gone, forcing him to kill the scientist anyway. The monsters have been stopped, but at the cost of Dr. Andonuts dying in terror, convinced he killed his family and the Chosen Four. Varik is airlifted out and returned to Twoson, finally able to rest after having saved the world, and having grown into a competent and brave man.
- Bizarro Universe: Dr. Andonuts' Magicant qualifies, especially the Onett found within it. The music is slowed down to give a melancholy feel, and various enemy sprites appear to chase you - but not only do they not trigger a battle, you can't actually interact with them period, and all they do is get in your way (and also softlock you if you're inattentive). The only actual enemy is the Remember Me?, fought by approaching a stationary sprite of B. H. Pirkle, and it's barely even a danger outside of repeatedly solidifying Varik with its hugs.
- Bloodier and Gorier: From the sprite editing to the text for entering new locations, and even the descriptions of enemy actions... The game takes a while to let up on the carnage.
- Border Patrol: Super Doom Shrooms and Blue Antoids are Palette Swaps that roam outside Twoson, and boast utterly ridiculous stats that Varik has no hope of matching. An NPC to the east attributes this to "global warming". They exist solely to prevent Varik wandering too far off - while almost unbeatable by any normal means, they can still be avoided. You can potentially kill a Super Doom Shroom with the effects of a WhiteShock, which gives you over 4000 experience points - enough to propel Varik's level into the twenties - if you survive the encounter.
- Bounty Hunter: Varik is hired as one.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Played with and inverted(?) humorously with the Halloween candy item, which comes in flavors such as Cinnamon Crap, Grape Gasoline, and Cherry Chafe... "Oh, and mint, but that's gross."
- Broken Aesop: Regarding the endings. The narrative does its best to shame you for trying to kill the broken wretch Dr. Andonuts is reduced to, despite giving you little choice in the matter, and the scientist himself will constantly berate Varik for his persistence. The game even hands you the 'bad' ending for doing what it tells you to and killing him early, but defy it to Take a Third Option and you get the chance to gather up Andonuts's remaining fragments of courage, along with his memories of the other Chosen Four, and... end up killing him anyway in the 'good' ending.
- This Aesop ends up a lot less broken once you consider that entering Dr. Andonuts's Magicant is the only way to learn how and why he ended up in this sorry state, and presents the only chance anyone has to possibly bring him to his senses, even if it ultimately proves futile. Thus, only by defying the game's orders do you get to experience the full story, gain context for Dr. Andonuts's madness, and ensure that Varik lives to end the monster outbreak ends once and for all - which lines up pretty well with the themes explored in Toby Fox's later works.
- Broken Bridge: The ghosts that blocked off Threed in the original game return, with a Twoson resident lampshading this and believing the ghosts to be teenagers pulling pranks. The Onett police also resume their usual role, blocking off the path to Onett.
- But Thou Must!: The game is insistent on having you kill a specific monster, and it seems there's no way around it... except by pressing the B Button, which causes Varik to abandon the attempt on Dr. Andonuts's life and jump into his Magicant.
- Call Forward: Of sorts - among his inventions, Dr. Andonuts mentions a completely impenetrable capsule that can't be escaped, AKA the Incredibly Safe Capsule Porky traps himself in near the end of Mother 3.
- Contrasting Sequel Character: The grim and brooding adult Varik to the all-American child Ness.
- Creepy Cockroach: The Preemptive Scavenger is an undead, rotting palette swap of the Violent Roach.
- Darker and Edgier: Ridiculously so. You barely get a minute or so in before you're presented with the protagonist awakening from an explicitly drunken stupor (in a pile of his own vomit no less). He is then hired to solve a brutally gruesome murder, and once you go through that door in the sewers...
- Department of Redundancy Department:
- A trash can in the Twoson sewers holds an armor item called... the Garbagecan Lid.
- "The Uberhaunt ripped out your innards out!"
- The Nerd Glasses are an item that can be worn by the party... including the already-bespectacled Jeff.
- Despair Event Horizon: Dr. Andonuts so firmly believes he's trapped the Chosen Four in the past or killed them, he ends up hitting this pretty hard. When you finally get to talk to him, he's convinced that he's responsible for killing everyone in the universe and that his own life is meaningless, and quickly devolves into near-incoherent terror upon realizing that Varik might kill him.
- Radiation Thinks of Everything:
- Reach the Peaceful Rest Valley entrance without the Border Patrol wasting you and you'll get... a rock permanently blocking off the cave, with an angry note from Brick Road attached.
- Similarly, attempt to reach Onett without having your shit summarily kicked in and... you find another dead end blocked by the Onett police. It's worth going there if you can dodge the enemies, though - a present near the entrance point contains the Black Helmet, which can block Whiteshock effects.
- Disc One Nuke: It's very difficult to pull off, but it's possible. If you manage to get a turn against a Super Doom Shroom without dying, then manage to instaKO it with a Whiteshock, you get enough experience to get Varik near or over level 20 - higher than you'd ever reach through normal gameplay, and enough to make what would be an Early Game Hell more than bearable at minimum.
- Downer Ending: Pressing the A Button when told to kill the monster. Dr. Andonuts is killed without a fight and dies terrified, while Varik seems to go completely catatonic afterward (and is implied to have died as well).
- Early Game Hell: Like EarthBound, you start out as one guy working your way through hostile enemies that tend to attack in pairs, if not trios. You'll barely have enough Power Points for one or two spells, and you won't know which to use on what enemies without looking them up beforehand or in the Monster Manual. You'll also have a fair amount of grinding to do to keep up with the sudden Difficulty Spikes, though things do ease up somewhat as your party grows.
- Eldritch Abomination: Wouldn't be an EarthBound hack without 'em.
- The Desire Dog appears as a Zombie Dog in the overworld, but in-battle its body is half tentacle-like pseudopods that it frequently uses to attack and potentially drain HP. Upon death, it collapses into an array of wriggling tentacles.
- The Remnants are deformed Starmen 'corpses' that can manifest several limbs and a gaping maw.
- Psycho Psources are strange formless... things that vaguely resemble a mass of faces and animates itself from raw shadow.
- The Amalgamates are Hybrid Monsters made of the Desire Dog's face, the Transdimension Template's body, the Remnants' right arm, the Brain Buster's body, and the Giegue League's face. They can also transform into a giant axe and swing themselves at you.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's an EarthBound ROM Hack set on Halloween.
- Eye Beams: One enemy attack used by Remnants and Phaze Destrotur causes their eye to flash before "firing bloody thunderbolts in all directions". It hits the entire party for electric damage and can't be reflected by psychic shields.
- Eye Scream: Overrecycled and NO NO NO can attack by trying to rip your eyes out of their sockets.
- Fan Sequel: Set around Halloween in an alternate timeline of EarthBound. The Chosen Four successfully defeated Giygas in the past, but were sent to a whole new timeline, while everyone believes them to be dead in the original one.
- Faux Horrific: An NPC in one of the bathrooms prior to a branching path warns Varik of "demons that don't wash their hands" after flushing. Check a bathroom door later on, and sure enough...
- Final Boss: Dr. Andonuts.
- Game Mod: One of the earliest EarthBound ROM hacks, and incredibly detailed for the standard of what was possible at the time; it was one of the first to go beyond simple palette swaps.
- Gorn: From the Twoson sewers to the lab in Winters, the game drowns the player in several sentences of gory details.
- Groin Attack: Dr. Andonuts has one that can hit each party member for sizable damage and poison them.
- Guest Fighter: Varik is the protagonist of Brandish.
- Guide Dang It:
- Without looking it up or else thinking to buy the Monster Book in Burglin Park, you're not likely to realize the importance of the status effect spells this time around - and given how... rough this hack is, odds are not knowing will possibly kill you a few times over at minimum. Good luck finding out how to best get around Dr. Andonuts's elemental shifts in particular!
- Even if you know that Standard Status Effect PSI are useful, you'll have no idea of which is vulnerable to what without looking it up, buying said Monster Book, and/or engaging in a little Trial and Error Gameplay.
- Halloween Episode: Of a sort, anyway.
- Hero-Killer: Dr. Andonuts has convinced himself he's this.
- Hope Spot: Dr. Andonuts becomes determined to recover from his madness as his past is explored and his Courage is gathered... and then upon entering the last area, he sadly relapses completely.
- Identical Stranger: Varik ends up mistaken for Ness more than a few times.
- Improvised Armour: Armor choices include the Garbagecan Lid and the Hair Gel.
- Informed Flaw: The game really, really wants us to believe Varik is an immoral piece of shit, but minus an evident drinking problem, we never get anything that indicates this convincingly. The game also insists Varik isn't psychic despite the clearly-reskinned PSI he uses, though in fairness this would be somewhat more difficult to work around.
- Mecha-Mooks: Frankensteams and Transdimensional Terminates.
- Mechanical Abomination: The Phaze Destrotur looks like what'd you expect from the mind of someone who came to believe their creation was a hero-killing death trap. It's a vaguely-Mr. Saturn-shaped machine with an additional bloodshot eye, specializes in electric attacks, and has a power shield that deflects physical attacks. Beware of the lightning Eye Beams - psychic shields can't deflect them, and you won't yet have the Franklin Badge.
- Mood Whiplash: In spades. A solid chunk of the edited dialogue causes this (even in the earliest parts. It reflects the hack's overall nature: a charming, irreverent and silly adventure similar to the original EarthBound that's a facade hiding a much darker and harrowing tale... And then you enter Dr. Andonuts' Magicant, where things start to zig-zag and just get downright weird.
- The 'good' ending has Varik returning home victorious from the tragic final battle with Dr. Andonuts, with the monsters in Winters cleared out... and then his attempts to unwind are briefly interrupted by a ghost farting in his face.
- Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The Remnants, though this is only explicitly mentioned in its death message:
The Remnants, damaged, choked itself to death with its many hands!
- My Greatest Failure: Dr. Andonuts believes he's killed his wife and the Chosen Four, so strongly that one section of his mind has a "death museum" dedicated to them.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Plenty to go around - Uberhaunt, Transdimension Terminate, Dearkhart, Brain Buster...
- National Stereotypes: One of the Three Amigos is cast
- Nerd Glasses: Jeff. They also appear as an equippable item for the party.
- Never Say "Die"/Non-Lethal KO: Played with - while initially played straight as with the normal game, past a certain point many of the KO messages are exchanged for unique (and often messy) death messages.
- Never Trust a Trailer: Invoked by Radiation, who explained on his site that he used only the humorous beginning scenes for the trailer to give off the impression of a silly hack - something he would later do for Undertale and Deltarune.
- Nintendo Hard: Even with the knowledge of which spells work against which enemies, you'll be doing a lot of Level Grinding to avoid being ground into paste, at least in the early game. Even with proper leveling, Varik's low PP means every single spell of his will count.
- New Age Retro Hippie: The Obsessive Recyclers, naturally, which are palette swaps of these enemies found in the Twoson Sewers.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Often used throughout the hack.
- The Giegue League has an attack that wordlessly poisons one party member.
- One of the trash cans in the sewers doesn't give any items or even open properly. It just sits there... shaking.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Evil Ectos are ectoplasmic Blob Monsters that let out creepy yells and assault the party's minds with Brainshock α. Thankfully, they tend to go down in one hit.
- Our Monsters Are Weird: In typical EarthBound fashion, taken Up to Eleven and then some.Justified considering most of them are found within Dr. Andonuts's mind. Here's a small sampling from the enemy defeat messages:
- "The Uberhaunt roared, and shook. Suddenly, its chest ruptured as it burst into confetti!"
- "The Giegue League bent over, clutched his stomach, and crumpled into a wad of paper!"
- Our Vampires Are Different: The Vladula, which appears to be vaguely humanoid and also made of bats. It starts the battle asleep (and strangely, so do any other monsters encountered alongside it) - but once it wakes up it can become mighty troublesome with its high HP, the ability to use spells like Brainshock Ω and Freeze α, and strong single-target physical attacks that may likely One-Hit Kill party members. Thankfully, it only has enough Psychic Points for one spell, and may thus waste turns on repeated attempts.
- Our Zombies Are Different:
- The Overrecycled are undead New Age Retro Hippies, and are among the more "standard" zombies encountered.
- Remnants seem to be the animated molten remains of Starmen.
- Preemptive Scavengers combine this with Creepy Cockroach.
- Monsters and Uberhaunts are Urban Zombie palette swaps given large gnashing teeth, empty eye sockets and massive hands; bones and blood are pooled at their feet. The latter are capable of casting beta-level Flame, and can put the party to sleep with a "horrid tune".
- Palette Swap: All over the place at first; simple recolors such as Stench Elementals and Frankensteams give the appearance of a more "standard" hack, though it's subverted alarmingly fast midway through the Twoson Sewers. From that point on, most enemy battle sprites are either heavily edited or else made from scratch.
- Point of No Return: Marked by a telephone in front of a door in the Sewers. Entering that door in turn marks the story point where things go straight to hell. It's then averted with a Twoson-like area before the final room that lets you buy several items, and can return you to Twoson or Magicant if you forgot anything.
- Psychic Powers: Varik (despite the game's insistence to the contrary). Paula and Poo also have them, as does the now-insane Dr. Andonuts.
- Purple Prose: The narration, enemy introductions, their attack messages, even their death messages... this hack can get pretty wordy, and trying to read it all isn't helped by the auto-scrolling text in some cases.
- Puzzle Boss: Each enemy has a couple of weaknesses that can make it far easier to handle, or at least even things up.
- Remixed Level: Many of the EarthBound maps are reused in different contexts.
- The Twoson Sewers is edited from the original game's Fourside Sewers.
- Winters is given darker palettes to represent the absolute hellhole it's become.
- Rule of Funny: Also in typical EarthBound fashion and then some.
- Black Comedy: Even as the tone goes pitch dark, the dialogue is eagerly sprinkled with morbid quips.
- Scary Scorpions: The Brain Buster appears as one in the overworld, starts battles with a power shield and can immobilize party members with rotten bile. Its physical attack can tear into a party member for high damage.
- Shock and Awe: Phaze Destrotur can use Lightning-alpha and devastating thunderbolt Eye Beams.
- Shaped Like Itself: Orange Kid's tangerine "costume" for Halloween, which one of the girls in Twoson swoons over. The girl next to her calls Apple Kid's tomato costume "unoriginal".
- Skippable Boss: You can actually run from the fight against NO NO NO since it's technically not a boss, as subtly indicated by the Fight Woosh; the plot progresses the same regardless of what you do.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Several regular enemies have strange or disturbing music for their battle themes, while two of the bosses (Dearkhart and Phaze Destrotur) have an unusually upbeat custom battle theme.
- Spoiler Fan Title: Pressing the B Button at a critical point is what allows the player to see the rest of the game.
- Stripperiffic: The Sexy Sisters are performers who use the sprites of blonde beachgoing women. One of the people in front of the Chaos Theater states they're a fan of the duo, despite mistaking the lounging Sexy Sisters nearby for "wannabe beauties".
- Swallowed Whole: One attack used by Remnants and Phaze Destrotur attempts to grab you and shove you into its gaping maw. Your guess as to where the mouth on the Remnants came from...
- Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Whiteshock, Sleepstun and Timestop. The first is most effective on undead enemies, the second works best on living enemies, and the third works well against non-living objects.
- Take a Third Option: The only way to truly beat the game. Press the B button when presented with the choice to kill Dr. Andonuts.
- Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness: The Stench Elemental can replicate the brightness and solidifying effect of the teeth-brushing attack used by New Age Retro Hippies... using a pair of dirty socks.
- Useless Item: The key to the sewers, since entering them can give you dialgoue that the manhole was left unlocked anyway.
- Useless Useful Spell: Averted. Whiteshock, Sleepstun and Timeshock are far more useful than their EarthBound counterparts. Figuring out what they work on, however...
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Desperate Survivors are bloodied and weeping men that appear as sprite-edited palette swaps of the Annoying Old Party Man. They will always run from you in the overworld, and should you chase them down to fight, they rarely attack and instead apologize repeatedly or else cough and wheeze pitifully; even when they do attack, it only does Scratch Damage, and their death message has them say "sorry" one last time... The only possible benefit from fighting them outside of the meager experience is the guaranteed Last Ration drop (which can restore roughly 40 HP), and while Word of God discourages fighting them, there is no real punishment beyond feeling like a massive prick.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Of all things, Phaze Destrotur can lose upwards of ~100 HP to each use of Jeff's HP-sucker.
- Welsh Mythology: Where the sword "Caledfwlch" originates from. Most people may know it better as "Excalibur".
- Wham! Episode: Once you open the door inside the Twoson Sewers, the hack drops its facade completely.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Dr. Andonuts.
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Occurs a few times in a donwplayed form.
- Remember Me? and NO NO NO can inflict minor damage by becoming "a little hard to think about again".
- The Giegue League has a single-target status attack that poisons a party member, with no text describing the attack.
- Zero Effort Boss: The Id, the first phase of the Final Boss just soaks up damage while... sitting there, being a personification of the pathetic wretch the doctor was reduced to.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Winters is ground zero for one.
- Of Ramblin' Evil Shrooms and Black/Red Antoids
- swaps of Putrid Moldy Man and Frankystein Mark II respectively
- PSI Flash
- PSI Hypnosis
- PSI Paralysis