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The Notorious "Chapter Four" (spoilers, obviously)

There has been a lot of talk about Chapter Four of Leo & Leah: A Love Story, and I thought I would pitch in with some of my thoughts while I was making it. Obviously, Chapter Four is a major turning point in the game and those who have not played it yet or arrived at that part yet should note that there will be HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD!

These were simply my thoughts during making Chapter Four and do not necessarily serve as the "ideal definition" of it.

Chapter Four begins as Leo is done scouring the Coast. Up until this point, the game had been mostly upbeat, with musical choices and atmosphere to follow suit. Up until this point, I had been basically mimicking a bit of Conker's Bad Fur Day, juxtaposing bright colours and environments to faux-emotional scenes and sudden gory violence. While most NPC's, and even bosses, appear harmless, there is still one credible threat that looms: shotgun-wielding trigger-happy Brandy and her pet, Whiskey. She is the only unfunny thing in the game so far. She is the "party pooper", a tornado destroying anything that comes across her path, including two bosses the player would have just fought and a secondary character.

Brandy is the element I used to keep the player on their toes, keeping them guessing about how much more bloodshed there will be to come. And what the end-fate of such a nefarious character will be. The appearance of Brandy and her leitmotif usually signals moments before the "End of Chapter" screen pops up. And usually, when you hear this, you know someone is going to get shot.

I placed scenes between each chapter as a sort of "lead in" (or "cold open", if you wish) to the upcoming one. For example, between Chapters One and Two, Leo examines the Communes. Between Chapters Two and Three, Leo has a dream about Leah running through a field of snow and he is unable to catch up with her, which leads to him waking up in the Croaker's Chateau with the injured ram. Between Three and Four, he searches the Coast for Leah after she is washed away by the flood. She is nowhere to be found. The only things to be found are some hermit crabs, frogs lamenting the loss of their home and leader, a band of pirates lamenting the loss of their ship (guess who?!) and Brandy scolding and firing her gun at a man named Skarsgaard (guess from which game?!).

The music this time is wistful. No real rhythm. And it's also night-time. (I don't know if anyone has noticed, but the game's story itself lasts a total of 2 days.) After the gunfire, Brandy storms off with Whiskey. Leo waits a little and then follows her. The title screen flashes: "CHAPTER FOUR: ABANDON SHIP!"

It's suddenly raining and Leo finds himself aboard a ship said to be haunted. The ship itself is referred to as the "Marooned Matey" in the location marker. For those who have played at least half of A Home Far Away, they would remember Cap'n Grizzlybeard and his ship, the "Mighty Matey" and they would remember it being wrecked. This is the same wreckage washed ashore. The reason I picked to set Chapter Four aboard this location wasn't to have a cheap tie-in to A Home Far Away, but as a symbolic reference of a rotting corpse. A shell. Something that has died but refuses to dissolve. Those who have experienced the "Mighty Matey" would probably feel the full brunt of this, as the Mighty Matey was a rather light-hearted, cheery place. Easy life on the sea with quirky (stereotypical) pirate talk and a quirky Captain. Now, it's been reduced to collapsing floors, wandering ghosts who refuse to leave, and apparently housing a bizarre entity known as "The Void". This corpse of a ship is what I wanted to represent what is happening to the titular couple.



A once happy place...


The first things I wanted to do in Chapter Four was simply "fuck everything up". No more upbeat music. No more battle music. No more victory music. The signs that were once helpful tell you to go home, give up and that Leah is dead. These signs are not talking to Leo this time. They are talking to you, the player, even referring to you by your name. This is where I wanted players to realise that this game is no longer going to be what they thought it was going to be. This was my April Fool's Joke. Visions of characters, even dead ones, appear randomly to taunt Leo. Most notable is the vision of Zara and the vision of the head of Sssssslither, the liver-eating mini-boss in Croaker's Grotto.



Your aim in the ship is to collect five scattered Pearls for a ghost named Brooksy Bergen. She then proceeds to give Leo an item called the "Fading Smile" and tells Leo to wear it whenever he is afraid and nothing will ever get to him. While the item can be used to avoid enemies, this item is vital, as Leo cannot proceed to the Void without it. The pathway to the Void is blocked by a giant eye that knocks Leo backwards. Is it knocking him back, or is he running away? Is he too scared? Why can he enter when he is only wearing the mask?

So, what is The Void exactly? Is it a dream world? Is it a real place? My real intention was that it is a collaboration of the nightmares of every individual that has somehow passed through it. It absorbs the nightmares of its visitors. The Void is actually partially based on Tanetane Island from Mother 3, where Lucas goes on that weird mushroom-induced trip and sees members of his family wandering around and saying some really bizarre shit!



When Leo first approaches the Void, it is said he is seeing himself staring back out. When he enters, he finds himself swimming in unfamiliar waters with rain pouring down on him. As he swims up, he sees himself staring back. He hasn't entered the Void yet. He is simply outside of the pirate ship, in the rain. He only enters the Void when he collides with himself. Everything goes red. He is suddenly surrounded by white swans. He wants no interaction with the white swans. The one he has to talk to is the black swan. The dark side of himself. Maybe he needs to unlock or access a certain part of himself he hasn't before. This is what the scene looks like:



He is convincing himself that everything will be okay in the end, no matter what. Why is he suddenly seeing red? Is he angry? Remember when Zara was seeing red upon discovering Zinn's wedding? Is this a similar emotion Leo is feeling? He is then transported to my personal favourite moment in the game: the Pink Tree. I admit, this part is partially inspired by catmitts' Blood Caverns (if I remember correctly) from Space Funeral. During this part, Leah scampers around a pink tree. I don't know if anyone really noticed, but there's a lot of "pink" and "orange" symbols I placed throughout the game. For example, yellow/orange and pink flowers aligned. Only pink and orange butterflies exist and flutter together in this world.



But here we just have a lone pink tree sitting in the snow. No orange whatsoever.



The above screenshot shows why I made Leo a silent protagonist. You don't really realise he has any real despair or sadness until this point, where it is actually said. Before this point, he was mimicking any videogame hero who has to "rescue the princess". All you needed to know about him and his mission before was located in the lyrics of Shelly Duvalle's "He Needs Me" (Until the day I die / I wonder why / I knew he needed me!) But now he sees her and he is sad. We can only surmise what is going through his head as this apparition scampers faster and faster, her monologue getting more and more insane as she does, reaching to the topic of cannibalism. In the background, the voices of two people mumble about "hitting bottom". Has Leo hit bottom?

The apparition soon disappears and turns into a pink butterfly, which follows him for the rest of the chapter. What could this butterfly represent? And why does it follow him, lingering as close to him as possible? A path clears and he is now revisiting part of his dream in the "cold opening" of Chapter Three. But this time, it's populated with characters he's once met. And they all curse at him, speak gibberish or narrate how he is feeling. One even tells him that he will die early if he continues yearning like this. The music is despondent and a heartbeat is heard. As the heart rate increases, characters begin to express their pain and regret. Are they mirroring Leo's thoughts? Then finally, he encounters clones of himself, saying "Supper's ready". What does this mean?


Make of this, what you wish...

The next section is the "field of nothingness". An open area populated with signs that speak of regret and loss. Here he even encounters the sign that faded out of existence. What does that say about the Void? Is this where dreams go to die? But then unexpectedly, he comes across this sign:



The significance of this sign relates to the other signs reading the same thing. They appear twice before this moment. The first time is in the prison cell in the Chateau, where Leah was held with Leo before she was taken away. He was asleep the entire time, but to let him know that she was there, she scratched "Leo & Leah, forever" unto the sign. She does this a number of times for the rest of the game to let Leo know that she is safe. The second time he sees this marking is on the Coast, when he is looking for her. It appears several times after Chapter Four.

And now he sees it again. Maybe she is safe, he might be thinking. But then again, this is the Void. And it could be a mean trick. The following area is filled with Yummyhops, now scared of Leo. This, coupled with the Yummyhop that suddenly retaliates on the ship, stops Leo from automatically eating Yummyhops for the rest of the game. Instead, a Yes/No prompt pops up.



After this section, he encounters a clown who proclaims himself as the "keeper" of the Void. He calls himself Harly Quinn and he seems very impressed by Leo's ability to make his way through the Void. A creature like that must have "the heart of a lion", so to speak. And he wants to know what love and dreams like that taste like. The area where Harly Quinn is found is similar to the Pink Tree area. In fact, it is the Pink Tree area. Leo has just made a complete circle around the Void with the pink butterfly still tagging along. Has he come "full circle"?

After Harly's speech, the pink butterfly morphs into Leah and a fight ensues. Daisy is banished and he has to fight her alone. Before this occurs, a message pops up stating "This is between you and me ALONE." But who is saying this? Could this be Leo's only words in the game? Or are they Illusion Leah's? Who exactly banishes Daisy from the fight? While she fights, she begs him not to hurt her and weeps. But Leo still destroys this version of her. He knows his Leah too well to be fooled by a mirage.



Harly Quinn then disappears, leaving his balloon behind. A splash is then seen, disappearing into thin air as Leo vanishes. He has left the Void and re-entered the waters outside of the pirate ship. Harly Quinn, by the way, is a major secondary character in A Home Far Away.



The "cold open" before Chapter Five shows him washed up on an island with a dog and its owner. The dog reiterates what the black swan said about "everything will be okay, even if you die". The dog staying with his owner even at his owner's worst times is a microcosm of Leo's journey. Note what Harly said: "You are the kind of creature who will keep searching even if you know she is dead." The dog and owner may die on the island but at least they won't die alone. At least they won't have to search for each other. After bouts of bad luck (Zara getting shot, getting frog-napped, the flood, Brandy showing up), Leo suddenly finds "the universe conspiring with him". The music is upbeat once again and some of the humour returns.

Incredible good luck follows, almost like deus ex machinas. The monkey's toy boat. The two birds atop the hill. And Brandy being unusually perturbed, and perhaps distracted, towards the end of Chapter Five. Maybe Leo has grown and has become stronger. Maybe he has faced his nightmares and now there is nothing left to stop him. He will persevere through anything. And he knows if he tries his best, with love, everything will be okay, even if he dies.

Posts

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It's amazing that you put so much thought into all of that.

I hadn't considered there was so much symbolism.

I guess a lot of it still has some degree of effect on some unconscious level. But I guess most of it should go completely unnoticed by most people (like the thing with pink, the supper lines, etc.). Still, it FEELS like there's meaning behind stuff often. And I'm glad there is, even though I didn't quite "get" most of it. I guess it's different from, for instance, Space Funeral, in which I had the same feeling, but I'd say there was more randomness in the content.

I have to say, I wasn't completely satisfied with the Void, though. The game hypes it a lot. The mood created around it is indeed interesting. And yeah, I liked that there was such "creepy moment" in the game. I mean, I liked this chapter, a lot. But I felt the Void bit was somewhat... empty. I mean, there were some strange stuff. But none of it was really scary. It was a little intriguing, but I wouldn't say deep. I couldn't feel anything other than "weird". I didn't feel like I was facing my (or Leo's) ghosts. And I definitely didn't feel like "it is a collaboration of the nightmares of every individual that has somehow passed through it", which is a great concept, but I wasn't able to perceive it.

But... welp.

Question: how much of that symbolism did you expect players to notice, or at least try to interpret?
I didn't plan for anyone to notice much of it, honestly, or even try to interpret any of it beyond the dialogue. But yeah, I wanted there to still be meaning behind everything placed in Chapter Four. I wasn't feeling to be random, and I had a reason for placing everything (well, almost) in Leo & Leah. I can understand someone not being affected by the Void. I guess the effect I was going for wasn't really what was in the Void itself, but just the fact that the Void exists in a game like this. Maybe I could've made it more "disturbing"... but meh.
Thank you so much for this Sluv! I can finally finish Chapter four now! (I couldn't find the opening to the "void" before)
Huh, interesting. I didn't notice all of that. Great callbacks with the liver-eating monster and whatnot. Interesting note about the Illusion Leah fight, too; I always assumed it was the illusion who banished Daisy, but you bring up an interesting point.

I, personally, was very disturbed by the Void, so you succeeded at least a little there. :)

By the way, I'm surprised you didn't talk about some of the other ghosts; part of why I was disappointed at Leo's silent protagonist-ness was because I wanted to see his reaction to them. I do wonder if the apparition of Zara implies that he feels guilty over her death and wishes he could have done something to save her, which earns him good person points. I think that, perhaps, the reason he attacked Brandy at the end of chapter 2 was as much because she had just murdered an innocent squirrel as her capturing Leah. Of course, one could always have the interpretation that Leo's an amoral sociopath who doesn't care about anyone but Leah. I suppose that's one of the reasons for the silent protagonist-ness? So people could make their own interpretations?

Regardless, very interesting. I will probably link this to the TV Tropes page somewhere.
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