Downfall (2016): Exploring Labyrinth

Downfall is an adventure horror game developed by Rem Michalski. It was made in 2009 before it got a remake, which was released in 2016. It shares the same universe as the one in The Cat Lady as it was also developed by Michalski.


In Downfall, we play as Joe Davis, who organized a romantic getaway for himself and his wife, Ivy Davis, but found out their vacation turned out for the worse when his wife was kidnapped. Now, he sets out his mission to rescue his wife while facing an insane world trapped in Quiet Haven hotel.

Several characters signify important indications of the psyche and characterizations of both Joe and Ivy Davis. The setting of the place, Quiet Haven, also reflects the mental state of Joe Davis.

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Beginning with Ivy Davis, blatant and subtle references support the notion that Ivy Davis suffers from an eating disorder. Ivy Davis is heavily related, not familial, to Sophie Cheauvair. Sophie is said to be the personification of Ivy Davis’s eating disorder. As Ivy Davis was kidnapped by a woman named Sophie Cheauvair, we could see that this kidnapping would mean that her eating disorder “took her away” from Joe Davis.

As there are four memories of Sophie that appear throughout the game, they represent different facets of Ivy’s eating disorder.

  1. Young Sophie – Young Sophie is first encounter in a room full of mirrors but none contain her reflection and is the only sane incarnation. Her face obscured by a mask, she could be said to personify inception of Ivy’s eating disorder, shame, and inability to face herself. Screen Shot 2016-09-10 at 10.47.09 PM.png
  2. Teenage Sophie – This Sophie is encountered at her 18th birthday party and is shown crying over her rejection from her crush, Harrison. Harrison in particular dismisses Sophie on the account of his false perception of Sophie’s weight, which was too fat for him without getting wasted to consider her.  As Harrison could be reflection of society’s high and sometimes distorted standards for women’s appearance, teenage Sophie personifies Ivy’s low self-esteem from failing to confirm society’s high expectations. Screen Shot 2016-09-10 at 10.52.39 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-09-10 at 11.02.06 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-09-10 at 11.03.36 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-09-10 at 11.04.59 PM.png
  3. Fat Sophie – Along with other dead Sophies in the bathroom, fat Sophie is found with her stomach cut open with innards showing. Dead bodies of Sophie killed in various methods could be seen as Ivy’s self harm and self destruction. fat-sophies-censored
  4. Inhuman Sophie – Found in illusion of Joe and Ivy’s dream house, she is unable to be interacted with unlike the other three memories of Sophies. Inhuman Sophie is the monster Ivy sees herself in viewing herself in the mirror.Screen Shot 2016-09-10 at 11.06.50 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-09-10 at 11.07.34 PM.pnginhuman-sophie-censored

Another character central to Ivy’s characterization would be Agnes, a plucky woman who accompanies Joe Davis in his journey to defect Sophie and find Ivy. Agnes is a persona of Ivy’s innocent nature and positive qualities as she was created from Joe Davis’s fond memories of Ivy in the past.

Agnes is portrayed to counterbalance Joe’s brooding, serious nature and provides moral compass to Joe in times of need. Her innocent nature is emphasized by her name and appearance as evident in that Agnes means pure and holy while her wedding dress traditionally symbolizes a bride’s purity. We even see that Agnes’s reflection is that of Ivy and that Joe concluded in the ending that Agnes is “the part of Ivy he fell in love with”. It is suggested that Agnes’s wedding dress is actually Ivy’s from Joe and Ivy’s wedding.

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One significant clue of Agnes about Ivy lies in Agnes’s trip to the Queen of the Maggots realm. We see that in The Cat Lady, only those who encounter death will meet the Queen of the Maggots. Not only does Agnes freely enters and exits Queen of the Maggot’s realm, but it is suggest that Ivy is dead in the game. Supporting this, we are treated with the depiction of Ivy as a decaying corpse in the normal ending of the game, suggesting that Ivy has been dead for a while.

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Regarding Joe, it is confirmed he too suffers from a mental affliction, possibly schizophrenia. In fact, we see at the end that Quiet Haven hotel doesn’t exist except in perceptions in Joe’s mind and that he was in Helen Road apartments all along. Additionally, several characters such as Doctor Z, Agnes, Sophie, and the Manageress don’t exist in the real world.

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The doctor and the manageress both personify Joe’ desires. Doctor Z would be Joe’s determination in reviving Ivy’s long dead happy go lucky characteristics, represented by Agnes, from the past to the present. Devoted to his wife, Joe would do anything, including the impossible, to save her even while he is hurting her. In the game, Doctor Z is working on reviving a dead woman, who is revealed to be Agnes.

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The manageress is a seductive and manipulative character, frequently luring Joe away from his main objective in rescuing Ivy. As such, manageress could be said to symbolize Joe’s temptations. Ivy’s eating disorder would definitely negatively impacted relationship between Joe and Ivy Davis. While he loves his wife, he is tempted to escape his wife’s problems by running off with someone who would far more pleasing to his sexual needs and to escape the stress with dealing with a wife with body image issues.

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manageress censored.pngAnother item to note that not only Joe has schizophrenia, he is also the axeman who is a recurring character in Downfall hunting both Joe and Agnes. Unaware of this alternate persona, Joe murdered several Helen Road residents under this persona in belief that he is killing Sophies to save his wife.

Before the blatant reveal that the axeman and Joe are the same, hints were given in the game that Joe isn’t innocent as initially as he was portrayed to be.

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As meetings with the Queen of the Maggots are restricted to those who have encountered death, Joe encountered death essentially from his earlier murders. Queen of the Maggots mentions Joe entering her realm and developing a taste for her blood soup, signifying his increase bloodlust. By the time he is down to his last Sophie victim, indeed, he was consumed with bloodlust in brutally murdering her. Furthermore, a scene showing the axeman taking off his mask, only to reveal it’s Joe confirms the fact.

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Joe, however, is oblivious to the fact he and the axeman are one and the same. When confronted by Queen of Maggots referring him as the sixth parasite, Joe remarks he has no idea what she’s talking about. Observing the mirrors in the game, Joe never sees his own reflection in them. Mirrors, symbolizing the truth and reflection of one’s true self, were avoided by Joe, indicating his ignorance of himself and confronting the truth. Screen Shot 2016-09-10 at 11.25.22 PM.png

Overall, the game takes the player through Joe’s downfall as he loses touch with reality and his humanity in coping with Ivy’s problems and death.

 

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