Created by Tim Schafer, known for his work on titles like "Monkey Island" and "Grim Fandango," the 2005 game Psychonauts was never a bestseller. When it was released on Playstation 2 and Xbox it sold so poorly that it's publisher, Majesco Entertainment, still refuses to work with Double Fine (the game's developer) to this day. Fortunately, the game would later be validated through digital sales on websites like Steam and GoG.
The game centered around a spirited young scamp named Razputin, a rather ominous name considering his family suffered from a vengeful gypsy curse that left them all destined to die in water. Razputin, nicknamed "Raz" had latent psychic abilities he was forbidden to use by his strict father, who Raz believed hated psychics. The game began with Raz sneaking out of his father's circus away to a secret summer camp for young psychics.
Despite containing occasional hints of macabre elements, Psychonauts was a light-hearted, comedic game with a very upbeat tone. The game, in tone and presentation, Psychonauts felt much like a Saturday morning cartoon. One that wouldn't feel out of place sandwiched between reruns of Hey Arnold and Angry Beavers. Which is what makes this particular Easter Egg, found in the game's third level, so much more unnerving.
The sequence regards one of the game's main characters, camp consular and elite Psychonaut agent Milla Vodello. In the game, Milla is portrayed as a very friendly, giddy, spirited (and slightly air-headed) woman who has an affinity for partying. She seems to be very nurturing. She is very protective of the children she watches over and often refers to the main character (and several other children) as "darling." During her level, Raz travels into her mind, which as a Psychonaut she has complete control over. Her brain resembles a giant party, with tons of bright colors, flashing lights, funky music and dancing patrons. Even the enemies are in a partying mood, dressing in fancy party hats. It's in this level the player learns to use the levitation ball. There is a sequence when the player first learns how to use it to slow a fall or travel upward during an updraft.
However, if the player goes off-course during this level, they can travel to a secret room hidden away from public view. This room is rather well hidden, and the player can go the entire game without finding it, never knowing it's there. But should the player find it, Milla will implore them not to go in it. "This room is no fun, Darling! Come on, let's go." "Now why would you want to go in there? The party's out here, Darling!" "If you're looking for the makeout room, you came to the wrong place."
Should the player not heed her words and press forward, they'll find a "mental vault." Now, in the game "Mental Vaults" are literal vaults hidden within character's minds. When opened, the player is treated to a slideshow of the character's hidden, repressed or unpleasant memories. The other mental vault in Milla's level show some of her adventures as a Psychonaut, and for the most part is completely harmless and unassuming.
This mental vault, however, is a little more revealing. It shows Milla's previous occupation before becoming a Psychonaut. Before she was a secret agent, Vodello was a caretaker at a small orphanage. The first slide is her reading a book to several small children before they go to sleep. She is dressed in rather humble clothing, much like a nurse or an orderly. A stark contrast to the flamboyant and vibrant clothing she usually wears.
The second slide is equally mundane. It shows Milla spooning out food to several small children. If the player looks closely, they can see one of the children's crayon drawings on the wall. Despite performing rather droll and burdensome work, Milla seems to be happy. Her bond with the children so strong she doesn't at all seem to mind even the more tedious busywork involved with taking care of them.
The third slide shows Milla playing piano and singing with the children, another caretaker stands in the background, singing along. Overall, the first few slides paint a vivid picture of Milla's old life. Her nurturing nature towards Raz and the other children begins to make more sense. She is overall shown to be a loving, happy and joyful caretaker to these children.
In the next slide, things take a turn for the worst. Milla is shown coming home from the grocery store with bags of perishables in her hands. To her horror, the orphanage has caught fire. The children all inside. The unthinkable has happened, in the short time she left, her children have all died.
The final slide is the most disturbing. It shows Milla grabbing her head in horror as the faces of all the children surround her, screaming in horror. Some have suggested that this slide merely represents her guilt and grief after the deaths of the children she cared for. However, a much more upsetting interpretation has been suggested. In the game, Milla Vodello has psychic powers, her greatest skill being levitation. Psychonauts also have the ability to read minds. It's been suggested that this slide shows Milla's psychic abilities manifesting for the first time, and that she is hearing the dying thoughts of the children as they writhe in agony, screaming as they burn to death.
Disturbingly, the terrifying revelation doesn't end there. If the player continues exploring, they'll find a large box that looks like a toy chest. Hitting the box will cause it to open, the insides will glow an ominous red. Jumping inside the box will take the player into a hellish secret room, where giant worms (the games representation of nightmares) writhe behind metal bars, screaming the children's dying words: "It Burns!" "Why didn't you save us, Milla?" "Milla, where are you?"
By digging into the game's files, the players have also found many bits of cut dialogue, suggesting that these terrifying sights were once part of a larger sequence. The cut lines contain Milla screaming and crying as the children burn to death inside the orphanage.
- "Hey, what's that smoke over the village?"
- "Ahh! The orphanage! It's on fire!"
- "Oh, no!"
- "The children! Some one save the children!"
- "Please! Some one help!"
- "Oh god no!"
- "The babies!"
- "I can hear them!"
- "Can't you hear them?!"
- "They're screaming!"
- "They're frightened!"
- "Don't cry, my darlings!"
- "Please stop crying!"
The last few audio clips are simply Milla crying in agony.
The scariest part?
It's All True