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Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne

  Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne  
First appearance: 3x20Owned by: Cornelius HawthorneUsed by: The study group, Gilbert Lawson
Purpose: Video game— Made by: Hawthorne Gaming Technologies   PHOTO ICON


This game is more complex than you can imagine.
Gilbert Lawson, "Digital Estate Planning".

Castle Hawkthorne.
Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne™was a video game created by Cornelius Hawthorne. The multi-player game had been commissioned before Cornelius’ death to provide a challenge for Pierce, and seven of his friends, to overcome in order to win his inheritance. The study group joined forces with Pierce to conquer the game and dealt with not only with a malevolent avatar of Cornelius but also a surprise competing player who had legitimate claims to the Hawthorne fortune. The game's first appearance was in the Season Three episode "Digital Estate Planning".


Some time after his father Cornelius Hawthorne's death, Pierce received a cryptic message from his dad's personal assistant and executor of his estate Gilbert Lawson. He was asked to bring seven of his closest friends to Hawthorne Industries to deal with the matter of his inheritance. Pierce brought the study group and was told by Lawson that if he wanted his money he and his friends would have to win a video game designed by his father. The group agreed and after they logged into 7 of the 8 gaming interface booths were given custom avatars to use. After acclimating to the virtual environment, they were officially welcomed to the game by the avatar of Cornelius Hawthorne. The digitized host belittled his son and encouraged the study group to individually compete for the prize.

A Cornelius avatar welcomes the study group
A Cornelius avatar welcomes the study group.
The group assures Pierce that they won't do as the avatar suggests and that they will assist him in winning the game. Another avatar then appears, controlled by Gilbert, who had logged into the game via the vacant eighth booth. He attacks the group killing them all and sending them back to the start of the game. During one of the confrontations he admits the personal stake he has in winning the inheritance himself as he is the illegitimate son of a union between Cornelius and Pierce's old nanny's hot cousin. He uses his advanced knowledge of the game to beat the study group and Pierce to the final stage. It's there that he encounters the avatar of Cornelius. The program identifies Gilbert and offers him the inheritance only if he signs a legal document that ensures he will never reveal his true relationship to Cornelius.

Prize fine print
Gilbert learns that the prize has conditions.
Gilbert rejects the offer, which causes the avatar to attack him. He is saved by the timely arrival of the study group and their new allies. The Cornelius avatar upgrades the challenge and transforms into a giant to deal with them. The alliance manages to weaken him with powerful new weapons they acquired, but the avatar is still strong enough to eliminate most of them. Pierce then arrives riding on top of a large bomb and engages in a suicide run that destroys the body of the avatar. With only the head remaining, the Cornelius avatar acknowledges he has been defeated. Pierce and the study group agree to forfeit the game and allow Gilbert to claim the reward, feeling that he earned it for all the years he had to put up with the real Cornelius.

Pierce deals the avatar a fatal blow
Pierce deals the avatar a fatal blow.


Back in the early 1980's, Pierce advised his father that he shift his company's focus from moist towelettes to the burgeoning video game industry that was just starting up. Cornelius refused, but to spite his son and rub it in how wrong he was to suggest such a thing, decided to secretly create a video game just for him and put Pierce's inheritance on the line. It's assumed Cornelius entrusted his personal assistant Gilbert Lawson to oversee this assignment as he bragged about being privy to the secrets of the game. Chinese programmers labored on the game for thirty years, and when it was completed, he had them deported back to their homeland. Lawson was to serve as overseer of the game while Pierce and his friends played but instead joined in and used his beta testing knowledge to give him an advantage over the other participants.

Gilbert's cheat code.



The seven chosen ones: Pierce, Jeff, Annie, Troy, Britta, Abed and Shirley

A group of warriors are summoned to the kingdom of Hawkthorne™ to take on a quest to recover the fabled "White Diamond of Discipline"™ found in the depths of the dark pit of despair known as The Black Cave™. They can choose to cooperate in this mission or go at it alone but in the end only one of them will be able to claim the ultimate prize: the throne of Hawkthorne™. However, before they can be named the new ruler of the land, a final challenge must be overcome, a ghostly echo of a fearsome opponent whose wrath reaches from beyond the grave...


The game can only be played by eight participants. A linear quest is given to the players and an overworld map displays the various levels and locations which must be cleared to progress. The gameplay itself is a mixture of 2D side scrolling and RPG elements with a deep customization system installed. Players are able to create powerful personalized tools and weapons from various items they collect. A promotion system allows players to develop and upgrade their character's powers and abilities. Maxing out certain achievements allows players access to further customization tools including creating new audio files or even the making of entirely new NPC characters. Players are seemingly given an infinite amount of lives to complete the quest but are sent back to the start of the game stripped of any equipment or items earned if their life points reach zero.

Presentation 2
Mode 7 and blast processing features.
Presentation: The game is presented in a side scrolling format with an 8-bit graphic style in keeping with the games released around the time the developers started programming it thirty years ago. A super deformed look is used for both main and background characters giving the game a cartoonish feel. The palette is not as limited as 8-bit as seen by the bright quality and richness of colors to be found in the game. A graphics mode similar to the Super Nintendo's Mode 7 is also present. Audio is high quality with lots of dialogue having been recorded for the game.

State of the art interactivity.
Hardware: The game is played inside 8 booths containing interlinked PC consoles. A camera attachment snaps a photo of the players which is scanned to create custom avatars based on their likenesses. Headsets are provided for players to communicate with one another and the avatars mouth movements synch when the players speak. An arcade stick and keyboard are given for controlling the avatar and typing specific commands. Weight sensors in the chairs monitor if the players leave before the game's completion; leaving for longer than thirty seconds results in an automatic forfeit.

Smooth game play.
Controls: Avatar movements include the usual running, jumping, ducking, sliding and even digging. Combat is a combination of the platforming staple of jumping onto the heads of opponents and hacking and slashing enemies armed or using standard punches and kicks. Projectile attacks with weapons or magic are also an option. Item drops occur when enemies are defeated leaving either coins or rare items. These can be used to further enhance fighting ability with customized or purchased weapons. Magic and potion making skills are also available as well to augment characters strength and defense although a high rank and skill level is needed to use these abilities effectively.

Locations in the game[]

Characters in the game[]

The Players[]

Non Player Character[]



The graphics are evocative of 8 bit classics from various late 80's/early 90's home video game franchises with the Super Mario Brothers and Zelda franchises being the most obvious influences on the game.

Video game references

"Zelda II: The Adventure of Link" - Debut: {{{first}}}
Zelda ii the adventure of link cover front 2

The gameplay is reminiscent of this side scrolling action RPG. This game saw the introduction of a few firsts that later became staples of the franchise including use of NPC characters, and particularly the advanced combat controls (ducking, jumping and blocking).
"Super Mario Brothers" - Debut: {{{first}}}
Super mario brothers

The running and jumping abilities of the characters along with the multi-level stage designs were nods to this classic platforming game.
"Mega Man" - Debut: {{{first}}}
Megaman nes pal

Jeff's avatar mimics the stance, jumping movements, and slide ability of the Capcom hero. In addition, the teleportation special effect used in the game is exactly the same kind used in Mega Man.
"Ghouls and Goblins" - Debut: {{{first}}}
Ghouls and Ghosts sales flyer

The basic weapon of the hero of this game is a torch. Annie set the Blacksmith on fire with a torch and Britta use torches as her main attack in the Black Cavern.
"Final Fantasy" - Debut: {{{first}}}
FF1 USA boxart

The look of the deformed characters are reminiscent of the design found in this long running RG franchise.
"TMNT: Turtles in Time" - Debut: {{{first}}}

The opening sequence with the characters being teleported to the land of Hawkthorne is similar to the sequence in this Konami game where the Turtles are traveling through a time warp.
"Dig Dug" - Debut: {{{first}}}
Dig Dug Flyer

The digging ability of the characters is based on this arcade classic.

Hilda's menu screen[]

Tumblr m49k48Vmi01qgws0uo1 500

Hilda has a menu screen with information on the game containing allusions to various classic video games:

"Super Mario Brothers" - Debut: {{{first}}}
Super mario brothers

A list of the ways to skip zones is shown; the star zone refers to bonus levels:
hidden pipe, magic flute, subcon vase, Warp Whistle, star zone.
"Super Mario 2" - Debut: {{{first}}}
Super Mario Bros 2

A list of all the transports used in the game:
magic carpet, rocket ship, albatross, ladder bug.
"Donkey Kong Country" - Debut: {{{first}}}
Dkc snes boxart

A list of all the animal buddies used by the hero of the game.

frog extinction="Winky the Frog"
ostrich = "Expresso the Ostrich"
other parrot = "Parry the Parallel Bird"
anglerfish ="Glimmer the Anglerfish"
spider = "Squitter the Spider"
snake = "Rattly the Rattlesnake"
parrot = "Sqawks the Parrot
swordfish = "Enguarde the Swordfish"
rhino= "Rambi the Rhinoceros"

"Battletoads" - Debut: {{{first}}}
Battletoads Coverart

Characters from the Tradewest game are listed: rashes = Rash, zits = Zitz, pimples = Pimple, dark queen = Dark Queen
"Myst" - Debut: {{{first}}}

The different ages in the PC game are listed:
mechanical =Mechanical Age, Stoneship =Stoneship Age, channel wood = Channelwood Age, space ship = Selentic Age
"Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue" - Debut: {{{first}}}

This is how you encounter the glitch Pokemon Missingno in the game: old man trainer (The Pokemon catching tutorial in Viridian City), fly on a bird (Use Fly), cinnamon island (Cinnabar Island), seal along the shore (The Surf sprite looks like Seal. Use it along the shore of Cinnabar Island)
"Little Samson" - Debut: {{{first}}}
Little Sampson

A list of attacks from the hero of this 1992 Taito game: bell toss, charged fireball, time bombs, rock punch.
Information from the Dear Science Tumblr


Fanmade "Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne[]

In 2012 a Community fan known as Deferman on the social media news site Reddit created the foundations of a real life version of "Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne". It was crowd sourced and further developed by volunteers whose goal was to faithfully recreate the look and feel of the game. After several years a completed version was uploaded in June of 2015. The official site for the game along with a download of the latest version can be found here. The Reddit discussion and development forum for the game can be found here. Derferman also created the "missing" end tag that Harmon originally planned for "Digital Estate Planning" which can be downloaded here.

External references[]

  1. Dear Science blog, a list of Hilda's video game references
  2. A Community driven game (article on creation of the fanmade video game version of "Journey to the Center of Hawthorne
  3. Reddit gives Community game a new life
  4. Download fanmade version