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The Self-Destruct Mechanism is active and the Hero needs to escape as quickly as possible. The Supervillain Lair is collapsing around him and he can't see for all the steam that seems to be venting into the main escape corridor. Somehow he manages to dash his way out of the crumbling hive of villainy and bursts out of the clouds of steam.
It's all very dramatic, but to be completely honest, no one would hire an architect that made vents dump steam into the main exit, especially when people are trying to escape. It just goes against any semblance of sanity or decent design.
A term coined by Iain Banks in his novel Dead Air. It refers to ludicrous hazards and difficulties that appear added solely for dramatic effect no matter how spurious or counterproductive.
- Alien displays this trope.
- Brave Fencer Musashi has lots of pipes seemingly designed to pump hot steam into areas where you need to be.
- In the intro level for Super Metroid, Samus needs to escape a space station, while avoiding gushes of steam coming out from practically everywhere. If you get hit by the steam, you lose precious time to escape.
- Happens again during the escape from planet Zebes, only the steam's escaping from the ground itself.
- Remnants of Skystone has steam vents as obstacles, despite their supposedly having been untended for nearly two hundred years, often acting just to make you schlep all the way around to try a particularly tricky threading-the-needle series of spikes and nasties.
- Often used in Sonic games. Might be a deliberate death trap... or robotnik doesn't maintain his lair properly.
- Truth in Television: During the righting of the Cougar Ace, the salvage team had to climb down part of the rear deck -- which was being periodically blasted by plumes of -110 degree carbon dioxide.