By Kieron Gillen on July 31st, 2009 at 11:40 am.
When the press release for Lies And Seduction – a free PC and (er) Macintosh PC game – arrived in RPS’ communal inbox, Alec noted dryly “For you, I suspect”. Sometimes, I’m so stereotyped it hurts. Just because a game’s a seduction-‘em-up loosely based on an modernised Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it’s filed in RPS’ pervert-in-residence’s “To Play” drawer? Unfair, I say, unf… okay, I’m playing it.
For a free game, it’s a pretty hefty thing, involving full 3D-cel-shaded graphics, multiple endings and people with previous credits (For example, Mike Pohjola who was involved with the Emmy-award winning “Sangen om Marika” and the Dollplay online-companion to Whedon’s Dollhouse. At which point you should be glad that Walker isn’t writing this post, as he’d have said something like “the indeterminably terrible Dollhouse” here and the comments thread would just be people saying that the last episodes were really good. Me? I’m just annoyed I didn’t bother going to the party at San Diego where Joss Whedon ended up drunkenly dancing).
You play Abby, who is challenged by her long-term sexual foil to seduce a famously virginal Christian Rock star on a four day cruise. To do so, you’re forced to use any and all of your whiles, seducing either of the two band-hangers on and using their secrets to leverage contact with the Rock Star. So, eaves-drop, wheedle out secrets (via conversation menus), get them drunk, impress them with your dancing or beat ‘em in poker. Or just let them – er – poke you. Which is illustrated, like so…
In other words, it’s a sexual game, but a relatively tasteful one. Like Les Liaisons… oh,fuck it. I’m calling it Dangerous Liaisons from now on in. Anyway, like Dangerous Liasons, it’s much more about the fucking people over than the fucking. Manipulating the older gent into buying you drinks which you then give to other people to get them drunk is a particular high point. Or getting him to give you gambling chips. Or… well, it’s an interesting marriage of actual mechanic-based play (the card games, the rhythm-action dancing, the eavesdropping by listening to conversations, the Sims-esque affections levels) and traditional adventure (the conversation trees, the “solutions” to “problems”).
Sadly, I found it mostly unsatisfactory. I suspect it’s actually due to lack of polish. Which is something of a shame. On one level, it’s one of the more attractive indie-games I’ve played in a while – the JPG compression on these grabs have reduced their sheer POP! appeal a little. The cel-shaded graphics make the most of the world, the cut-scene cartoon art is lovely and reducing all the other passengers on the ship to iconic-coloured shapes with ironic-Sims-esque speech is a fun way to cut to the essential cast. On the other, there’s a lot of times – at least for me – when I found myself in a broken chain in the dialogue, where selecting an option ends the conversation with no explanation. The dancing especially is a little rough, with the instructions disappearing before you even have a chance to read them. There’s also something awkward about how it mashes the two genres together, with trying to max-out the affection bar on some characters appearing a mix of repeated analogue-actions and more binary-adventure-elements. You’re occasionally left a little uncertain which route you should be pursuing, and I wonder if it’d be more successful going one way or another.
But it’s a really interesting experiment. I’d certainly like to see more, and for people interested in adventure games, there’s a lot to think about here. I think what saddened me most was that it didn’t actually do anything significant with your partner in crime who sent you on this particularly cruel errand, as a Dangerous Liasons without the blood-of-the-heart conclusion lacks its tragic core.
(Seriously, I love this. As Trainspotting is to heroin addiction, Dangerous Liasons is to philandering.)
That’s, I suspect, a matter of scale. This is a small game and that’d be a larger endeavour. But I think it’d be a larger endeavour worth pursuing.
The intrigued and the immoral can download Lies and Seductions here.