By Graham Smith on November 20th, 2013 at 5:00 pm.
Luxuria Superbia is by Tale of Tales, the duo behind The Path, The Graveyard and Bientôt l’été. Luxuria Superbia feels like a gentle departure for them. Yes, it takes players on a metaphorical journey, but it’s colourful, not maudlin. Yes, it has artistic ambition, but there’s a goal, a scoring mechanic, and more of the trappings of a traditional game.
It’s also set inside an infinite ladygarden. Here’s Wot I Think.
Superbia handling of its subject matter is in some ways coy, in other ways direct. Each of its levels is a flower into which the you are ceaselessly flying. The tunnel begins as a stark, ruffled white, but as you begin to stroke at its walls and touch its protruding buds, colour begins to bloom. To score points, you need to colour as much of the flower’s insides as possible without going too far and triggering an early end to your journey. Trigger the finish line after a certain point, and you’ll unlock the next flower to fly through.
As your journey deeper into the flower, words appear on screen in response to your touch: “Stick to my stigma”; “Yes, right there!”; “Take what you want from me”. It’s never exactly subtle, but this is the direct part, in case you were wondering.
While developing the game, Tale of Tales started a research blog where they collected evocative imagery. The site, which is still being updated now, contains images of flowers, of colour, of swooshing planets, of mandalas. Of anything they found that struck them as conveying sensuality.
These playful visual metaphors are represented in the levels of the game, each of which fills with a different colour and presents a different theme. Touching the sides on one journey might release tiny rocket ships, while another sky blue tunnel might be littered with fluffy clouds. It’s the brilliant colours that first attracted me to the game, and coupled with the responsive music, which is light, rhythmic and marked by female harmonies, it makes playing the game a meditative experience. As I played, gently twiddling the twin sticks of my 360 pad, I wanted to drift off to sleep.
Which is one of the reasons I have problems with the game, both as a game and as a metaphor.
I appreciate the intent. It’s a sex-positive game which depicts that experience as an act of giving. Its imagery is traditional, but not in the blue-lit movie-scene way that most games mimic. It’s playful. It’s feminine. It rewards you not for aggressive progress, but for patience.
As a game, there’s some strategy to it. It’s a Dyad-style arcade game in which you’re hitting the buds to fill the world with colour, and avoiding objects which, when touched, cause a strip to lose its colour partially or completely. As you attempt to ratchet up the points, you’ll learn to use the latter purposefully to stop the game from ending too soon.
Yet too often I found myself bored, yawning into the yawning abyss. When you’ve reached the stage of having unlocked the next level, there’s little incentive to keep going, other than perhaps pride. The further you reach, the more points you’ll score and the more you’ll fill level’s column back in the level-select garden. But you’ll understand the core mechanic within a couple of minutes, and once you’ve seen each level’s new sprites and heard its admittedly delightful music, the experience gets quickly boring.
Each level increases the number of strips you need to colour, but it’s not an interesting or challenging increase in complexity. The experience isn’t rich enough to compel you to keep going. By the end I was rubbing away, drearily going through the motions.
I don’t think there should be a set of levelling mechanics layered on top (‘Level Up! You have unlocked: Queefing’). It would likely only distract from the libidinal loveliness. It’s maybe even missing the point to think of this in terms of its longer-term appeal. It’s probably slightly more fun when played with a partner, and more sensorily satisfying when controlled with a touchscreen. As it is, on PC, it sets out to deliver a single message, and it does so with levity and good humour in five or ten minutes.
Should you buy it for yourself? Only as an act of support. Should you buy it for someone else in your life? Maybe. Should you appreciate that it exists? Definitely.
Luxuria Superbia is $7/£4.35 from the Tale of Tales website.