Have You Played… Tender Loving Care?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Oh good grief. Tender Loving Care was an FMV game from a couple of former Trilobyte developers, and last week was mysteriously released on Steam. And… wow. It’s… it’s weird.

Bad. Very, very bad. A horrible effort, in which your role is to link soft porn video clips together by clicking on a map, and then – and I swear I’m not making this up – get asked weirdly personal questions about masturbation and sexual preferences by Jon Hurt.#

That’d be enough for it to be a super-weird game, designed for those who want to see ladies taking their tops off but only at really low res, but it doesn’t get close to capturing the true depth of creepy strangeness. Because this is a game about a couple grieving their dead daughter, and then being dragged into the sinister headgames of a deranged therapist.

Now, maybe this is just me, but when I’m thinking about having a wank I don’t often seek out stories of the psychological manipulation of the mentally ill. I don’t tend to hope for a titillating boobs-and-bums-only sex scene to be followed immediately by weeping and cruelty. (Insert your own joke here.) Also, just after the pretty lady’s shown her very impressive bosom for the fourteenth time, it’s just a touch peculiar to have Kane/The Elephant Man walk onto screen and ask me if I’m in favour of abortion.

I’m not facetiously exaggerating or lampooning here at all. This is exactly what Tender Loving Care is like. It’s weird in every imaginable way. Click on a bedside cabinet, and the camera will zoom in to reveal a phone which is then picked up, and then a number is dialed to a sex line, where a lady in a panting voice describes giving you a bed bath. (I’ve always found bed baths an odd fantasy, since the circumstances in which one would need to be given one don’t necessarily lend themselves to sexy times.) Read anyone’s notes on their computers and they will inevitably descend into a Letters To Penthouse-style recollection of a time they saw a willy or a foo-foo.

Breezy soft porn game: sure. Psychological horror game: fine. But both together is… it’s an interesting choice. Let’s say that.

19 Comments

  1. Safari Ken says:

    This was probably the low point in Jon Hurt’s career, at least until Crystal Skull came around.

  2. unacom says:

    “…and then being dragged into the sinister headgames of a deranged therapist.”
    When I read that my brain started to croon: “MALKOVICH? MALKOVICH! MALKOVICH, MALKOVICH,…”
    Now I can´t get that out of my head.

  3. gbrading says:

    I’m glad that awful games like this have been preserved though. Much like how Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties has also been saved from oblivion. At least they can be looked back on now and laughed at for how awful they are.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    Oh God I tried. One of those really weird cases of a dated game that is available on modern platforms (pretty sure the steam version is the IOS port ported again)

  5. Shinard says:

    Here is Richard Cobbett’s wonderful Crapshoot on the game. Well worth a read.

    • April March says:

      Yes. The proper answer to this “Have you played…” is to link to that article and say, “Even better!”

  6. Fnord73 says:

    I just realised where Lars von Trier got the plot to “Antichrist” from.

    • Premium User Badge

      Risingson says:

      Pedantic actually. Actually there are many precedents in european cinema for Antichrist. Among the most unexpected ones, the spanish one “Morbo” from the 70s.

    • rondertaker says:

      can someone tell me why von trier is obsessed with babies falling out of windows while people have sex

  7. funkstar says:

    Giant bomb east are doing a playdate of this for premium members in about 45 min \o/

  8. SuperTim says:

    Sometimes people are saying they long for something original as a game, and when it happens, they call it ‘weird’.

    I must say it’s probably original enough as a game, but it’s just not for ‘kids’, the main group of players.

    And if you’re really hating the gaming part of it, as far as I remember there is also a DVD version of it, with a bit of interactivity.

    I was actually looking for this game for a while now to play with, not because it’s good but because it’s original. Thanks for telling me it’s on Steam now. :)

    • Snowskeeper says:

      When people say they want games to do something new and original, they generally mean “new, original, and not terrible.”

      • SuperTim says:

        Well, it was “new, original, and not terrible.”

        Of course, back in those days people were still playing Quake and GTA (no, GTA 3 wasn’t out yet), and reviewers in that time (back then they were writing in game magazines geared for kids) were more interested in shooting things. Even I was too young then, to play a psychological thriller game about interaction between men and women. So I don’t blame them for slagging this game off.

        But the game itself isn’t terrible (then again I’ve “played” Sqij). And it still has great production values, because it’s basically a low-budget movie. I personally can’t even name one game between then and now that has better acting, for example.

        (It’s not very good either, but it’s certainly not terrible.)

  9. malkav11 says:

    I think describing it as soft porn is a bit much. There’s actually very little nudity, even if you’re specifically trying to aim the game in a “sexy” direction. And it’s attempting to shift the events in a way that reflects your “psychological profile” as built up by Hurt, which is interestingly ambitious. Does it succeed? Not really, but it’s a fun, weird ride anyway.

    • April March says:

      I haven’t played the game, but from the descriptions (on Cobbett’s Crapshoot and elsewhere) I’d say you’re right. The game doesn’t seem to be so much TITTIES YAY as it thinks that, since indie movies that show a lot of titties and talk a lot about sex are deep and meaningful, a game that shows a lot of titties and talks a lot about sex is deep and meaningful.

  10. 8itmap_k1d says:

    I watched/played the DVD version of this a few years ago. It’s a staggeringly ill-conceived experiment. Mr Hurt was literally pasted in afterwards, and I never got the sense that he understood what he was saying. Why would he with a script like that?

    • waltC says:

      You obviously missed the spectacular “Tidal Wave” of the 1960-70’s…an a atrociously bad black and white Japanese love story set against the backdrop of a world ending Tidal Wave–horribly dubbed into English with a cast of Japanese unknowns–that was released into the US theater chains “starring” Lorne Greene (Bonanza) and Raymond Burr (Perry Mason)–speaking English, of course. The special-effects looked like a third-grade science-fair project, and to top it off, the two famous American “stars” had about five minutes in the whole movie–talking to each other on the phone (thankfully in English) from separate locations. It was so bad, in fact, that people got up and left in the middle of the film–including yours truly–I couldn’t stand seeing one more plastic Army man get knocked over by a poorly tossed pail of water…;)

  11. isyd says:

    Actually the game is not so bad after all and had a fresh concept for its time. Its cheesy for sure, but by no means softporn, more like a ripoff of early 90s erotic thrillers. The whole production feels like an average Midweek-Late Night TV Movie, with above average production quality. You can find it as a regular movie DVD too. In 1998, the game felt like the anticipated maturing of the unliked interactive movie genre, but at the same time, it was one of the last ones :)
    The cool idea behind it is, its a game to watch, not to play actively. You never make direct decisions about the storys progress, its all losely depending on the psychological tests you do. In concept, the movie changes according to your personality. Its hard to see the different outcomes. Except for different endings only minor things get changed along the way. Did the makers cheat the player by overstating the psychological profiles influence? Maybe. Maybe they just found a clever way to recycle some alternate takes from the movie-production. But still, Tender Loving Care is still worth play.. (err) watching for its unique game design.