Video games, in my opinion, do relationships best when they don’t feature as a mechanic. Story, characterization and the like are really where the medium shines when it comes to depicting friendships, family ties, and yes, romance. Even in games like the Persona series, where developing relationships is a core component of gameplay, plot and the intricacies of the character’s lives are more vital than simply trying to get something from people.
There’s an entire genre surrounding relationships. Dating sims usually come to mind when people think of that aspect of gaming. Those games aren’t harmless in the least–some of them can go quite dark. But even if they deal with heavy themes and explore some explicit material, they, again, are built more around a story.
That is exactly where a game like Super Seducer falls flat on it’s face, to say nothing of the moral and ethical questions it raises. But I’ve yet to review a video game in terms of any kind of deeper meaning; and despite very, very strong feelings on this game, I’m not about to go changing my tune.
In Super Seducer, Players guide self-proclaimed seduction master Richard La Ruina through various “how-do-you-proceed” interactions with women. The goals are varied—get her number, take her out, sleep with her. When you make an incorrect choice–although how some of those choices are deemed wrong is anyone’s guess as the game panders to its own logic–Mister Ruina breaks the fourth wall to points you in the right direction.
And that’s pretty much all their is. Granted, in visual novels and dating sims, there mechanics aren’t entirely what one would look for. But this isn’t a dating sim; it’s not a visual novel, either. Honestly, I don’t even know what it is.
It is a live action decision-tree game, but the only decent acting throughout came from anyone other than the so-called protagonist player character. While there were several different scenarios to proceed through, none of them offered anything in terms of depth or tension.
But this isn’t a game that was meant to be deep. In essence, it’s one of those old Newgrounds.com Flash games from about thirteen years ago. The only difference is that those games were free, and this game asks you to pay for the minimal experience it offers.
Super Seducer has nothing to it aside from dialogue branches and live-action cutscenes that harken back to interactive point-and-click ventures. All the while I was playing, I kept thinking of Phantasmagoria 2. Odd that I should compare this so-called game to that. Certainly Phantasmagoria 2 was controversial for it’s sexual content and violence. The key difference lies in the fact that the game had substance. While there was some touchy subject matter, and while it was your typical early 90’s interactive video fare, it had atmosphere; and it was actually pretty decently acted.
Not to say that there are terrible performances throughout Super Seducer. The first woman players are tasked with picking up acted circles around Richard La Ruina. He’s got kind of a Tommy Wiseau thing going on, but without the excessive earnestness and quirky charm. If he’d had a supporting role, that wouldn’t have been a problem. But when your entire game is based around a central character–one who is not your standard Silent Protagonist–it generally helps for there to be something engaging about them. They don’t have to be fun necessarily, but there should be something to them that doesn’t make the act of spending several hours of your life seem like washing your face with sandpaper.
La Ruina was kind of funny in a sad way that bordered on sinister at points. I found myself choosing a lot of the dumbest options available just to see him get a heavy dose of reality. But this game isn’t funny. Compare to a series like Leisure Suit Larry, which is kind of in the same sphere of “seduction” and sexual politics. Larry in those games is written so broad and so out of the league of anyone that he goes after that it becomes hyperbole; in Super Seducer, everything that you as La Ruina are tasked with doing is played straight. And as the goal is essentially manipulating women, the entire object of the game isn’t amusing, it’s just creepy.
Sure, I laughed at points, mostly in a nervous way. Other than that, the game is too self-congratulating and pandering to enjoy thoroughly. It’s taking itself and everything it says about men, women and dating completely seriously. Perhaps if I wasn’t in a different frame of mind as a result of recent movements within society for equality and respect, I probably would have been a bit more entertained. I mean, in a darkly comedic kind of way, at least.
Far, far more superior titles like The Witcher, Mass Effect and Dragon Age and the aforementioned dating sims and visual novels treat relationships as if the only thing to them is a simple case of conversation trees and fulfilling requests. What’s entirely less problematic with those games is that they’re not based in reality, and what’s more, a very large majority of gamers understand that. Super Seducer, though? The whole point of this game is to sell itself as some kind of relationship tutorial simulator.
It’s just about getting lucky. According to the think-tank behind it, all there is to getting a woman to pay attention to you is manipulating circumstances. In a day and age when more and more people are coming forward with stories of sexual assault and harassment, having a game where manipulation is encouraged for the sake of sex is just a little bit disturbing.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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