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Visual Novel / Plumbers Don't Wear Ties

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Plumbers Don't Wear Ties is a text-adventure game which can also serve as one of the few early Western examples of Visual Novels. Released for the 3DO and PC in 1993 by Kirin Entertainment (in their first and second-to-last release) and United Pixtures (in their only known release), with ports for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 coming at a later date. The game is a self-proclaimed full motion video game, as they want you to believe. It's actually little more than a slideshow of random events, featuring "a plumber, a Daddy's Girl, chickens, crazed yuppies, evil bosses, pandas, shower scenes, race cars, a nun".note 

The game is supposedly erotic, as you take control of "an Interactive Romantic Comedy". In reality, it's more like a DVD scene-selection, with few options and little impact on the story whatever you choose. Moreover, deciding an option that doesn't help the plot move along the game's desired ending is considered a Non Standard Game Over, even when the option you choose is under no condition bad, leaving the player with no real control of what's going on.

The plot involves John (played by Edward J. Foster), a plumber who, to avoid his mother trying to hook him up with someone he doesn't like, falls madly in love with Jane (played by former GLOW wrestler Jeanne "Hollywood" Basone), the first woman he meets in an office parking lot. She's there for a job interview with Thresher (played by Paul Bokor), whose idea of acceptable workplace behavior is clearly very, very far behind the times. He chases her, John steps in to save her, she resists the boss's indecent proposal, and they all live happily ever after.

Amid this plot, there are Imagine Spots, more Photoshop filters than you can shake a stick at, and a crowd of dogs applauding the male narrator gunning down his Straw Feminist counterpart.

The Angry Video Game Nerd reviewed this in Episode 74. You can also play it on YouTube (note: requires the use of a third-party add-on to restore annotations). It was rather unexpectedly announced at E3 2021 that Limited Run Games would be re-releasing it for PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and PC at some point in the future.

This game provides examples of:

  • The '90s: The hideous fashions and dreadful attempts at early Photoshopping let this game be dated very, very accurately to the early '90s. Plus, the horribly pixelated pictures and compressed sound will easily remind people of the time when "CD quality" picture and sound was actually a pejorative term.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Amy, the woman John's mother tries to force on him.
  • Abusive Parents: Of the verbal variety; both John's mother and Jane's father have no qualms with shouting and swearing at their offspring over the phone.
  • The Alcoholic: Jane's father has the table in front of him covered in bottles of alcohol, and is having drinks disturbingly early in the day.
    • And it doesn't seem to stop with alcohol either, as there's an assortment of other random items including what looks like a bottle of Draino among the wine bottles he's got on the table.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: The female voice who sometimes narrates decisions on the 3DO version. The male one has an American accent, but is also rather bad.
    Female Voice: "Uh-oh, I screw up! Could you give me another run?"
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: In Jane's first scene, she has a conversation with her father, who demands to know where she is despite having called her home phone.
    Jane: You called me, Daddy. Don't you know where I'm at?
  • Background Music: Some of it is stock music from various libraries (Universal Publishing; JW Media Music). See "Slide it In" and "Wild Heart" for two examples.
  • Bag of Holding: The only possible explanation for how Jane just happened to have a whip and handcuffs at her interview with Thresher.
  • Banana Peel: Thresher slips on one during the chase scene.
  • Battle of the Still Frames: More like "Chase Of The Still Frames", but occasionally stretches into an entire game. Even in non-chase sequences.
  • Big Bad: Paul Mark Thresher is Jane's perverted boss who spends the game chasing her and trying to rape her.
  • Black Comedy Rape: In the "good" ending, a bag lady rapes Thresher as "punishment". John just laughs (poorly) as he and Jane walk off.
  • Blatant Lies
    • The box cover claims that it "Plays like a Game... feels like a MOVIE!" Dead wrong on both counts (unless the games you play have as much interactivity as a DVD menu, and the movies you watch are badly Photoshopped slideshows).
    • The game's title is a blatant lie as well, as after the opening scene John wears a tie!
    • The so-called "18-rated" scene isn't really that explicit—it only features Thresher pressuring Jane to strip, with language no stronger than "DAMN" (of course). Perhaps they were referring to the scene where Jane's suddenly in a dominatrix outfit?
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: While pressuring her into having kids, Jane's father acknowledges the previous scene where John's mother did the same thing.
    Jane's Dad: Why aren't you married yet, Jane?! In that last scene, that bitch of a mother told her son to have kids!
  • But Thou Must!
    • There's only one time you can make a choice that doesn't end the game instantly, and that's when you choose who makes the first move. Both narrators chew you out over all of the choices, as if you were writing the script.
    • When John can choose to chase Jane or not isn't really an exception either. It might look like a different ending (the Gay Option), but you receive the sign to "Give me one more chance", meaning it's another game over.
  • Camp Gay: If you end up with the gay option, Thresher suddenly becomes this.
  • Censor Box: Censor Giant Nose, even. There's a code that removes them.
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: During the scene where Jane is being chased by Thresher, she's wearing nothing but a bra and a skirt. When the chase goes outside, though, she's suddenly fully clothed. Then, later in the same scene, her shirt comes off again.
  • Commander Contrarian: The narrators are never happy with the choices you make.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Thresher, who apparently offers his new hires a generous salary essentially as a pretext for having an affair with them, essentially paying for sex on the company dime.
  • Country Matters: When lambasting Jane for her selfishness, Thresher calls her a "vulva."
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • ¿ʇᴉ ʇǝפ
    • The guy on the bottom right corner of the box? It's a minor character who only appears in an Imagine Spot in the "Meeting has to wait" option.
  • Daddy's Girl: Jane is frequently described as one even though she doesn't seem to get along with her father. If Thresher rejects her, he'll tell her that he considers her a spoiled brat who pitches a fit to get what she wants.
  • Dating Sim: far as "dating" goes. Unlike most dating simulation games which notoriously allow several routes to many different endings, this game is programmed to only have one acceptable route. If you try to choose a different route, you get scolded and have to retry.
  • Depraved Bisexual: If the gay ending is anything to go by, Thresher is definitely this, as he's kinda aggressive when he flirts with John.
  • Dirty Old Man: Thresher is a villainous example in the "18+" route. He offers Jane a position if she agrees to have sex with him, and becomes violent if she refuses.
  • Dominatrix: Jane becomes one in one of the choices... after which the Narrator promptly chews the player out.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Thelma, the second narrator. Justified, in that she's in a karate get-up at first, though she does have shoes on for later costume changes.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: See Love at First Sight for John and Jane's almost instant and largely baseless mutual attraction.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The entire story takes place over just one morning.
  • Fat Bastard: Thresher, who's overweight and quickly shows himself to be a pervert and an unpleasant person.
  • Freudian Slip: Thresher, midway through the "canon" route. This turns into a Freudian Slippery Slope if you pick the Gay Option.
    "They are the ones who get head - I mean, get ahead."
  • Live-Action Cutscene: The pre-intro cutscene does actually qualify for being full-motion video, which probably makes the subsequent slideshow presentation afterwards more jarring.
  • Gag Censor: The Shower Scene in some versions censors any butts and Jane's sideboob shots with pictures of a face with a Gag Nose that has slashed-out circles on them.
  • Gainax Ending: Some of the optional endings are this, featuring things like John and Thresher suddenly turning gay or Jane spontaneously becoming a nun. Then again, the rest of the game doesn't exactly make sense either.
  • Gay Option: As it turns out, after seeing this scene, both Thresher and John swing both ways. What's funny is that it's the only nonviolent option in the game, and is actually prefigured during John's conversation with his mother.
  • Good Morning, Crono: Twice, near the beginning. First, John is woken up by a call from his mother, followed with Jane from her father.
  • Heroic Build: John is a well-built and muscular man, as you can see in his shirtless scene.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: Another narrator named Thelma randomly shows up, and beats up the first. He then comes back later with an Uzi and shoots her.
  • Interactive Fiction: Thoroughly subverted. If you don't follow the game's precise, chosen plotline you get shouted at by the narrator and forced to go back and choose the other option.
  • Interactive Narrator: Though it's mostly limited to shouting at you.
  • I Want Grandkids: John's mom pressures him into marrying because she wants grandchildren. Jane's dad does the same thing.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: Most videos lead to this. As well as the "Hollywood ending", you can get the "Asexual", "Hired", "Not Hired", "S&M", "Gay", "Indecent Proposal" and "Nun" endings... there's far more bad endings than good.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Thresher's "The Reason You Suck" Speech may show him to be a misogynistic pervert who hates job seekers, but he's correct when he says that Jane shouldn't think that she's the only desperate one out there. Jane doesn't argue with him, and politely excuses herself after he makes his point.
  • Karmic Rape: In the "good" ending, the sexually predatory Thresher is raped by a bag lady.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Broken. Broken into millions of tiny, tiny pieces.
  • Ladykiller in Love: A gender-inverted example. In the "good" ending, John butts in when Jane and Thresher are haggling over how much he should pay for her to sleep with him (and the discussion has been going on for hours before John's interjection, mind you) and declares his love for her. Jane's personality apparently performs a 180 on the spot, she responds in kind to John and the two leave holding hands. While her dialogue with Thresher heavily implies that she has slept with guys for money before, the good ending claims that she is a virgin, creating a Plot Hole-fueled zig-zagging of this trope.
  • Lingerie Scene: Jane strips herself down to her Black Bra and Panties while wearing black opera gloves. And not only that, but she also takes out a Whip of Dominance and Kinky Cuffs to give her a Dressed Like a Dominatrix vibe.
  • Logic Bomb: The 3DO version is 17-rated, but one part is 18-rated. But you need to play this part to finish the game. So... how can a 17-year-old possibly play the game and complete it?
    • However upon closer inspection of the "17" label, you can see "Guidance for 17 & Under" written under it.
  • Love at First Sight: Deciding you want to marry a woman you've never talked to that you just bumped into in a car park is not generally a recipe for fun.
  • MayĖDecember Romance: Should you make Jane end up with Thresher. Then again, you'll get scolded if you do.
  • Mind Screw: Seriously, you can scream aloud "What the fuck?!" every few minutes. Why is the narrator scolding the player whilst wearing a chicken mask? And why is he hanging upside down? Pandas driving race cars over a guy's bed in negative colors? (Granted, the latter was in John's dream, but still...) This couldn't be weirder if David Lynch wrote it.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Subverted. John's mother assumes him to be gay because he hasn't found a significant other for so long... then the Gay Option reveals that he indeed swings both ways.
  • Mr. Fanservice: John. He's fairly fit, and the camera gives his mostly naked (and eventually just shirtless) body almost as much focus in the opening montage as Jane's.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jane. She has rather large breasts, and her body gets shown off quite bit in the opening Shower Scene, as well as when she turns into a dominatrix after picking the "She'll do anything to get the job" option.
  • Multiple Endings: This is a rare case when you aren't even allowed to try a different route than the one the game set up as canon. However, they do have endings (Jane stripping for Thresher to get the job, John and Thresher ending up together, etc.), but they're labeled "failure" for this reason. This is all in stark contrast to what visual novels usually promote (multiple routes, each of which has multiple endings), which is one of many reasons as to why the game is so hated.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut
    "I'm about to marry a virgin! In the 90's! Impossible!"
  • Narrative Filigree: When the game isn't being intentionally surreal, it's mostly just mundane. Eg John and Jane's morning routines, which go on for way too long and add nothing to the plot.
  • Naughty Nuns: Averted by the "other" ending, where Jane — who spent the entire intro telling us how many guys she's had sex with — suddenly reveals that she's a virgin and wants to be a nun. The game doesn't even show her wearing a habit. This was also prefigured in the 3DO intro FMV, though Jane denies it.
    "Imagine that, me a NUN? HA! I don't think so!...I'm not that kind of girl!"
  • Never Trust a Title: John wears a tie.note  AVGN also lampshades this, much to his consternation.
    (John plays air guitar with his plunger)
    AVGN: Well, the game's called "Plumbers Don't Wear Ties", so I guess it makes sense. He's a plumber, and I don't see him wearing a tie.
    (Cut to next image showing John wearing a tie)
    AVGN: What the fuck?! You can't even trust the damn title!
  • No Fourth Wall: That's for sure.
    "That bitch of a mother from the last scene just told her son to have kids!"
    • The game even keeps in an audio outtake of the actor playing John flubbing one of his lines, and the cast and crew commenting on it.
  • Obvious Beta: The game's atrocious quality speaks volumes of the inexperience of those behind the final product.
  • Obviously Evil: Thresher in the narrator's eyes. If you choose to have him give Jane a job, the narrator will complain about you not noticing how much of a pervert Thresher is.
  • Photoshop Filter of Evil: In addition to the title screen appearing as if it was done on MS Paint by a kindergarten student (according to The Angry Video Game Nerd), the game is plastered with wacky filters all over the place.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: People may complain that Mario doesn't do enough plumbing. Compared to John, he's a plumbing machine.
  • Quit Your Whining: In the "Turn Poor Jane Away" ending, Thresher tells Jane that the rest of the 200 or more applicants for each open position, like her, are "desperate," so she shouldn't think herself special.
  • Random Events Plot: Probably the best way to sum up the game's "story". Plot points come entirely out of nowhere, there's a subplot involving the game's two narrators fighting for control over the story, and Big-Lipped Alligator Moments are everywhere.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Thresher to Jane in the "Turn Poor Jane Away" ending
    Thresher: You know, we get at least 200 qualified applicants for each position here, and without exception, every single solitary applicant is desperate! Do you hear me? Desperate! Do you think I can't see through all this corny melodrama of yours? Do you think I'm an idiot? You're acting. All of you applicants are acting. You're acting like you don't know where your next meal is going to come from. I hate people looking for work. You're all filthy slimes. You're part of that seething, oozing mass of unemployment. Just look at you! You waltzed in here with your perky little face and your bouncy little breasts and you think you're going to walk out with a job. Well, I'm going to kick that sweet little butt of yours out on the street. You and your sniveling little suburban education. You think you can just go into your crying act and get a job any time you want? I'll bet you're a Daddy's Girl. Aren't you? AREN'T YOU? Used to getting what you want whenever you want it? All you have to do is start bawling your little head off and Daddy gives you whatever you want. Well, things are different in the real world!
    Jane: Um, thank you for your time, Mr. Thresher-
    Thresher: Jobs are for those who are worthy. Jobs are precious and few, as you've just discovered. Perhaps this will be a lesson for you, young lady. Perhaps you'll take your next job seriously- if you can get another job, you peabrained preppy ubain volvo-driving vulva? HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF THE EMPLOYER'S POINT OF VIEW? Huh? The guy who pays half your Social Security? (Jane starts to get up to leave) Who do you think pays your dental and health insurance? Santy Claus? And who do you think pays through the nose on workman's comp when you fake an injury? Do you think jobs grow on trees? Who do you think creates jobs? You don't give a...
    • Both narrators give these speeches to the player whenever the player gets a bad ending. This continues throughout the latter half of the game, despite the fact that the choice that they hate most- to have Thresher act like a sexual predator toward Jane- is the only way to continue the story.
  • Scoring Points: Their meaninglessness is exemplified in the Violation of Common Sense trope below. In fact, the highest possible score in the game is -170,000 according to GameFAQs.
  • Sexiness Score: When John first meets Jane, he promptly says "I see a 10!"
  • Sexual Extortion: In the "canon" route, Thresher offers to get Jane a job... if she performs sexual favors for him.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • John in the beginning of the story, up until he gets on his motorcycle.
    • There's also Thresher if you choose the "Jane will do anything to get the job" decision.
  • Shower Scene: Completely gratuitously with both John and Jane. They're censored during normal play, though a code can change that.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: One between John and his mother to start the game, and then between Jane and her father immediately afterward.
  • Spoiler Opening: In the only FMV in the entire 3DO version, Jane spoils several plot points, including the nun ending.
  • Straw Feminist: A female narrator takes over the game to defeat the patriarchy?
  • Stylistic Suck: The trailer for the 2021 Updated Re-release by Limited Run Games revels in the original game's notoriety; the infamous Censor Giant Nose is plastered everywhere, the quotes are all terrible reviews that the original game got back in the day and it still has the shoddy audio quality of the original.
  • Take Off Your Clothes: "TAKE YOUR DAMN CLOTHES OFF!"
  • Title Drop: Right at the very end, where John finally admits that he's a plumber (even though just looking at the giant 'Plumber On A Bike' logo on his motorcycle could already have tipped Jane off), but Jane insists he's lying because, as she puts it, Plumbers Don't Wear Ties.
    • Also done much earlier on during the phone call with John and his mother:
    John: Ma, I'm a plumber, and plumbers don't wear ties!
  • Violation of Common Sense: You have to go through the choice of the boss forcing Jane to take her clothes off, which gives you a negative score.
  • Wham Line: This line from Thresher:
    "You know, perhaps something can be worked out after all. (Beat) Take your clothes off, Jane."
  • What the Hell, Player?: The narrator will not always agree with what you're doing. Sometimes he will say that even if you pick a ''different'' route.
    • Weirdly enough, you're bound to get this more than once even when you're on the way to the good (and only "real") ending.
    • In a notable scene, during which the Narrator wears a chicken mask and is upside-down for no reason, the Narrator really chews the player out after they select the choice that causes Jane to become a dominatrix towards Thresher.
      Narrator: Oh, now you done it! You really done it! How could you make Jane into such a perverted young thing?! Iíve guided a lot of people through this story, but Iíve never seen such a disgusting series of plot choices in my life!
  • You Bastard!:
    • After railroading you into "the hairball takes advantage of the situation" option and serving up a healthy dose of This Is Unforgivable! and Mood Whiplash the game has the naked chutzpah to call you a "perverted monster". And it happens elsewhere, too.
    • If you choose any the other options the game calls you a loser for doing such a lousy script, including the boss acting very generously and giving Jane an extremely well paying job with many bonuses, evidently as a sinecure so she can be his mistress.