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For all the love of guts, guns and violence, mainstream videogames are terrified of looking at sex and sexuality in any meaningful way. The subject of sex is largely left to indie game makers, who then have to suffer the penalties by having their games banned from sale from most major retailers. If you want to try the hilarious works of Robert Yang (such as Stick Shift, in which you have sex with a gay car), you're going to have to skip the stores and look up his website to find it. Fortunately, Steam has finally permitted the sale of Christine Love's concisely titled, My Twin Brother Made Me Crossdress As Him And Now I Have To Deal With A Geeky Stalker And A Domme Beauty Who Want Me In A Bind!! or, Ladykiller in a Bind.
In Ladykiller, you are on a weeklong boat cruise, disguised as your twin brother for reasons that are not immediately made clear. This puts you in a difficult position as your brother is basically the Sterling Archer of his hyper-rich Boarding School; a handsome, womanising, self-centred, alpha male who is despised by everyone. To avoid raising suspicion, you have to carefully navigate conversations and act convincingly dickish. On top of that, (and again like Archer) the classmates are a peculiarly forthright and kinky bunch, adding another layer of complication.
Ladykiller is a satire of dating simulators. It's a genre that deserves a bit of a kicking, with games described by critics as "meat markets" and "pick-up artist simulators". It's something to do with the way in which players are encouraged to pick through a lineup of schoolgirls, target one with general compliments and "nice responses", and be ultimately rewarded with some dubious pornography. If that wasn't enough, they're invariably written in a clumsy purple prose, full of gasps and fluttering heartbeats. I'd add "boring" to the list of criticisms.
Ladykiller shows these things for what they really are, with a protagonist who is explicitly as manipulative, selfish and callous as the player wishes them to be. This shows up in conversations, where you can butt in with carefully timed insults, flirts and other pieces of coercion to lead things in the desired direction. The game acknowledges this kind of behaviour, with the characters (thankfully all adults) having the agency to spot your conniving. They have you figured out.
As grim as all that sounds, Ladykiller is surprisingly funny game thatís brimming with comedic rivalry, ludicrous plot twists, and wit. In terms of sex, there is a lot of that too, and it gets very graphic. This is first and foremost a queer romance based around BDSM, so that should probably be expected. The game is one of the few pieces of media that actually understands kink, and is very clear about how power exchange and consent works. Itís nice to see kink explored in a sexy, fun way instead of showing it as exploitative, scary or unhealthy.
I feel like I understand no more about this game after having read this review than before I read it.
There is an addendum to this review: there was a controversial scene which was removed from the game in response to criticism of it. I played the version before the scene was removed. My perspective is that though the scene did suit the general themes of the game (the use of sex as currency and power exchange), I can fully understand why people would find it too close to the knuckle, or more specifically, too rapey to go through. Anyone with concerns about seeing coerced sex between a guy and a self-identifying lesbian should definitely stick to the newer versions that have removed the scene.
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