In real life, all power exchange must be negotiated
October 27, 2016 6:10 PM   Subscribe

[Most links NSFW] 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 (trailer) is the funny, sexy, and very explicit new visual novel from Analogue: A Hate Story developer Christine Love (previously 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). It's about sex, BDSM, consent, social manipulation and girls kissing other girls on a boat. The full game (supporting PC/OS X/Linux) is not free, but a demo (PC/OS X and NSFW with a minor spoiler) is available here.
Forced to pretend to be her twin brother on a cruise ship full of his classmates and enemies, the Beast finds herself thrown into a game of complex social manipulation, as well as literal bondage. Can you win enough of their votes to get back the Beast's motorcycle? Will you get locked up in cargo for doing too unconvincing an impression of the Beast's brother? Or will you just spend the whole time brazenly getting the Beast's pussy wet?
The game features gorgeous art and UI design, a technically simple but very well executed dynamic soundtrack by (mefi's own) Isaac Schankler, and an innovative conversation/choice system.
Rock Paper Shotgun: And conversations are where Ladykiller looks likely to shine....That’s not just because of Love’s evident sharp writing – her previous games have been bristling with wit and detail, lively conversation and a depth of pathos – but because of a new dynamic system for chat. Wanting to create something that feels more like real world nattering, Ladykiller offers you dialogue prompts that appear while the other person is still speaking, that you’ll then cut in with in the next natural gap. Wait a bit, and that thought might become irrelevant, the conversation might have moved on, and that dialogue option will disappear. You know, like in real life.
Among many other things, the game addresses the tendancy of players of dating sims to approach them (like many other games) as systems to be manipulated to reach win conditions, behaviour which would be sociopathic in a real relationship.
Polygon: "Sort of like dating sims or the Persona games' social links, but with a much more honest portrayal," Love wrote. "Really, dating sims are inherently about manipulating other people — pick the right dialogue choices based off what you think they expect, learn about their interests so you can give them perfectly tuned gifts, make decisions based off whether you'll impress them or not — but like to pass it off as being about romance.
"Well, fuck that. You can still do that in Ladykiller in a Bind; we're just not going to pretend that it's anything other than manipulation. It'll have consequences."
Although the game's romantic routes explore varying flavors of both submission and dominance, it has earned praise specifically for the realistic depiction of safe, healthy and consensual BDSM. See I'd Ship It: Ladykiller in a Bind's use of BDSM and A BDSM Game That Let Me Explore A New Type Of Sexual Experience.

Due to explicit content, Ladykiller is not currently available on Steam or It can be purchased, DRM-free, from the Humble Store.
posted by figurant (15 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

My personal reactions aside (I love this hilarious game and I can't seem to get it out of my head), there are a couple of things I should mention. There is a path through the game (which I managed to blunder into on my first playthrough) that involves what might be termed "transactional heterosexuality" for your lesbian player character. You get two choices on what form this will take, but the one I ended up with involved submission, coersion, and bordered on sexual violence. I had a strongly negative reaction to it at the time, although I can see now that it was intended to reflect themes elsewhere in the game in a less healthy context. This seems to have slightly surprised the developer, who intended it as dark fantasy, and content warnings on the scene were quickly patched in. YMMV, but if you think that might bother you, don't pick the President scene on Day 6 of the Ladykiller route. The Boy scene will not push those particular buttons (plus it features a Tough Moral Choice), although it might push others.

The other issue is about sexual consent, because this game is swimming in it. Consent and boundaries are clearly negotiated and rechecked during the sex scenes (and make no mistake, Christine Love has written some very sexy negotiation of consent). However, you might notice that the main character is impersonating her brother*. How consensual can an encounter be if one of the parties is lying about their identity? I've been replaying the game with that in mind, and I think it may not actually be an issue. Some characters figure out or already know your real identity, and one character simply refuses to believe you if you confess (although she's happy to humor you). I still need to check two more possible paths in the game, but I think this issue is handled well.

*You might also wonder what sort of questions come up about that when pants come off. That's for you to find out.
posted by figurant at 6:16 PM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Christine Love mentioned on Twitter that it is impossible to perform a chaste playthrough of the game, which seems to bring in consent issues of itself.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:47 PM on October 27, 2016

I only watched the trailer, but this seems to be an animated encyclopedia of everything people who aren't into BDSM think about people who are into BDSM.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:55 PM on October 27, 2016

42 seconds into the trailer, this on a shirt: "Bitches don't know about my tragic back story".

Ok, you got me. I'm interested.
posted by mhoye at 8:21 PM on October 27, 2016

Update: Having watched the rest of the trailer, I'm a lot less interested.
posted by mhoye at 8:25 PM on October 27, 2016

"an animated encyclopedia of everything people who aren't into BDSM think about people who are into BDSM": Ms. Love's business card shows her avatar tied up, so I'm willing to assume she knows her ropes.
posted by musofire at 8:35 PM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

it is impossible to perform a chaste playthrough of the game, which seems to bring in consent issues of itself.

This mig be true if it wasn't super clear what the game was about, but if you're gonna play Mario you gotta stomp a few goombas.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:31 PM on October 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

I bought this on the strength of Love's previous games, but haven't had time to play it yet. (It came out the same week as Civ VI.) Looking forward to seeing what I think of it, and seeing what y'all think of it.
posted by asperity at 9:34 PM on October 27, 2016

Ok, you got me. I'm interested

Many people have told Christine she needs to start selling those. Hopefully it will happen eventually.

As for the game... I have trouble recommending it for a number of reasons but at the same time love it and have been taking my time with my first of at least two playthroughs. I'm a visual novel dilettante (I've played Love's past ones and a handful of others), but this one's really well done if you want something pretty to look at, goofy, and gay as hell.

I feel like the full text of what she said about playstyles is worth noting since it's come up:
Ladykiller in a Bind playstyles that are impossible to do:
• chaste
• hetero only
• with dignity intact
It's a joke but at least as someone about to do day six for the first time, is true as well. It's a comedy. The game's got jokes for days. It's also about how sex is often portrayed in games and about a bunch of other things. But it's also about the sex. Where the best one can hope for in most games is the Bioware "friendship tokens for awkward kissing scene" model, or the cheap anime porn type stuff running rampant over Steam these days... It's unusual to come across something that's not just content with being actually sexy in a way that's rare, but is ambitious in other ways too.

I feel like the Polygon review does it a bit of a disservice by failing some basic things about this type of game and how they're meant to be played. Last year's We Know The Devil is a very different thing despite format similarities but if you reviewed that after playing it through once and not seeing the "true" ending, you did the game a massive disservice. The kind of emotional resonance written about here doesn't happen if you don't know how the various paths through the game play off each other and fit together into a whole.

Mostly Ladykiller feels like after some more pointedly ~intellectual~ games, Love wanted to make something ridiculous and fun and succeeded. But then it turned out choosing to do a very novel dialog system and a game where most scenes can happen in many different orders made it take a lot more work to make than expected. So it's a bit of a magnum opus showstopper but also a bit of a goof that got out of hand (in a great way). Love's said it's the last visual novel she's making since she wants to move on to other things but it's a hell of a note to go out on.

For everyone? No. As babby's first VN, probably not from what I can tell. But it's weird and cool and good and deserves attention.
posted by sparkletone at 11:04 PM on October 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

Something I couldn't work into the long post above: Christine's goofed on her own game plenty while it was a work in progress and in the run up to release, but this is probably my favorite tweet about the game.

It is entirely accurate except for the bit about Tim Curry.
posted by sparkletone at 11:32 PM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I tried it - got through about two days before giving up. My problem is that I just don't like any of the characters; they all came across as either irritating, obnoxious, psychotic, or a grab-bag of all three.
posted by YAMWAK at 11:38 PM on October 27, 2016

this is probably my favorite tweet about the game.

One of the replies to that called it "Leisure Suit Millennial", just wanted to surface that.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:58 AM on October 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of the replies to that called it "Leisure Suit Millennial", just wanted to surface that.

It gets worse.
posted by figurant at 12:57 PM on October 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

The depth and completeness of the self own there had me laughing pretty hard today.

Her game is way better on every level than any Leisure Suit Larry though.
posted by sparkletone at 11:40 PM on October 28, 2016

Can MeFi recommend other games that deal with themes like these for people who aren't so much into erotica? I know that Oxenfree has a similar dialog mechanic, and Hanako's games have stuff going on with social manipulation, Black Closet having a similar setting to Ladykiller as well.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:50 AM on November 21, 2016

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