January 9, 2015

Mini-review: You've Got Mail by BrokenKnightX

Earlier this week BrokenKnightX released You’ve Got Mail, only two months after the release of his first game (Henchman). I never got around to playing his previous effort (too busy being lazy), but I devoted an evening (and later an afternoon) to playing YGM and these are my conclusions.

The plot puts the player in the role of a mailman who is trying to have sex with the beautiful female householders he visits. No deep motivations, no unexpected drama. In other words, it’s a classic romp. Or is it? One thing that stood out to me is how many of the scenes involve coercion or deception. Nika is being forced by her husband, Kathy is too naïve to realise what the PC is doing, Andrea is too drunk, and Tobi is effectively being blackmailed by the PC. That produces a somewhat different tone to what I would consider typical of a romp (eg. Gamma Girls), but everything is presented in a romp-like way which allows the player to maintain their suspension of disbelief for the most part, even if their tastes run in a different direction.

The majority of the gameplay feels very old school, in that the player has to focus on finding the correct object(s) to unlock each girl’s legs. This involves a lot of searching and looking under things (and several irritating instances of guess the verb), which is acceptable but not particularly immersive. The exceptions are Tobi and Julia, whose paths develop much more organically, if that’s the word I’m looking for. For example, Julia’s path is started by asking her about the package that the PC has just delivered, and proceeds in a way that is plausible given her character (and the fact this is AIF). Likewise, the PC’s interactions with Tobi are based on the letters he delivers, and his actions can change her opinion of him. That’s the kind of gameplay I prefer, rather than (for example) sneaking into someone else’s house to steal orange juice even though there’s a perfectly good convenience store within walking distance.

The game takes place over seven separate 'days'. However, there are very few events that are triggered on a particular day so the result is that the game feels a bit empty. I assume that there are seven days to maximise the player's chance of seeing all the content. But in practice I finished in only five and spent the last two days wandering around trying to discover if there was anything new (there wasn't).

In general the sex are well written, although perhaps a little light on content. For example, in some cases there are singular responses to each action, which is perhaps a result of how quickly the game was written. Something else that struck me as a little odd is the implausible frequency with which the PC orgasms. For some reason the game lampshades this by keeping track of how much ejaculate he’s produced. However, one feature of the sex scenes that I really appreciated was the number of times the PC is presented with a choice. Should he warn the woman he’s with that he’s about to orgasm, or should he ‘surprise’ her? Should he pressure her into anal, or be a gentleman? Things like that make what are mechanically generic scenes much more unique, and involved me in the game to a greater extent. The scoring is descriptive rather than numerical, which allows it to reflect the player's choices.

Julia’s is probably my favourite scene, partly because it had the most content (which I suspect was a result of it being written first), and partly because she’s the one woman who has sex with the PC purely because she wants to. I also appreciated the strong narrative of Kathy’s scene, even though I found her extreme naiveté to be highly implausible (especially since she goes to a mixed-sex Catholic school).

YGM is free of game-breaking bugs as far as I can tell, although I encountered a few cosmetic ones. However, there are a fair number of typos, along with the odd punctuation error, which I would attribute to the game’s short development cycle. While I’m nitpicking, I would have appreciated a readme file listing the sexual verbs and bodyparts that were implemented, not to mention the author’s name and email address (which are otherwise hidden away in the game properties).

Overall, although it’s a bit rough around the edges, the core of YGM is a solid game that will provide the player with several hours of enjoyment. Recommended.

3 comments:

  1. So I wasn't the only one who noticed the very... domineering? sort of gameplay. I wasn't really surprised by it. Not that there is anything wrong with it, it just seems to be a particular design the author enjoys.

    If I recall correctly in Henchmen you spanked a girl for being bad. Also in his aif archives poll, most of the options leaned towards male/player domination (post apoc game where you dominate heavily and train girls, a teacher that uses leverage for sex, etc.).

    I mentioned the same thing to the author, though I also said it felt more like a fantasy / guilt-free sort of game as opposed to dark since it was rather light-hearted in spirit. A kind of game you can't take too seriously or question too much (like the fact that Andrea will thank you for not taking advantage of her after she passed out, even though you screwed her brains out only after getting her very drunk!).

    The impossibly naive Kathy is just a character type that often pops up in AIF. I don't know if it began in Anime (see that in a lot of Japanese influenced shows or games). Never been a huge fan of it myself. Why I can imagine 20 girls ready to toss their clothes off for me as plausible, but not one who lets you molest her because she is that gullible is beyond me.

    Few games give you those kinds of choices or that frequently, so that was really nice. The 'achievements' were also nice. As I usually try everything, it was nice that it playfully mocked me for trying to screw the more petite-framed girls chests.

    Anyway, I think it was an overall really good game. I can see some not caring for the - not really 'rape-y', but definitely male-centric? romp. Still, for the most part you as the player were given the option. It is obviously a game focused on sex, so avoiding it seems silly, but you can be a relatively nice person and still finish the game, though your score will reflect it.

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    1. The coercion element didn't bother me a great deal (certainly not as much as it would have if the tone hadn't been so light-hearted), but my tastes run in a different direction so I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have if the Julia scene had been more typical.

      I was reminded me a little of Reunion, as several of the scenes in that game (which has even more of a fantasy atmosphere) involve deception or coercion, including an even more implausible scene where the PC has sex with someone who thinks he's a woman (she is blindfolded, but still).

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  2. I've played through the first three days so far and I noticed what started out as a harmless sex romp sort of story is actually a lot of the PC being a pretty messed up person. It seems kind of like Leisure Suit Larry but with more of a wicked slant rather than a slapstick slant. The part with Andrea where you're basically encouraged to rape her was a bit much for me, and was actually where I left off. I'm interested to see how encounters with the other women end up, though, so I'll give it another shot to complete it. I really like the concept and structure of the game, though. More houses in the neighborhood or an expansion on the time element (perhaps have a morning, afternoon & night phase for each day) with less of a "Guy is moving in a week an so all bets are off on how evil you'll be for sex" and more of a "Guy has nothing to lose and decides to romance as many women as he can on his mail route before he moves" would be the perfect game in my eyes.

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