FBT gives into the lust. 'Mom! Don’t come in, I’m ... changing.'
As a rule, games are usually considered bad because they’re buggy or broken, but Lust for Darkness is one of those rare games that’s so bad it’s good. Bad like it should be starring Nic Cage. It’s a 1970’s wife-swapping sim, a 90s straight to video film starring Richard Tyson and Sherilyn Fenn, like being locked in Ann Summers after eating magic mushrooms, it’s an episode of Red Shoe Diaries meets some 80s Italian horror with a missing reel, it should have a commentary by Mystery Science Theatre.
It does have its origins in Kickstarter, and as an indie game should be given a break – the problem is we were led to believe we’d experience our character being drawn into a sex cult with demonic overtones, where we’d be tempted and confront our desires. It looked like a sexy Hellraiser, but, it’s a messy, adolescent puzzler where everyone else gets naked. Clearly the devs are fans of Eyes Wide Shut and just mashed the masked ball scene with some Lovecraft and a dash of Giger. One thing they have captured brilliantly, Lovecraft describes incomprehensible, unknowable horrors, which is exactly what this game is.
Johnny Moon (a perfect softcore name), receives a mysterious note claiming his missing wife is being held at a mansion where a party is taking place. Passing himself off as a guest, Johnny discovers the posh fancy-dress ball is actually a sex cult holding his wife hostage and he must play along until they can escape – but the cult’s leader has much more nefarious plans in mind.
Progressing is often luck or plain illogical – it’s one of those games you solve by accident. The first challenge, find your mask is a frustrating sneak around the grounds with no idea where the damn thing is and cult members roaming; every time you get caught you get ejected from the party. I nearly rage quit but the lure of digital naughtiness kept me going.
The whole place is dedicated to the reproductive organs, and real organs are everywhere too - but we can’t get involved, it’s look don’t touch – yet if you stare at an item for too long other cult members get suspicious. I’m allowed to watch people having sex but they get offended when I pick up a paperweight? We never get invited to join the orgies either. Not one person asks to see Johnny Moon. I was expecting at least some Hot Coffee but nothing - every single room has a teapot you can interact with, at your peril; was this set in England? Only the Brits would get upset at messing with their Tea but not care if you’re dogging.
Everyone’s wearing masks, but there is a special Cthulhu-inspired one which Willard, the cult leader, just left lying around. There are vagina-shaped portals knocking about, and the Cthulhu mask lets us pass through them to the other world; not really sure why we do that anyway – especially when the portal exit drops us off just down the corridor. Could have walked. Wearing it for too long drives you insane, but there’s no hint about how long you can stand it – or why passing through a vagina to an alternate reality filled with phallic imagery and monsters is manageable but looking through an Octopus mask is too much to take.
The mask is pretty important to Willard’s plan – so naturally when he catches us, he takes our ball mask not the special mask and chucks us into a portal. And when we get back to the mansion, we have to keep a distance from the other ballers or they’ll notice we’re maskless; just how odd-looking is Johnny that folks more than 3 feet away assume his face is a mask?
At several points we pass an orgy then return to find them all slaughtered. And survivors just carry on as if it didn’t happen – it’s unclear if the orgy-goers are aware they’re pawns in Willard’s plan, although at one point I find a woman getting oral off a dismembered head so I guess they don't care either way. Lust of Darkness really doesn’t let things like story or logic get in the way. It’s far too concerned with turning everyday objects into sex shapes. If there’s one thing this game excels at, it’s finding ways to pornify absolutely everything.
Willard is a hilarious villain. At one point he says he won’t kill me, he’ll turn me into a “fucking machine”. And then immediately kills me. Later, he rather unpleasantly crows that he ‘scraped’ Johnny’s child out of his wife and then impregnated her, explaining a lizard-like baby we found which I *think* Johnny kills – he later tells his wife their child is dead but cheers her up with “but you can have another” like she just dropped her ice-cream.
This is pretty much a linear game; the other world has a vicious creature that kills on touch and you’re supposed to evade it, but the exit is invariably just down a corridor so you can either muck about for hours trying to stealth or just run and make it easily. Occasionally we’re running away from Willard too, who is easier to evade than the spiky predator - other than that it's just daft puzzles and passing by folks having more fun than you are. But the finale would make Lovecraft proud; it’s beyond comprehension.
It’s always a tall order to get eroticism right in games. They’re either intended to titillate, which is invariably cheesy, or they throw in jiggle physics which is sleazy. LfD’s concept could have worked as a weird walking sim where a couple go to a swingers party and learn about themselves. If someone makes that maybe I’ll finally get a VR system … and that’s the problem with sex in games, the interactive nature shifts it from drama and into porn no matter how arty you try to be. We just end up sniggering. Gamers...
Lust for Darkness makes no sense and it’s frustrating, but I enjoyed it for the kitschy, schlocky nonsense that it is. But, developers Movie Games Lunarium seem to have learnt from LfD, and are back with 'Lust from Beyond', set for release later in 2020. It's another game set in this universe - and if the prequel/demo is anything to go by, this might actually do the trick. It seemed a lot deeper and more complex; that is, I spent some time watching a conjoined twin have sex with a woman. It's on my Steam Wishlist, just for research purposes.
At times LfD nearly works; it’s obviously trying and is occasionally imaginative; the mansion feels just like the kind of place you’d find a sex cult who explore taboos and extremes, but instead of the good stuff we’re just a voyeur, subjected to a tortuous, unintelligible plot and you end up sniggering at the vagina chair.