Seduce Me is an erotic game. Let’s get that out of the way, for three reasons. Firstly: if you’re a kiddywink or find erotica morally or ethically objectionable, stop reading now.
Secondly: I don’t have any real objection to erotica. Most “adult” games available in the west are shit at best, and at their worst they quickly veer into “genuinely offensive” territory, but that’s the problem of the individual titles rather than something necessarily inherent in the genre. It’s just rare to find something to proves that point.
Thirdly: I also wouldn’t actually have a problem with a good erotic game. Much as we breathlessly mutter about THE CITIZEN KANE OF GAMING, I wouldn’t particularly object to the Emmanuelle of gaming.
So, with all of that out of the way, is Seduce Me – billed as an erotic strategy game for mature, intellectual players – any good?
No. No it’s not.
Here’s the setup: you’re Some Guy who has caught the eye of Pietra, a socialite famous for her sex parties (no, really.) She has invited you to her fabulous mansion. Your goal is to wander around and try to seduce one or more of the four ladies that the game has marked as targets. I mean victims. I mean potential sex partners. Christ, my typing.
First problem is pretty much entirely personal: I actively dislike most of the women, which means that the game’s erotic wiles had little chance of ensnaring me. There’s Pietra, the dark-haired socialite who could be accurately summed up as “a more liberated Paris Hilton”. There’s Cecilia, the rich divorcee looking for yet another husband. There’s Lilia, Cecilia’s sexually inexperienced daughter who hasn’t had fantastic past experiences with men. And there’s Esper, the submissive maid.
Or, if you like: a self-important socialite with a passing interest in debasing people, a former adulterous cuckold, an arrogant and perhaps slightly damaged young girl, and the omnipresent submissive maid fantasy. None of them are particularly well-written, compelling, or sympathetic, but that past sentence has forced Debaser back into my head, so I guess that’s a net positive. In a slightly unorthodox turnaround, few of the endings indicate the protagonist is anything other than a temporary toy for these women, which is a nice touch if a tad bleak. A dating simulator with a series of happily-ever-after endings, this is not.
So, okay, it’s possibly more aimed at the Fifty Shades of Grey crowd, and that’s clearly not me. If the above paragraphs describe a bunch of dreamboats, more power to you; you’ll quite possibly find the pornographic payoff more enjoyable than I did.
The actual pornographic scenes are as below, minus my amused censoring. To clarify, the below shot shows the entirety of one scene – one still picture that leaves nothing to the imagination, with a few zoomed sections, and multiple text boxes describing the goings-on. Which, again, is probably more tasteful than what you might expect if you’ve ever played any other self-described erotic games, although that’s not really saying much. No judgment here because it’s really down to your individual tastes. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly well-written, and there are a fair few typos… but again, people apparently like Fifty Shades of Grey. And Dan Brown, for that matter.
But you’re wondering how you actually get these salacious scenes, which most likely feature women lovingly impaled on parts of the protagonist’s anatomy (or eating cake). Can you guess? That’s right: you play cards.
Every interaction, from small talk to flirting to more intimate chats, has a card-based minigame attached. Some of them are clearly based on well-known games – there are variants on Rummy and Palace (better known as Shithead) – while others are fairly original, and all of them are reasonably enjoyable for awhile. But even this has its problems.
The first is that your opponents in these card games don’t have a goal, per se. They’re not trying to win a certain number of hands. As such, your real task isn’t to “win” games but to maintain control over them. You’re really just trying to keep your score within a certain threshold against AI that seems to be playing semi-randomly, and this isn’t nearly as entertaining as trying to thwart an opponent that actually has an objective of its own. It also doesn’t help that every now and then you will lose games due to blind luck; while most of the games aren’t that hard once you get the hang of them, there’s no option to fold, there’s no bluffing, and your opponents have no perceivable goals, so being dealt a bad hand can be a death knell for that particular round. As such, these games quickly lose their lustre.
The second problem is a bit more meta: sleeping with these women essentially boils down to winning card games, in order to raise their Intimacy and Attraction values (and to stop your Popularity from dropping to zero, at which point you have to win another card game or you get booted out of the villa). Yes, okay, there’s the whole “flirting is a game; conversation comes down to control” thing but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re trying to get numbers up to the level required for sexy scenes.
You do have other options, but even they’re rather anaemic. Catching two people together – whether they’re chatting, arguing, or fucking in a hallway – gives you a set of choices, some of which will impact your “relationship values” with the people in question, but to a far lesser extent than the card games (which ensue as soon as you pick an option anyway). Sleeping around might piss off – or turn on – anyone else you’ve been chatting up, but again, this has a fairly minor impact and doesn’t do much to expand on these characters.
So no, the game isn’t really telling a raunchy story about a few days of life at the villa. You’re not even trying to figure out how best to approach each person. You’re trying to max out your Intimacy and Attraction values, by playing cards, in order to “win” with each lady. It’s a more upmarket version of Samantha Fox Strip Poker, several decades on.
But let’s end on two positives. Firstly, the game looks stunning. The artwork is of a high quality, sure, but it’s the picturesque mansion (which is divided up into 3D “rooms” with a fixed point of view that can be rotated) that made me catch my breath. It’s got a very unique artstyle and, honestly, it looks beautiful.
Secondly, I actually kinda like the idea. There’s certainly room (and probably demand) for something like this on the market, but I’d prefer something with more of a story and more actual character. I expected something in which I interacted with a variety of realistic characters in gradually progressing events, while taking part in seduction minigames. What I got was a few hours of blindly wandering around a slightly-confusing mansion looking for one person in particular, occasionally stumbling upon events that quickly repeat, and playing card games. For all of this, I’m actually looking forward to seeing what these developers do next.
Y’see, I don’t actively hate Seduce Me. I just can’t really recommend it in the slightest. As erotica, it doesn’t work for me; as a game, I don’t think it’ll really work for anyone.