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2 people found the following review helpful:
Is That a Codpiece or Just Happy to See Me?, December 20, 2023
Adapted from an IFCOMP23 Review
So human sexuality, that’s a huge thing innit? Nearly universal in concept, infinitely unique in application. I am hard pressed to think of a tougher genre to write broad-audience-targeted fiction in - the variations are SO numerous and SO personal finding the magic combo that hits broadly with an audience is statistically laughable. The easiest, most knee-jerky response is going to be “works for someone I guess, not for me.” Gonna resist that. The OTHER easiest response would be a throaty “I’ll be in my bunk.” Will set that aside too.
RBLPQ does a few things right, out of the gate. By choosing a sexually aggressive female protagonist, we simultaneously acknowledge, parody and skirt eggregiously toxic male sexuality which looms like a cancer over a lot of sexual entertainment. It also fundamentally understands that humor and sexuality are great partners. Cultural shame is best combated by reminders of how FUN healthy sexuality can be, and humor is the weapon of choice in that war. Here, the humor on display so far rests on two pillars: 1. The over the top Alpha behaviors of our heroine and 2. Juxtaposing stilted “olde Englifh” fantasy-speak with brazen, in-your-face sexual descriptions.
I found the first to be consistently pretty good - her bog-simple motivations and confidence are consistently entertaining if not laugh out loud. All her NPC interactions were fun, but in particular her distaste for NPC backstory brought some earned chuckles. She is helped by at least one legitimately entertaining plot twist that she gets to react to. We are paired with a fun protagonist, inhabiting an engaging narrative.
For the second pillar of humor, well, assume spoiler mask is ALSO NC-17 mask for this review. You’re going to want to find these funny in close proximity: (Spoiler - click to show)“I shall plan thee a grand feast,” she spake. “Every accoutrement and revel shall be accounted for, and naught awry.” “his girthy, slick schlong flopping down on his meaty pubic mound with a satisfying plop…” And here, I think the composition choices maybe undermined the work a bit. When it worked best was long stretch of florid, then short punch of profane. That’s a winning combo. Too often, I felt the reverse - long passages of profane with tepid thou’s and thee’s peppering the outskirts. There was one encounter in particular where the sexual acts were described WITH the olde Englifh flourishes. That actually worked kind of ok until it fell apart, reminding me what a tightrope walk this was.
The sex scenes themselves were also employed unevenly. They were most successful when erotic activity was actually incorporated into the gameplay as puzzles. Ok, I don't know where your mind is going now, but hear me out. You’re playing IF, right? If you just want raw titillation boy has the internet got you covered, no problem, you’d probably be there right now. But playing IF it is not unreasonable to say, ‘ok, but I’d like something in an interactive option.’ Too often, it felt like the erotica was pasted on the side, separate from more standard ‘find the…’ ‘give the…’ ‘use the…’ parser puzzles. For long stretches it felt like big mode switches: EROTICA ON, IF OFF; EROTICA OFF, IF ON.
Even when the game leveraged its unique power, it had a new challenge: how do you make IF sex fun? Humor is the key there, and I consistently felt it was ALMOST but not quite there. See, a less disciplined reviewer would make an ‘edging’ joke here, but not me, nossir. I am too dignified for that.
Now all of this is circling the most challenging issue of this game: gameplay. There are a lot of parser implementation issues, most of them Classics. Incomplete nouns are everywhere ("A few low, wooden benches were set about the place, … " >look under bench “She couldn’t see any such thing.”), NPCs are not described as being present in room, making it a shock when they speak. Exits that appear in banner are not implemented. Debug messages still in the game? (>x crate “Insert uh.”) There are inadequately clued puzzles ((Spoiler - click to show)one character is interested in a trade, but the descriptions don’t really gel and it gets solved with trial and error TBF, that particular puzzle was wryly amusing.) You are wearing a cloak that does not appear in inventory, nor can you manipulate it. Not seeing a ladder you just climbed. YOU HAVE WINGS BUT CANNOT FLY. I think maybe if the technical issues were more polished, the work could breath a little better.
In the end the amusing protagonist and plot couldn’t quite escape the implementation issues and text choices to provide the Sparks of Joy I wanted them to. And yeah, I promised I wouldn’t but the erotic content “works for someone I guess, but not for me.”
Playtime: 1hr, 50min, 2nd Act stuck above public house
Artistic/Technical ratings: Mechanical/Notable Implementation gaps
Would Play After Comp?: Unlikely, not my kink
Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless
4 people found the following review helpful:
Zorklang unbound, December 19, 2023
(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).
Joey Acrimonious has written some of the best recent IF that includes graphically-depicted sex – the blurb here refers to its genre as “erotica” rather than “AIF”, and I think that’s an appropriate distinction as to the author’s previous work too. Turbo Chest Hair Massacre is a farce that culminates in the world’s most debauched description of a robot changing her cooling fan, while Digit is a sweet romance that takes its time getting to the moment when its well-drawn characters take their flirtation to the next level. Both mostly progressed as standard parser games with maybe a few lewd touches before climaxing with set-piece sex scenes; Ribald Bat Lady Plunder Quest breaks the mold, though, because this one starts out with a bang. Specifically, the eponymous heroine is enjoying a bout of vigorous, lovingly-described lovemaking with her barbarian lover – the sex is so good that when he casually mentions that his birthday is coming up, she rejects his suggestion for a casual hang in favor of knocking over a small country and giving it to him as a gift. This sweet gesture is somewhat complicated when her main contact turns up dead and a mysterious assassin starts chasing her down. Hijinks – and lots of interstitial sexy bits – ensue.
The game wrings a lot of comedy out of playing its absurd premise so straight it ends up way over the top, which is to say, it’s very very camp. The prose is written in an exaggerated sword-and-sorcery style that left me chortling. Even the tiny bit of narration when you open your journal (which handily tracks your progress and your to-do list) is an opportunity for a gag:
Zorklang checked her scriven notes, for all great despoilers keep a journal of their deeds and intentions.
Oh, did I not mention that the bat lady is named “Zorklang the Despoiler”? And that she has a catchphrase she intones whenever she meets anyone, warning them that she is “bound by the laws of neither gods nor men”? She also has wings and a cool cape, making her a sexy distaff Batman, plus she has mind control powers she can invoke via the eponymous DESPOIL command? She has more authentically chiropteran powers too, like echolocatory hearing and an impressive sense of smell (OK, it’s less impressive than the whole DESPOILing thing, but still pretty good).
This suite of abilities is used to largely good effect in the game’s puzzles. There are a few that involve inventory items, fiddling with mechanical contraptions, or solving a navigation challenge, but for the most part the player winds up searching out hidden ways, recruiting weak-minded confederates, and leaning into her unique abilities. There are some implementation hiccups that meant some puzzles weren’t as smooth as they could have been – one stymied for a while because I hadn’t noticed that GIVE OBJECT defaulted to making an offering to my pet cat, rather than the NPC who needed an object, making me thing I’d tried the solution and it hadn’t worked. And there’s a late-game sequence that’s only kicked off once you notice that one detail in a single previously-visited locale in the largeish map has changed; the player’s given a light hint pointing them in the right direction, in fairness, but the detail in question is just tacked onto the end of the location’s description without being broken out into a new line or anything, so I found it very easy to overlook.
As long as I’m segueing into complaints – don’t worry, I’ll get back to praise soon enough – I also wasn’t entirely sold on the lewd bits that came (yes, yes, I know) in the middle parts of the game. The opening sex scene is necessary to motivate the game’s plot, and is silly and sweet in equal measure, while the closing one (of course there’s a closing one) is likewise a nice capstone reinforcing what a great time the sexy main couple have with each other; they’re the kind of sex scenes you could take home to meet your parents. But the sex in the rest of the game doesn’t feel nearly as organic; often you’ll just be running around doing your regular parser-game stuff and then run across people making out, or the game will pause and drop not-at-all-subtle hints that you should relax, nudge nudge wink wink. It largely avoids the creepiness of the typical exploitation-film approach – you do use your mind control powers to kick off a small orgy at one point, but it’s pretty clear the characters were just looking for an excuse – but these sequences do feel somewhat shoe-horned in, and without of the emotional connection that animates the lovemaking between Zorklang and her boy toy, the florid language risks just seeming silly:
Gasps and sighs of fleshly pleasure answered the salacious squelch and gurgle of her hotly slathered loins. Arching her back and rocking her hips in an ancient, primal rhythm, she painted the bedsheets with sweat and slick passion.
And speaking of potentially unnecessary elements, there’s a treasure-collection mechanic that gives you a score post-endgame based on how much loot you’ve been able to plunder along the way. It’s right there in the title, I suppose, and the system is entirely optional, but its inclusion still struck me as bizarre – anyone who can try to steal a whole country as a token of affection probably doesn’t need to steal minor valuables along the way.
There, now my critical duties are fulfilled and I can close by giving some more examples of how Bat Lady Plunder Quest’s genre self-awareness made me laugh. There’s an absolutely savage skewering here of the kind of DnD player who won’t shut up about their tortured and completely plot-irrelevant backstory, as well as a blurb laying out the in-game lore for the setting’s dog-furry race that gets increasingly shamefaced as it goes:
The two were of dog-person lineage, a race of beast-people: half-human, and half-dog. Well, more like 90% human and 10% dog. Well, more like humans, but just with cute dog ears and silly dog tails.
The ways other characters respond to your introductory catchphrase also never fail to charm:
“I am Severskidim the Crime Lord,” replied the rather bemused man lounging on a plush chaise longue. “My brothels, gambling-dens, tobacconists, and other illicit enterprises payeth no tax, and I do pass the savings on to me.
A few dodgy puzzles and some unnecessary sex didn’t do much to reduce my enjoyment of the game, in other words. I do wish there’d been a full walkthrough uploaded, rather than the helpful but incomplete hints we’ve got now, since there is more friction than I’d like, but Ribald Bat Lady Plunder Quest is funny and charming, and lives up to its predecessors as a strangely wholesome and wholly entertaining romp.
- Edo, November 6, 2023
- Zape, October 16, 2023
- jaclynhyde, October 5, 2023
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