Tale of Tales latest offering could be the most sensual experience ever to offer itself up as something to be played. Prepare for an extraordinary ride that answers the question: what if Georgia O'Keeffe and Claude Monet had a videogame love-child?
There are very few game developers that have the power to get me excited about a new release, but Tale of Tales are consistently inventive, always provocative, and just mad enough to aspire to greatness. We've become accustomed to their explorations of thin play with artgames such as The Endless Forest, The Graveyard, and Bientôt l'été, so the first surprise with Luxuria Superbia is that the play is much thicker, more overtly ‘game-like’, while the narrative is elided and implicated rather than painted in the bold strokes of Auriea Harvey's evocative character designs. Here, Auriea and husband Michaël Samyn have made something intimate yet not quite personal. If most videogames are 'murder simulators', this is a simulation (or perhaps, a stimulation) of a different kind of death - what the French call "la petite mort".
Luxuria Superbia is effectively an on-rails shooter (expect to hear comparisons to Rez, although it is a very different animal!) but without guns or violence, and presented as a strangely erotic experience. In fact, it is the most overtly sensual-sexual game I've seen, yet it is in no way pornographic. Playing an earlier build i was kindly invited to play, I laughed myself silly when the flower I was (ahem) stimulating chided me for rushing everything on my second outing! The entire experience reminds me of Slavoj Zizek's comments about flowers:
I think that flowers are something inherently disgusting. I mean, are people aware what a horrible thing these flowers are? I mean, basically it's an open invitation to all insects and bees, "Come and screw me," you know? I think that flowers should be forbidden to children.
Like Zizek’s flowers, the blooms on display here are most definitely not for children. Indeed, this is the most adult game I've seen – and I do not mean 'adult' in the sense it is usually meant in the games industry i.e. puerile schoolboy humour. Prepare to climb inside an O'Keeffe painting and enter a new garden of earthly delights with a game that deserves both to be part of the sex education curriculum and to be proudly displayed in the ever-growing ranks of digital media that show there can be far more to fantasy than just mere power.