Ribald Bat Lady Plunder Quest by Joey Acrimonious
So I thought I knew exactly the right music to listen to while playing this game: the English goth/pagan band Inkubus Sukkubus, who tend to sing about, you know, sex and hot demon chicks and stuff like that. And I don’t regret putting it on. But having played all of Ribald Bat Lady Plunder Quest, I’ve come to the conclusion, obvious perhaps to others, that Zorklang the Despoiler is not in fact a succubus. She’s not demonic. She’s just a bat lady in a world that also contains dog ladies. And she doesn’t seduce otherwise virtuous men – on the contrary, not only is Zorklang herself completely monogamous, there’s also no-one in the world she could tempt towards sexual ruin, since every single person we meet is already obsessed with sex. (Maybe not every single one. But a lot of them.)
It took me a while to get into this game, for two reasons: the prose and the very, uh, light implementation. Let’s start with the prose. I spent the first ten minutes that I was playing the game trying to find out what time period it was trying to emulate. For instance, the game says:
Escrive? It didn’t appear in any standard English dictionaries. I resorted to a middle-English dictionary, and there I found the verb ‘escriue’, which I suppose we would now spell as ‘escrive’. So, middle-English? But much of the rest of the prose didn’t fit that hypothesis at all. In the end, I decided that it’s probably supposed to be a weird mishmash of different times and registers, and things became more enjoyable after that. Some absurdly overwrought passages brought a smile to my lips, such as in this terrible and yet somehow perfect sex scene:
I’ll return to this sex scene in a moment. But first, the light implementation. This is not a parser game where every noun has been lovingly implemented, and trying out weird actions gives you appropriate responses! Which is fair enough, but here’s one of the first exchanged I had with the game:
Unforgivable! If there’s a squeezable ass, I want to be able to squeeze it! Again, the first ten minutes or so of interacting with the game were fairly frustrating because of the many times it did not understand me or gave me standard fail messages. But after a while I began to see that this is a game that goes out of its way to steer the player to the correct next action, and the light implementation began to see more and more as a deliberate design decision; as the decision, namely, to take away all distractions and focus only on the path towards the goal. Which is fine. At some points the game goes a little too far in this approach; e.g., when as a player you know exactly what to do with the crate, but you’re not allowed to do it because you haven’t heard the exact reason for it yet – this seemed unnecessarily frustrating. But most of the time, Ribald Bat Lady Plunder Quest does a very good job propelling you forward while still giving you the idea that it is you who does the moving.
Which brings me to what is perhaps the most important point: I really enjoyed this game! The storytelling is very good, with a main character that is fun to inhabit, a premise that makes one chuckle (Zorklang is the worst offender in the category of people who are told not to bring presents but insist on bringing a present anyway), and the initial plot outline is quickly complicated by some audacious plot twists that nevertheless make sense. Maybe the end is a bit over the top, when an entirely new villain is introduced and then turns out to be a lich… but okay, who cares. It’s a fun ride. The Maize puzzle made me laugh. And the writing turns out to be surprisingly good, once you’ve looked past its absurdity!
Ribald Bat Lady Plunder Quest is one of several games in the competition that prominently feature sex. Of the games I’ve seen so far, this one has the most explicit, detailed scenes. But there is nothing pornographic about it. The language of the game puts so much distance between us and the events that it turns these scenes from potential erotica to show pieces of creative writing. Read again the sex scene I quoted above. Citizen Makane (this is not much of a spoiler) takes porn tropes and dials them up to eleven and in that way undoes them as porn. But Ribald Bat Lady Plunder Quest does not use porn tropes. No porn writer – I hope – would ever have their characters say “I shall sup from thy honeypot!” Maybe if Clark Ashton Smith had gotten really drunk…
A really enjoyable game, and one that makes me want to check out Joey’s earlier games as well.