It’s Guest Review Wednesday and it is my very sincere pleasure to welcome back Guest Reviewer and Okazu Superhero Louis P for a very exciting review!
You should remember the name Christine Love. She’s an indie game dev who has made a pretty big splash with her games, Don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story (which has been reviewed here on Okazu), Digital: A Love Story and Analogue: A Hate Story, at Love Conquers All Games. Today we’re going to get a look at her newest game! You have the floor, Louis!
A game about a suave and cool lady who gets pulled into over the top intrigue on a high class cruise, and it is written by Christine Love! This ticks all of the boxes in this list I just wrote! What is its name?
‘My Twin Brother Made Me Crossdress as Him and Now I Have to Deal with a Geeky Stalker and a Domme Beauty Who Want Me in a Bind!’
Or Ladykiller in a Bind for short.
Our ‘Ladykiller’ in this case is The Beast… or the Hero or really whatever you want. Everyone is referred to by nicknames that you can pick or make up yourself. But to keep things simple here we will use the names on the game’s website.
The Beast, as we shall call her, is a fantastic protagonist, cool, sexy, but still dorky and genre blind enough for it to be understandable when she is caught off guard by things the player will see coming long before she does. It is also hard to get a full grasp of her right away as we really are dumped into events running but, luckily she shares narration duties with her brother who is her equal in backtalk. You learn a lot about both of them from how they jostle to get their views in.
The Beast has volunteered to take the place of her twin brother, known as The Prince, at his graduation celebration. In return, The Prince will take The Beast’s place at summer school and pass her failed classes for her. Because of the cruel actions of their farther, The Prince goes to a different school, one that holds its graduation celebration over a week on a giant cruise ship. Not only that, but, a mysterious third party announces a simple and way too easily accepted social game where the students trade votes between each other. The student with the most votes at the end of the cruse gets five million dollars. However as everyone only has one vote it very quickly becomes a contest amongst the most popular movers and shakers in the school. Who just so happen to be The Prince’s classmates.
Said classmates are what you get when you blend equal parts ‘Dallas’ with ‘Gintama’. Over-wealthy, sharp-tongued socialites who are also an endearing, goofy and fun to learn about. The Beast talks to them and slowly gains and understanding of what is going on, as The Prince did not care to tell her much, The Beast must be careful to not arouse suspicion that she is, in fact, not her brother. If The Beast breaks character too many times, the game just ends, perhaps too abruptly, and you must load a save. The trouble is that The Prince has a public persona of being selfish and blunt so almost always if you want to do nearly anything benevolent or exciting it will draw suspicion.
Cue the first of the games two ‘heroines’; The Beauty (get it?). The Beauty is the only person amongst the students who knows The Beast’s true identity. At night The Beast can visit The Beauty who will offer to use her standing to explain away all of The Beast’s suspicious actions. In return The Beast will help The Beauty act out her fantasies of tying up and dominating a handsome woman like The Beast. The Beast herself, after pretending to be someone else and lying to people for an entire day, finds incredible catharsis in allowing The Beauty to take complete control for the time they are together.
While the narration does to a fantastic job of showing The Beast’s headspace in these scenes, very useful if you are a neophyte to this kind of play, I was even more impressed with what we learn about The Beauty in these scenes. There are moments such as when she stops and consults her phone to make sure she has tied a knot correctly or when she makes sure The Beast takes an anti-inflammatory after their session that show the care and planning she has taken to enact her fantasy bleeding through for us to notice. This might be all very new to The Beast but this is a rare and important time for The Beauty too.
The Stalker (just a nickname!), however, has a completely different dynamic with The Beast. While The Beauty knows what she likes and has a list, mood music and a timer, The Stalker is really only sure that she likes The Beast. The Beast then ends up being a partner who can guide her though exploring what she likes – making sure she never feels overwhelmed, until she wants to feel overwhelmed. But it is not just incredibly adorable sex, there is also incredibly adorable dossing around and talking about frivolous things like The Stalker’s bad taste in music or her absolutely huge family. The Stalker and The Beast have some of the best chemistry I have seen in two leads for a long time.
But, if you want to see all of The Stalker’s events you had better be good at pretending to be The Prince during the day as you will need to keep your suspicion low the whole week and this can force you to make some tough choices. Conversely, sticking to The Beauty’s events means you can rack up the amount of suspicion you would need to save over the week in a day and everything will be fine tomorrow provided you crawl back to the Beauty.
This is what makes Ladykiller in a Bind more interesting than your usual erotic visual novel. The main game element of visual novels, that is making dialogue and event choices, becomes tied to the romantic and erotic encounters with the two main heroines.
Don’t go thinking this is a binary choice, either. Choose your events right and there is even a third route involving The Beauty, The Beast and The Stalker all together in easily the best multi partner route I have ever read. This genuinely caught me off guard, as events change way ahead of time to account for these actions. Never, in my experience, has a game changed the ending to a scene so that one character can compliment another on that cool love bite she gave another. It is great to have a main character in a visual novel whose endless flirty charm is a strength that adds positivity to the story, rather than something used for a cheap bad ending.
Normally after I have read all the endings to a visual novel I shelve it, but with Ladykiller in a Bind I find myself eager to go back and read scene variations the moment I have finished with this review something that has not happened in a long time.
Art – 9 (Everyone gets a different outfit every day)
Story – 7
Characters – 10
Yuri – 10
Service – 10
Overall – 9
I highly recommend also checking out Christine Love giving a talk about narrative design techniques she and her team learned during the process of developing Ladykiller in a Bind.
Erica here: Thank you Louis! When I saw the announcement of Ladykiller, I have to admit, I was really glad to see an adult game for mature adults, as opposed to most of the adult games which seem to favor a immature and inexperienced audience.
So thank you for this review. If I enjoyed games at all, I would definitely give this one a try!