I was fairly surprised when I was offered the code for Venus Hostage. It’s not a game that I’d heard of before, and the official website shows more than one image of a half-naked woman. In actual fact, it took me several minutes to realise the game is a first-person shooter of sorts, although I think it’s fair to say this one is definitely for the adults. Between the fighting sections and “naughty bits” – what there are of them – Venus Hostage is a puzzle game of sorts, forcing you to work out how to escape from your captors, save the girl and, preferably, avoid going near that very phallic-looking chainsaw toy.
The one thing that Venus Hostage isn’t is a sex game; I should probably clear this up right now because it surprised me as well. Despite the developer’s occasionally shocking use of sexual content, this is a game that doesn’t shy away from sex, rather than a game that focusses on it. Sure, you’ve been captured by a sex-obsessed cult, drugged, and very narrowly avoided an embarrassing trip to the hospital, but your character wants nothing more than to escape – sex is the very last thing on his mind. That’s the basic plot through the game, although it’s definitely worth going into a bit more detail.
The story, as it is, isn’t exactly the most gripping thing though. The main character is on an online chatroom, in which he is offered a meeting with a complete stranger. The stranger turns out to actually be a girl, which is surprising enough, but when she offers some “hot coffee”, and doesn’t immediately turn out to be a complete psycho, well, you could knock me over with a feather. The same could probably be said for the main character, who immediately ends up on his back. After a couple of seconds of digital flesh, we zoom out from a satisfied couple who may or may not know each other’s names.
Little do they know that in the doorway stands a strange man in a leather balaclava, leather clothing and presumably leather socks and shoes. When the main character wakes, he is met by an extremely hospitable young lady who, in the stone building you’ll be exploring, probably feels very, very cold in her choice of dress. The lady then takes advantage of you, and it is shortly after this that you decide you must escape; funnily enough about the same time she shows you her new toy, the aforementioned phallic-looking chainsaw thing, which you use to break down a weak wall and escape. That’s right: you break down a WALL with it.
The game then follows your attempts to escape, during which you’ll knock over leather men, solve puzzles and see at least one pair of exposed breasts, depending on your collection skills. Here’s my advice: watch the trailer. Everything you could possibly want to see of this game is right in there. The trailer is 50 seconds long, and I estimate that that is perhaps ten percent of the whole game. If you’re still curious, there’s a very nice man on YouTube who has done a very entertaining “let’s play” series. It’s not that in and of itself the game is particularly bad, but its length and lack of depth is a joke when compared with the £6.50 price they want for it.
Let’s be fair though, and take a look at the good points, because this game certainly has a few. The graphics aren’t terrible, unless you’re talking about the animation around the breasts; if a female character moves even a step forward, it’s like watching a rather violent jelly. Other than that, textures and models aren’t perfect, but nor are they terrible. The fact that some areas are far too dark is my major complaint, because this does have an effect on the game itself. There’s no option to turn the brightness up, and I’ve spent good time squinting at a solution for minutes before finally seeing it.
One of my favourite parts of this game is the soundtrack, which is amazing compared the game surrounding it. The music is not only suitable to the situation, but oftentimes actually makes it, the voice acting and writing not standing up on their own merits. Including the soundtrack as a bonus when you download the game is perhaps the best decision the developers made while making this game, and trust me when I say they’ve made some pretty rough decisions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sure I’d ever sit and actively listen to it, but while playing the game, you certainly appreciate most of it.
The gameplay itself is actually quite endearing, with a very retro feel about it compared with most modern first-person games. The way the character controls reminds me of something like Perfect Dark. The focus is certainly on the puzzle-solving elements rather than the shooting, though, and you’re only given one opportunity to shoot at enemies. At all other times, you’ll be using mêlée weapons, which is, at the early stages of the game, a puzzle itself. With every knocked out enemy, the wooden bats that are your primary weapons break, forcing you to find another if there are more enemies. Considering the size of the game, this doesn’t happen very often.
Most of your time will be spent with a previously hidden object in your hand – and that is in no way a double entendre. Putting wheels back in their correct place so as to open new doors or fix elevators is commonplace and, for what it is, the game does it fairly well. If that was all Venus Hostage was going for, without any of the sex or faux-violence, it would probably be quite a popular game amongst a certain crowd, but it’s not all that Venus Hostage goes for and, in that respect, it overshoots.
Like I wrote earlier, this game certainly doesn’t shy away from sex, but the bulk of it tends to be two hardly animated character models moving towards each other as the camera pans around the room (conveniently blocking anything that would be too hard to animate). All in all, there’s probably less than 20 seconds of these implied “romantic” situations, so if that’s your main reason for buying this game all I can say is: welcome to the Internet, where you need only to Google just about anything to find naked people.
However long those scenes last for, it probably ends up being quite a respectable amount of the game. As I finished Venus Hostage in less than an hour’s playtime, it will have taken me longer to write this review, which obviously isn’t a good thing. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t collect everything: there are six images to collect that may or may not have been taken from Mafia 2’s Playboy collection (if not it’s in a similar vein), and a DVD of some description. At times I even got so frustrated with the slow character movement and lack of any real action that I got hints to complete the game slightly faster.
That’s not to say that the game is difficult; it’s far from it, but it’s just so dull that getting stuck on dark, gloomy parts can be incredibly frustrating. So what’s the advantage to multiple playthroughs? I’m afraid to say that there isn’t really an advantage to multiple playthroughs, nor even a single playthrough, not unless you really enjoy hurting yourself. There are levels so badly made that everything jumps around like a skipping CD, times when the subtitles are incorrect and times when - this is my favourite - the voice acting is incorrect (and the subtitles correct).
I’d love to know exactly what the developers were going for when they put pen to paper and started work on Venus Hostage. I’d love to know if, when they’d finished and played it through, they thought it was the very best they could do, or whether it was just a cheap attempt at cashing in and selling sex to people who don’t know any better (again, welcome to the Internet). The small glimmers of potential you occasionally see only emphasise the negative points, and they were bad enough to begin with. Avoid Venus Hostage even if you have a penchant for bad games, because the high price and low return means, like the main character, you’re getting screwed either way.