20 Nov 2013

Luxuria Superbia: A Fontaine Fondle

I’ve never wanted to wash my hands after playing an iPad game. That is, until I’d played Luxuria Superbia. At first glance it reminded me of rhythm roller-coaster Audiosurf, although perhaps with a seedy seventies vibe. The truth, it turns out, was even more peculiar, with my fingers playing as unwitting servants to the sultry demands of a digital flower.

It began innocently enough. I was tasked to nurture a garden, encouraging the various plants to grow into vibrant, proud specimens. With a few careful pokes and prods, petals changed from a lifeless white to intense red, pulsating rhythmically. As I caressed the inner walls of what I thought was some sentient tulip, it started to plead with me. It told me of yearning, of aching to be touched in just the right way. There was no promise of a high score or secret unlock, just the desperate desires of this electronic eucharis.

In order to satisfy as much of this petulant plant as possible, I started probing with both hands, my fingertips dancing across the screen in response to the exuberant textual encouragement. The flustered fauna guided me, begging to be teased yet desperate to reach a peak. And here I was, oblivious, yet eager to see this kinky kaleidoscope to completion if only to discover what happens.

Then, the inevitable. My iPad flooded in a cacophony of sound and color, the euphemistic entity demanding to be tapped rapidly in all manner of bits and bumps, before finally giving out and fading to white.

It told me the experience was magical. At that point, the penny dropped. My iPad had manipulated me into feeding its carnal desires. Disturbed, it slipped from my grasp, clattering onto the wooden table beneath it.

Unprepared, Luxuria Superbia manages the same trick that Bioshock pulled off some six years ago. Its demands and instructions are in plain sight, but their significance is masked until a crescendo has built and a plateau reached. “Would you kindly gratify the sensual cravings of a mysterious plant,” it asks, in much the same way as Atlas-Fontaine would steer you around Rapture.

Normally, the unmasking would ruin the effect, but Superbia manages one final trick. Its true purpose revealed, more complex flowers arrive to clamor for your sweet caress. It’s not clear if your role is gardener or harem master to some horticultural harlots, but the direction is clear: if you wish to bring color to every corner of this arboretum, be prepared to have your digital dexterity repeatedly tested. It’s a feat that 2K Games never managed with their underwater escapade, although that may be a mercy.

Luxuria Superbia is a unique experience, and one I’d tentatively encourage. Just be prepared for a lot of poking, prodding and patience before the eventual payoff. Like so many things in life and love, this is one thing that refuses to be rushed.

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