So yeah, I’m going to put most of this behind a “Read More” link. This is a Content Warning for two things:
- Spoilers for the game Ladykiller in a Bind
- A cishet dude (That’s me) writing about aspects of that game without having any clue what he’s actually talking about.
My Friend Recommended Me a Kinky Lesbian Sexy Visual Novel but I Never Thought I’d Be Drawn to Its Gameplay and Story and Other Nonsexual Elements?! (OR: Reflections on Ladykiller in a Bind)
This is not a review of Ladykiller in a Bind.
But if you’re reading this wondering if you should buy/play it, the answer is “Oh sweet Christ yes buy it and buy it NOW.”
There. You can leave now.
….You’re still here.
Again: This is not a review of Ladykiller in a Bind.
For starters, I’m utterly unqualified to objectively review this game. I’ve pretty much never played a visual novel in my life before this, to the point that I had to ask the person who recommended I play it if it even *was* a visual novel. Being assured that yes, it was, I came up with the title of what you’re reading, which nicely sums it up.
I should start at…not the beginning, exactly, but close enough to it.
One of my friends recommended I play Ladykiller in a Bind, whose full title (And the title you’ll need to search for if you want to see it played on Twitch) is “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!!” There is absolutely nothing in that title that would discourage me from playing it, and the person who recommended it to me knew that. But they also said there was more to it than that–the exact words were “You should get it, it’s good…The story is really good and you can get vastly different things to happen depending on what you choose”.
Good enough for me. I was a bit skeptical, but I figured “what the heck, if the story isn’t good, at least I’ll get some cute tied up women out of it.”
I wasn’t ready to enjoy everything else about it as much as I did. I so wasn’t ready.
One more time: This is not a review of Ladykiller in a Bind.
This is me trying to cope with my feelings on it.
Now, to be clear, I just finished getting all the achievements in it. The fact I now willingly have something reading “Achievement Slut” in my achievements list, despite not being much of an “inherent” achievement hunter(1), should sum up everything you need to know. You should totally still buy it.
But it’s been about a week and a half since I finished my first playthrough of it. Had I written this then, the writeup would have been very different.
I’m not sure it would even have been sane.
Maybe it’s still not.
I’ve been gaming since I was, probably, 3 or 4 years old. I remember playing Intellivision Bowling with my dad and grandfather, and asking my aunt if I could go to her house (Technically my grandmother’s house, and over my mom’s specifically telling me NOT to ask her that) to play her NES. What I’m trying to say if I’ve played a lot of games over the years. A lot of very good games. A lot of games I remember.
But there are only a few moments I really REMEMBER to the point of being, for lack of a better term, emotionally affected by them.
- Being 8 years old and being absolutely blown away by the speed of the original F-Zero.
- A couple years later, at age 10, freaking out to the point of crying at the escape sequence in Super Metroid, because I didn’t think I was going to make it out before the planet exploded. (To be fair, I’d spent most of that night banging my head against Mother Brain, and at the time, I didn’t understand what made my successful attempt at beating her different from the numerous failed attempts where I got Rainbow Beamed to death. THIS STORY IS HAPPY END, though–I made it out with about 20 seconds to spare.)
- Seeing the ending of Phantasy Star II, at around 13 or 14, which without spoiling too much, confirmed everything I thought about humans/Earth people at that age (I like to think I’m a little more upbeat about humanity nowadays).
- A couple years after that, the reveal of the Goddesses of Ys near the end of Ys II, specifically the Turbo-Grafx CD version of Ys Book I & II (I should have seen that one coming in hindsight. Related, I don’t care if it’s a mistranslation, “Lair” is a WAY better name than “Reah” don’t @ me).
- And now, this game, or more specifically, the end of my first playthrough of it. And this is my first time thinking AT THE TIME “Holy crap, I am going to REMEMBER this.” I think my exact words to my wife were “It’s actually fucked me up how good this game was.” And I wasn’t trying to be witty.
About ten days removed from that, and having played through various routes big and small to get the game’s achievements (Outside of knowing there were 20 of them, I didn’t even bother looking at the list to see what you needed to do to earn them prior to finishing the game first, which kept me unspoiled.), it’s still an amazing game, way better than I ever expected. I was still finding new lines from the characters to chuckle at and screenshot even as I was finishing the achievements.
Having said that, as I played through some of the routes, I think part of the game being such a revelation for me was a perfect storm of circumstances, where a lot of things I did, by chance, set up such that everything came together to have as much impact as possible.
First, as I mentioned, I’ve never played a visual novel before this. So I have no idea if displaying the consequences of your choices before you make them is a standard thing or not. But this did two things: It created some sort of internal conflict between wanting to make the “optimal” decision and trying to keep “in-character” either as myself or as the main character, to the extent the two were different. It also kept me on edge, waiting for the game to yank that help out from under me and say “Okay, you’re on your own, good luck!”, which never happened.
Secondly, there’s the plot itself and how I navigated through it. As evidenced by the first part of the game’s full title, you, The Beast, are masquerading as your brother (The Prince) on a week-long cruise with his graduating classmates at his request. You have to make it through the week without blowing your cover. The twist is that “[…]Crossdress As Him[…]” part. Not only is The Beast female, she (you) is also an extremely horny lesbian. This, obviously, complicates things.
And now, a brief rundown of which scenes I saw in that first playthrough (You can give each character, including yours, one of a couple different names, or make your own. I’m using the first choices for all the characters here).
The President- 1/5
The Nerd- 1/5
The Boy- 2/5
The Swimmer- 1/5
The Photographer- 4/5
The Athlete- 5/5
This will mean very little if you haven’t played the game. But it meant the following:
- I was even more disoriented than The Beast through most of the game. It wasn’t until Day 5 at the earliest that I even learned why The Beast agreed to the whole “crossdress as her brother” thing in the first place, let alone anything about the larger plot.
- During one of the Day 3 interlude scenes, I first learned that The Maid was in on whatever The Prince’s plot was in the framing device, but at the time, I wasn’t even sure if I was seeing it correctly. I thought “Wait she’s there too?”, and I didn’t think much of it until a later scene that confirmed I saw it right.
I suppose I should take a step back and discuss the framing device. Ladykiller in a Bind is an accurate description of the game as a whole–technically, you spend most of the game, in The Beast’s words, “[…]tied to a fucking chair in god knows where in the middle of the fucking Atlantic Ocean”. You’re relaying what happened on the cruise so that The Prince has the story straight in case he gets asked about it. It makes sense in context, I promise.
Moving on, a couple more things that my path through the game meant:
- Like I mentioned above, I had no idea about the larger plot until the start of Day 7 (“Here’s Where Shit Gets Real”). Once day 7 started, based on the little bit The Athlete told me (Which was about the only part of said larger plot I was told), I basically went “Oh fuuuuuuck I’m wrapped up in this big whole thing now aren’t I?”
- Finally, my path meant the conflict that is “Pretending to be your brother and trying not to blow that cover WHILE ACTUALLY being a ragingly horny lesbian who is very intent on acting on that horniness” was basically a non-issue. Essentially, this route meant the only person I slept with was The Beauty, who knows in advance you’re not The Prince, and is just fine with that (Her literal deal with The Beast amounts to “Let me do naughty things to you, and I’ll throw everyone off your trail in the morning”). Some of the other paths through the game involve…a bit of suspension of disbelief, let’s say, in making the whole scenario work.
Though thinking about it more, I started to wonder if the problem wasn’t the game’s, but mine.
Let me explain.
I’m a straight dude who married his high school sweetheart. Those two things mean I have a lot of bias, conscious and otherwise, about how the act of sex works and what’s “normal” in a sexual relationship. In other words, if I were in that situation, and my prospective sexual partner didn’t have the anatomy I expected, I can’t lie, it would freak me out, at least initially (The Prince actually asks “How did you not see the obvious problem?!” in one of the routes. Suffice to say it works out anyway.). But…maybe I’m in the minority on that? Or at least I would be in this game? Pretty much the entire student body that you interact with seem to be bisexual at a minimum, which would make the specific genitalia less of a big deal. Or maybe this happens in general a lot more often than I think it does. I don’t know.
The other factor is that this is obviously a game with a queer slant to it. In brief, you can pick whether or not to have the option to skip the sex scenes, and you can change this at any point in the menu. The exception to this is near the end of one particular route, where The Beast can partake in what the game calls Transactional Straight Sex and Degradation (Either Giving or Receiving depending on the option you pick.) Now, while you can always go into the menu and turn on the option to skip any sex scenes, these are the only ones where the game “overrides” you and turns on the option by default, even if you specifically turned it off. I don’t know if this is because most of the point of the game is having lesbian sex as opposed to straight sex and the latter kind of comes out of nowhere (I’d argue that the sex in one of the main paths is transactional for at least part of the path), or if there’s a deeper lesson here about what is and isn’t “weird”. I feel like the latter is part of it, even if accidentally. It certainly made me think about it.
I can’t say I expected the game to make me think about sex theory (Is that even a real thing? It is now.) and my place in the world relative to that. Just chalk up one more thing this game did that I didn’t expect, I suppose.
So yeah. That’s that. I should’ve known I was going to get more than I expected out of the game when I found myself oddly drawn into the story even before the first in-game night. Even then, though, I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did.
There’s apparently going to be a sequel at some point. I’m honestly not sure if I’m looking forward to it or not. I feel like it would just disappoint me.
Because holy crap, the end of that first playthrough. I know part of it is just I didn’t expect much more than kinky lesbian sex out of it, and actually got something compelling and engaging storyline-wise. But I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that way after beating a game. And I don’t know that I ever will again.
(1) My attitude toward achievements is “If I like the game, AND none of the achievements seem TOO difficult to get, I’ll go back and get them even if it requires playing the game in ways I otherwise wouldn’t have. But I won’t waste my time if I think it’ll be excessively difficult, and I’m not going to play a game I don’t like just to get achievements.”