The roguelike dungeon crawler Omega Labyrinth Z is coming to the West sometime this year on PlayStation 4 and Vita - but not in the United Kingdom, nor in a handful of other countries that have banned it, including Australia.
Screenshot: PQube Games
According to the BBC, the UK has added its name to a list of countries that have refused to give the game a rating, which already includes Australia, Germany, New Zealand and Ireland. This is tantamount to blocking it from being sold in stores. The Video Standards Council (VSC) explained its decision in a post on its website earlier this week which cited, among other things, the game's sexualisation of underage characters.
"The VSC Rating Board believes this content in a game, which would have strong appeal to non-adult players, is an issue which would be unacceptable to the majority of UK consumers and, more importantly, has the potential to be significantly harmful in terms of the social and moral development of younger people in particular," wrote the ratings agency.
The last game to be refused a rating in the UK was Rockstar's Manhunt 2 in 2008. A version of that game that had been edited to comply with the country's laws was still initially rejected, and it wasn't until after a long appeals process that the game was able to get a PEGI 18 rating and thus allowed into the country.
Omega Labyrinth Z has traditional RPG elements such as traversing dungeons for items and fighting enemies in turn-based combat. It also has what's euphemistically referred to as "fanservice", however, meaning things such as collecting underwear and bras, and rubbing women's bodies using touch controls in order to free them from imprisonment so they can join your party. In the first Omega Labyrinth, one of the goals of protagonist Aina Akemiya was to increase her breast size.
Sex role-playing games such as this aren't new or rare. Gal*Gun: Double Peace was a 2016 rail-shooter in the same vein as Omega Labyrinth Z. While it also included sexualised minors and was banned in Germany, the VSC did rate that game for the UK as PEGI 16, a rating which states, among other things, that "Sexual activity can be shown but it must not include visible genitals". VSC told Kotaku via email was that the difference between the two games had to do with how Omega Labyrinth Z "normalised sexual behaviour towards children".
"In one mini game, the player is given the objective to sexually arouse a sleeping small child holding a teddy bear, whilst she verbally rejects," the agency wrote. "Ultimately, we felt there is a serious danger that impressionable people, i.e. children and young people viewing the game would conclude that the sexual activity represented normal sexual behaviour."
Publisher PQube Games said in a tweet it had tried to appeal the decision, but the VSC rejected it. Kotaku reached out to PQube for comment earlier today, but has not heard back.
In the US, the game will be releasing with an ESRB rating of "Mature", meaning that it is recommended for players 17 and up, and can be carried by mainstream retailers and listed on the PlayStation Store. (The ESRB, which is not a government organisation and is voluntary, also has a rating of "Adults Only", which mainstream retailers in the US choose to not carry.)