Sometimes I wonder if writing about sex games has ruined me. It's certainly ruined my experience of Steam, given that my home page recommendations are now made up of roughly 50 per cent visual novels that are really just two-hour-long excuses to look at anime boobs.
Nevertheless, I was optimistic about the romantic visual novel Seduce Me the Otome.
Attempting to find the smut hidden within Steam's gigantic library means relying heavily on the store page descriptions, the trailers, and the game titles themselves. This one had the word "seduce", and was about incubi - demons that have sex with women - so, unsurprisingly, I was expecting something saucy that would make for a great write-up.
Now, I've never experienced "blue balls", but I have experienced the immense disappointment of finding out that Seduce Me the Otome is, in fact, a visual novel so bloodless and tame that it makes Pope Francis look like Hugh Hefner.
In a blisteringly fast-paced introduction, your main character learns that her grandfather has died, leaving her a mansion with neither bills nor mortgage to take care of, and that said mansion is infested with young, attractive demons. Incubi, to be exact, which is supposed to excuse the fact that two out of the five of them kiss you without permission within five minutes of meeting you.
So far, so Twilight, and it isn't hard to feel as though Seduce Me the Otome is just a dream of Stephanie Meyer with five Edwards rather than the paltry one.
Unfortunately, having five boys milling around - plus two dateable female best friends, one dateable male human, one human arch-nemesis, and one devil arch-nemesis - means that you never really get to spend much quality time with anyone.
Once the PG-13 kissing scenes begin, they're hard to get into. This is partly because the art is unnervingly bad at times, but mostly because the player-character has known these creepy, trespassing, non-consensual-kiss boys for mere days.
Their breathy declarations of love come across as intense and weird, even if you've been leaning into the flirty dialogue options - of which there aren't many, because this game is 90 per cent reading, 10 per cent choosing options that don't mean much.
The closest I came to a sex scene is a sort of smushing that happened with my first playthrough choice, James. He was the eldest of the five, the serious-boy stereotype. He wore glasses. I knew what I was getting myself in for. Or, I thought I did, because what I actually got was a pre-coital freeze-frame of my boo unbuttoning the second button on his shirt.
The second button! That isn't even the sexiest button! I know that Steam has some backwards, draconian measures against "porn" in games, but I highly doubt that even Steam has extended its censorship to "anything below button number three".
I didn't even get to see a man-nipple, and if the movie 300, which is entirely about man-nipples, can get a 15 rating in British cinemas (where I'm from) then I'm pretty sure I'm entitled to the sweet nips of my chosen boink.
Is it really so much to ask that a game about incubi should have full-frontal sweaty rutting so that I can have something titillating to write about? The demons tell you that they need to absorb your "sexual energy" over and over again, with such sexual energy that I was expecting them to smush me against the wall then and there.
Which would be fine! Seduce Me the Otome practically declares what your intentions and expectations should be before the game even begins. There's even a great opportunity in there to explore consent and communication, because while the incubi can use their powers to make you do their bidding, the player-character still has agency in a lot of ways.
But really, it's totally OK to have the sexy demon boys take your sexual energy, because this is a fantasy game about sexy demon boys who must take your sexual energy. It isn't a surprise. It's literally the expected outcome.
To have them not do so is a sort of Chekov's gun. Chekov's penis, maybe. In fact, to quote Chekov himself: "One must never place a [sexy incubus] on the stage if it isn't going to [have sex with you]. It's wrong to make promises you don't mean to keep."
Maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe Seduce Me the Otome isn't about sex; it's about creating a meaningful connection with men who initially seem to only want one thing. But, at the end of the day, I keep coming back to one review on Steam:
"Tfw you live in a house with five incubi and still can't get laid."