One of the stranger games to come out of Infocom during the 1980’s was their adventure/science fiction/erotic fantasy parody game Leather Goddesses of Phobos. The game, which came out in 1986, was very successful, becoming one of the 6 best-selling Infocom games (selling 53,543 copies in 1986 and 130,000 in total) and was quirky in more than one way.
The first way it was quirky was the items it came with, notably a Scratch and Sniff paper with seven different scents on it. Throughout the game, you’d be told to scratch and sniff a certain squares. One of the places you were told to do this was a bathroom. I’ll let you imagine what it smelled like (hint: it wasn’t roses). It also came with 3D glasses, perfect for the copy-protection device known as The Adventures of Lane Mastodon, a comic book with vital information in. That just happened to be printed in 3D. It also had 3 play modes, “tame”, “suggestive” and “lewd”, which didn’t change too much, just toning up or down the level of naughtiness in the game, though all of it would be considered pretty tame today.
The other quirky thing was its humor and storyline. The story is actually amazingly simple. One day, you were drinking beer. After picking your gender (by going to the washroom you identify with), you get zapped and brought to the Leather Goddess’s home planet. In a jail cell.
You’ll meet an assistant (Trent or Tiffany, depending on your gender) and you’ll have to break out of the cell and explore locations as exotic as Mars, a pleasure dome, a sultan’s harem and Cleveland. (Bonus point: Guess which of these was described as the worst.)
Through out, you’ll need to deal with evil sultans, evil animals, sexy slaves, Clevelanders, an amazingly easy to kill assistant, and the Leather Goddesses of Phobos themselves. It’s up to you whether you save the world or become their pleasure slaves, but only one is the right answer.
It’s humor is wacky, and besides making fun of Cleveland (the answer to the bonus point from above), people, bars, and stuff in general, it also delights in the fact that it is a naughty game and that parent and church organizations will be trying to ban it and that kid’s really shouldn’t be playing it. Another piece of humor, albeit unintentional, is the age verification process, required to play the Lewd mode. All you have to do is type in your age. That’s worse than the method Steam uses to verify your age. “Let’s see. I’m 21. Yup, definitely 21.”
Another quirky “bonus” to the game is that it has a boss mode! No, not an end boss battle. Instead, it’s something that you can use when you are playing the game at work and your boss comes up behind you and wants to know what’s happening. When you hear them approach, just press the right key combination and you will have what looks like a database screen. Just filled with sex toys like inflatable milkmen.
The game, whose title had been a running joke for a long time at Infocom and had previously appeared in other Infocom games, was made to, in the creators words, stir up a bit of controversy. It was also fun. And made fun, but I’ve already mentioned that.
It also mentions sex. Though never shows it. You can, if you ask the game to “f**k”, will read out something like: A slap across the face alerts you that Tiffany/Trent isn’t that hot to trot. And not a goddam single cold shower in sight! Or, ask to whip one of them with something like a hose and the game tells you that is some S&M and it loves it. Unless you’re in tame, where it just tells you to relax.
Leather Goddesses of Phobos has managed to stay relevant. It’s a popular game to discuss on the internet in articles (hey, I’m doing it!) and has been mentioned in popular culture recently, such as in the Matt Dameon movie The Martian, where it is mentioned (with Zork I) in passing.
So there we have it. The littlest sexy game that could.