Note: This post includes some NSFW screenshots from Ladykiller in a Bind.
We need more games about sex. It’s odd (but not really surprising) that an medium so rife with titillation and sexualisation is so reluctant to actually explore sex as a theme. That’s part of what makes Ladykiller in a Bind such a breath of fresh air; it’s not just a sexy game, but one that actually engages with sex in a way that few other games do.
Ladykiller follows the Beast, a lesbian ladykiller who finds herself roped into taking her twin brother’s place on a week-long cruise. Keeping up the ruse is a tricky task, but that doesn’t stop her from having lots of hot sex with her brother’s gorgeous, horny friends. There’s a somewhat interesting mystery story wrapped around this, but make no mistake, the main thrust of Ladykiller in a Bind is the sex – though it’s not what you might expect.
In almost every dating sim, the goal is to court your target chosen suitor until you finally “win” by getting to the sex (or a kiss, in less raunchy games). In Ladykiller, sex isn’t a reward for getting to know someone; it’s how you get to know them. There are two main romance routes, but the only time got really get to spend time with the women involved is during randy nightly trysts. Their personalities come through in the way they fuck, their dirty talk, their pillow talk, the mornings after – sexuality is by no means the sole or even the defining aspects of their personalities, but it’s fundamental to who they are and it’s the window into their souls.
The Beauty of BDSM
The Beauty, as her name suggests, is very conventionally attractive, but beneath that sweet exterior is a bondage-loving domme. Sex with her involves getting tied up, teased, objectified, demeaned… and it’s fucking hot. It also lets you see the Beauty for the compassionate, lovely person that she is. Like any good dom, she puts safety first and checks in regularly to see how the Beast is doing. She genuinely cares, and – as nonsensical as this may seem to people who aren’t familiar with BDSM – that comes through clearest when you’re under her heel.
The Beauty’s route in particular is also an important insight into the oft-misunderstood world of BDSM. It’s all new to the Beast, but she enjoys being dominated by the Beauty – she gets off on it, and more importantly, she finds comfort in it. She’s someone who spends her whole life trying to be in control, but being the Beauty’s pet gives her an escape from that. She feels safe, whether she’s tied up in the Beauty’s ropes or cuddling her the morning after.
That part can’t be overstated: as much as power play as there is, safety and communication are fundamental to g
ood BDSM practices, and Ladykiller in a Bind is great at showcasing this. The Beauty checks in regularly to see how the Beast is doing, and to ensure that she’s respecting the Beast’s boundaries. She takes time to talk about safe words, to check the Beast’s circulation while she’s tied up, and to make sure she’s not going too far with her degrading dirty talk. the Beast and the Beauty share a healthy, empowering dom/sub relationship, which is something you don’t often see in any medium, least of all games.
It’s my first time, please be gentle
The star of the other main romance route, the Stalker, is a painfully shy introvert. She’s just as sweet and caring as the Beauty, but she has trouble expressing herself. When it comes to sex, she’s totally submissive and bashful, and depends on the Beast to take the lead. She takes things slow, she lacks confidence, and she’s unsure of her boundaries, but it’s clear how much she cares for the Beast in the way she coyly submits and in how much trust she shows.
This route shows another side of the Beast, where she’s in her element as the person who takes charge. Her relationship with the Stalker isn’t as kinky as with the Beauty, but it’s nonetheless one of a power imbalance. The Beast knows this, and even though she’s anyways taking the lead, she constantly checks in with the Stalker. Even with her teasing, the Beast always keeps the Stalker’s boundaries in mind. Once again, communication is the key.
The Stalker’s route also opens an intriguing door by giving your some degree of control over what the Beast says and does. You can’t be an asshole, but there are a range of ways to talk about issues of consent and comfort, and to balance that with playful teasing and taking charge. It’s a strange space to be in, carrying the weight of that responsibility for someone else.
One thing I did find rather uncomfortable about the whole thing – and this may be intentional – is that the Stalker doesn’t find out the Beast’s true identity until the game’s ending. You can try talk her, but even then, she just ignores it and things is just some silly game the Brother is playing. What’s creepy about this is that it’s the Brother, not the Beast, whom the Stalker is initially attracted to; there’s an element of exploitation there.
I must admit, I haven’t played through the full Stalker route. Given how seriously Ladykiller in a Bind takes issues of consent, I suspect this discomfort is a deliberate means to explore that theme, but I found it too uncomfortable to carry through. (The Beauty knows the Beast’s true identity from the outset, so there are no such moral quagmires – just hot, kinky sex).
Whole lotta love
The Beauty and the Stalker are the two main story routes, but there are a few others that you can pursue alongside them. My favorite is the Photographer, a friend of the Brother with whom you can have a quick fling. It’s another avenue for a steamy sex scene, but what really makes this path stand out for me is what happens when the Photographer sticks her hand down the Beast’s pants.
Expecting a dick and finding a pussy instead, she just shrugs and runs with it, going down on the Beast like there’s no tomorrow. It’s hot as hell, but more importantly, the Photographer’s reaction is a great response to a society that’s obsessed with people’s genital configurations. The Photographer is attracted to a person, not what’s in their pants, and that’s something that really ought to be the norm.
Across the handful of different routes available, Ladykiller in a Bind covers a bevy of different themes relating to sex and sexuality. BDSM, consent, communication, and are obviously the big ones, but it also touches on things like polyamory, confusion around a first same-sex attraction, cross-dressing, and a common misconceptions about sex (sex isn’t a competition that you win or lose!).
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There’s so much more I could say about Ladykiller in a Bind. I talk about it’s clever approach to dialogue choices, it’s stunning art and soundtrack, and how crisp the whole game looks. I could talk about the great use of a framing narrative that has the Beast recounting her story to her Brother, and how funny the game is. I could talk about the seamless implementation of more game-like elements through an overarching story about the characters in the game being thrown into a game of social manipulation.
I could talk about a lot of things, but all you really need to know is that Ladykiller in a Bind is an excellent game. It deftly explores themes of sex and sexuality without shame, and with a sense of fun and humanity – I’d go as far as saying it should be part of the sex ed curriculum. If that’s not enough to convince you, trust me when I say it’s a very, very sexy game that’s sure to get you hot and bothered, in the best possible way.
Ladykiller in a Bind is developed and published by Love Conquers All Games. It’s available now for PC via Steam and Humble.
A press copy was supplied by Love Conquers All Games for this review.