My Ex-Boyfriend The Space Tyrant!, a point-and-click adventure we featured a few months back, was recently released for Linux (already available for Windows and Mac), and I got a copy as soon as I had a chance to try it out. I was hooked by the advertising as soon as it said the game was approved by the Ministry of Homosexual Pornography; it has a delightful Monty Python-ish ring to it, Ministry is pretty much my favourite metal band, and…well, the rest of it.
Hit the jump to hear more.
So I started playing My Ex-Boyfriend The Space Tyrant!, and I was really unsure of how to review it. I’m always hesitant about reviewing games – I’m just not able to be objective about them, no matter how scientific I try to be in my process – and here’s a game that’s not only targeted directly toward one of my personal favourite but woefully under-served demographic elements about me (gay gamer – emphasis on the “gay”), but after enjoying the first few minutes of it, I wanted to support My Ex-Boyfriend The Space Tyrant.
While staring at the protagonist’s hot-pants lying on a grassy knoll, I remembered an interview with Scott Thompson of The Kids In The Hall I once watched (or read, or heard…I can’t remember now) in which the interviewer asked him about what she thought of the lack of support that the gay community in my area shows its own artists. That interview got me thinking then, and again now, about how my Facebook feed goes nuts when Madonna or Lady Gaga shows up in town, but there’s barely a whisper about local queer success stories like Peaches, or Owen Pallett (who for years went by the name “Final Fantasy” and uses themes from video games in his music – truly, a man after my own heart), or the Hidden Cameras. Hell, Peaches (I’d love to link to her music, but I don’t know if she’s ever done anything even remotely SFW) had to leave the country to get the support she needed to make the music she does.
I remembered that interview as I was playing the game, and I wanted to support this game, come hell or high water.
Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.
My Ex-Boyfriend The Space Tyrant! does have rough edges. Some of the art just isn’t up to par. The animations are a bit stiff. It glitched out on me a couple of times. Still, the game wasn’t just fun (and it was fun), it was hugely promising as well. Promising in part because, reflecting on the rough edges, I thought “I hope that sort of stuff is ironed out in the next game”, and that very thought had me realize that I already wanted another. I wasn’t even done it yet, and I wanted more. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, writing on GayGamer.net, but there just aren’t enough games built for queer audiences from the ground up. Whatever else it is, My Ex-Boyfriend The Space Tyrant! is exactly that. Thankfully, it goes the extra mile, too, and is more than just the gay-version-of-another-game that it could have been. It’s not Mario rescuing the Prince instead of the Princess, for example; it’s its own thing.
Playing a character figuring out how his ex could be trying to destroy the universe felt fresh above-and-beyond the “it’s gay!” factor, and I appreciated that. Almost all of the character designs appear to be done by Joe Phillips, and it shows; they’re individual, surprisingly diverse (despite there being nary an ounce of fat on any of the males), and all done with the game’s tongue-in-cheek ribaldry in mind. It’s not exactly a NSFW game, but it very blatantly objectifies its men the way so many other games objectify their women; and though I was tempted to think that was done just to sell to gay dudes, there are too many self-conscious jokes about the lens the game takes on itself for me to buy that, too many knowing ruptures of the fourth wall, and even a totally unnecessary yet totally welcome reference to the Bechdel test.
It’s smarter than it needs to be. It’s a light-hearted adventure, it’s about a space captain by the last name of “Minogue” who loses his clothes every time he transports to or from his ship, and just about every robot in the game is obsessed with innuendo. It makes Ren and Stimpy jokes, features a conch shell that almost plays the Song of Storms, and its artwork references both BioShock and Barbarella. And I had a lot of fun playing it. I hope that, in the next one, the art is more even and the puzzles are a bit more devious, but as I pointed out, that just reminded me that I want more.
Throughout my encounter with My Ex-Boyfriend The Space Tyrant, I was trying to think of what I could compare it to. My mind kept going back to a point-and-click game I played on a friend’s computer ages ago, in the early 90s. I can’t for the life of me remember its name, but it was a fantasy sci-fi mystery with great art direction. There were a lot of those games back then – this was during Myst‘s heyday – but what kept drawing me back to that game in particular was its too-frequent-to-be-a-coincidence homoeroticism. It used classical Greek statuary liberally in its motifs, its male protagonist was mysteriously close to the other male characters while not really connecting with the women, it was about loneliness and disconnection from the majority culture. It felt like a game yearning to come out of the closet. Angsty.
My Ex-Boyfriend The Space Tyrant is over all that. It’s queer and it’s having fun with it, and it left me wanting to support the game developers, musicians, and other artists who are having fun with it, too.
My Ex-Boyfriend The Space Tyrant is available for download here.
(In the interests of full disclosure, I purchased this game myself, though I have had contact with the developer regarding the release of the Linux version and fixing a bug in the installing process of the Linux version.)