Saturday Crapshoot: Geisha

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, an erotic French game that wouldn't have anyone turning Japanese - just turning their heads in confusion that someone thought this was a good idea.

Well, got to give this one a few points for originality at least. Geisha was part of French company Coktel Vision's short-lived quest to sex up adventure gaming, with "Authoress" Muriel Tramis switching from programming missiles to designing games that aimed to be erotic rather than pornographic. One of them was the insane Fascination, which we looked at ages ago. Another was Emmanuelle, based on the answer to the question "What do you read when you can't get your new game working?"

And then there was... ah, this. Your guess is as good as mine.

What a gentleman, helping the lady after she lost her dressing gown cord.

For starters, as you've probably guessed from the weird robot stuff around the lady at the top there, this isn't simply going to be some romance story or historical epic. No, it's much weirder, and not exactly helped by the poor translation. The basic gist though is that you're a secret agent type, on the trail of an fiend called... wait for it... "The Lubricious Dragon", whose partner has been kidnapped by a crazy mad scientist with a PhD in Sexy Evil. His schtick is making gynoid bonk-bots, which means 'lady-android bonk-bots'. Not content to simply make glorified Realdolls though, each one... pause for picture...

Pictured: SCIENCE!

...each one requires him to shoot a naked lady in the crotch to 'draw on the very essence of erotism' and then merge it with his Lego version to create a kind of chimera. This kills the unfortunate lady with pure pleasure, so without Barbarella on hand to out-orgasm it, bad things are in store for Eve.

Your gangster client talks for ages. He must be one of those yakkity-Yakuza.

I think that's what's happening, anyway. If I sound a little confused, it's because the screen where you're told all of this is also the screen where you have to randomly pick up a drink and pour it over a topless bathing woman so that she sits up and shouts and drops an access card that you need later on. You get exactly one shot at this, and just to make it even more difficult, you don't click the drink on her. Instead, you have to wave it over her until it spills. I suppose this could be realistic, if not for the part about picking it up from the other side of the swimming pool like a pervy Mr. Fantastic.

Wait, WHERE WERE YOU KEEPING THAT ACCESS CARD?

With this done, it's back to your hotel room to admire the porny decorations if you like, and jump into a confusing unlabelled mess of switches. Geisha isn't quite sadistic enough to have a 'silently fail the game' button amongst them, but it's close. The opening screen has a code you need, but it's viewed through a camera with only one shot. Take a picture of something like, say, the naked girl in the middle of the screen and you're screwed later on because what you actually needed was the code on the wall in the top left. Later, one vital inventory object is a female cricket that becomes about a one-pixel clickable object when it matters, isn't visible, and runs away if you click on it without putting oil on your hands and having a box ready to capture her. Fail, and it won't be a problem until the end of the game.

But can Geisha at least put the **** into "Oh, **** this?" Not exactly...

Something about that faaaaaaace...

It's split into five different chapters, set in a futuristic world full of things like the Jade Temple Senso Show, in which you "Project your holographic image behind the see-through mirror where your partner is waiting. See and feel everything she does to you." This sounds unnecessary complicated, unless you're living in the Demolition Man future, in which case won't someone think of the children?!

Not up your street? Maybe the White Willow Baths of Desire will help? "Come and relax in the knowing hands of massage experts," it promises, adding "Membership Condition: Hi-Seng Geisha Balls". I Googled this. I recommend you not Google this on a shared computer, at work, or at school - not because it apparently means anything, but because it's one of those times when Google's "Did You Mean..." suggestions has a certain amount of ahem-ing attached to it. Ahem.

Backing slowly away from the adverts, it's onto the first challenge - or as the game has it, CARESS. It involves visiting the Jade Temple, donning a sensation suit - sensation suit not provided - and engaging in the most sensuous and erotic and naughty of all mini-games... Mastermind!

When I said I wanted to push your buttons, this wasn't what I had in mind.

Yes, Mastermind! "Your suit has now recorded the sequence of five movements which when executed by your docile partner will take you to absolute pleasure," the game explains, apparently unaware that it's created the most off-putting erotic encounter this side of playing Strip Poker in a locked meat freezer. You stand there stark naked with a hologram, and have to give it five numbers - to get the obvious out of the way, no, '69' is not one of them. Only getting the right five numbers in the right order produces the exact right rubbing to get a happy ending. The sexiness level does not improve from here. Making this worse, the hint about order is done via an animation, so not available to double check, takes forever, and only gives a rough idea of how close you are to the right code. You also can't use the standard Mastermind trick of repeating the same number. Also, once you're done... no saving!

Geez, talk about trying to get lucky.

On the plus side, could be worse. At least it's not a grunting Magnus Magnusson looking up through a veil of sweat, then diving back down to crotch level with a "I've started, so I'll finish..."

Anyone but Donald is fine. I'm not choosy.

With that over, some Yakuza spontaneously decide that no gaijin gets off on their watch, and declare that it's time for... and I quote... Erotic Battle. All things considered, things could probably be much worse. This is much, much simpler than the last part, but with no ability to save between them, that's a blessed relief. You get to choose a card type that 'trumps' the opponent's in a tie, which offers a major advantage, and then it's really just a case of not playing a dumb one as they fight it out Battlechess style, or Battlechest style in the case of the boob-flashing Geisha cards.

Impressed, the Yakuza declare "You've done well! We will let you live. But we'll see you later!", and head off to what is presumably the bollocking of their lives from the villain. ("Master! We had him in our clutches, but he beat us at a slightly porny card game, so- We're all fired, aren't we?") You go home, and trust me when I say that rarely has a 'save game' button been hit so hard or so enthusiastically.

Well, this is one way to make Ecco the Dolphin more interesting, I guess.

The next chapter, EXCITE, is an action minigame. A woman called Oko offers to help get a black pearl that you need for... uh... reasons, if you can tell her where to find it. With the code, she happily strips naked and jumps into the sea to face off against three lanes of killer fish and her own limited lungs, while you take point with a gun. So, if you squint, it's a bit rude. It's also a little self-defeating, because Oko gets the absolute crap beaten out of her by these fish during her pearl diving, and is barely able to brush up against a couple of them before sinking like a stone - obvious floatation devices or not.

Thankfully, it's still pretty easy, with the main challenge being that it's random whether you get the two black pearls you need or just a load of useless white ones. The longer it goes on, the more likely it is that Oko will just swim right up right into a couple of fish and be all "Oh. I just remembered that these are lethal. Whoopsie!" Sigh. If only air tanks and sensible scuba gear were considered sexy.

Pretty sure prostitution in this universe is limited to playing Cluedo for money.

Chapter the whateverth, UNDRESS, gets slightly back to the whole 'erotic game' thing with a weird spin on Strip Rock Paper Shotgun Scissors. The objects are swords, fans and statues, but that's not the weird part. The weird part is that the girl you're playing against lets you choose her object as well, ripping her clothes off a bit for every victory. It's not quite that easy though, because instead of simply picking the winner, it does a 'no whammies!' routine, auto-cycling through the options at high speed.

Oh, and because this is Geisha, the most unfair erotic game ever, you have to win 7 times out of 15. Ties are effectively losses, because you can only play each object you've got once. Luckily, this is 2013, which means DOSBox and the ability to slow down PC cycles, so... well... hah! The reward is a shuffling dance that says "we meant this to be sexy, but this is Geisha after all..." and then it's on to the next challenge. What's it called? PENETRATE. No kidding. This is a thing that has happened.

Geisha's 'erotic' minigames are getting less subtle by the second, aren't they?

...though it's not quite what you might think. Actually, the task is to 'enter the heart of the city of pleasure through its basements', which is entirely different, because you do it in this mini-game.You're in a submarine, I think, and have to make it through a gauntlet of killer robots and... uh... giant lips? The metaphor is as bizarre as it is un-subtle. Presumably you're the captain of the Naughtylus. Anyway. There are three levels to get through, and one health-bar. Yay. Luckily, it's still very easy, with whoever designed it not having been that bothered about complexity, or limiting pick-ups.

And after that?

Yes, at this point, the game crashed. And despite three attempts, refused to continue.

Hurm. Hurmy-hurmy-hurm.

Well, no matter. It's not like the story was exactly full of twists and turns. Unfortunately, Geisha is obscure enough that there's not a vast amount of information on what's next - which turns out to be the final chapter. There's only one walkthrough online , which helpfully doesn't tell you to do an essential thing at the start of the game until it's about to explain the endgame - so thanks for that, whoever wrote it. First up is one of those sliding block puzzles that I gather Richard Dawkins keeps in his pocket so that he always has something to whip out at people when he needs to yell "See! NO GOD!" It looks like a dragon. It probably represents the building blocks of a relationship, each piece having to move with consideration for the others to avoid leaving a gaping hole where trust should be, or something.

And the final chapter, to go along with the likes of UNDRESS and EXCITE and SEDUCE?

Ah, the Geisha. Truly, worldwide symbols of refinement and elegance...

You know what? I think I choose to leave instead.

Honestly though, when this is the final showdown, it's a shame not to have seen it just to have an idea of what the heck is going on in this description and how it was presented on screen. Is the villain really taken out by a nut-shot, or is there something sexier going on? Only slightly sexier, mind. This is still Geisha. We can also probably assume that the villain is actually the guy who hired you, since his lady friend had the access card you need to get to the final showdown and I don't remember seeing an explanation of either why or where . That's just a guess though. It may be something interesting instead.

Before you can position the pot of bonsai on the square, you must get rid of a male cricket living in it. First use the Hinoki oil and then the box with the female cricket. While the picture of the box is still on the screen, move your cursor to the male cricket and click. The two insect will run off. Now, bring the pot onto the square with the code that appeared in the photograph. The door will open and you will see Napadmi (the villain of the game, responsible for all kinds of, er, whatever he's doing) . You must quickly position your cursor at his crotch and click it. The scene freezes and the clothes of his crotch uncovers. Keep clicking at all parts of his body until his clothes and mask are fully uncovered.

Huh. Well, not having a picture of any of that, here's what happens if you lose.

He thinks he's an impressive dragon, but nothing can dragon like the Mastermind bit. Grr.

Geisha wasn't the last of Coktel Vision's erotic games, but it was by far the worst of them. Luckily, it wouldn't be long afterwards that the company was absorbed into the Sierra family, told to put its pants back on, and got a chance to make some actually popular games - the Goblins puzzle series, and to a lesser extent, the adventure Lost in Time and whatever-Inca was game Inca - before collapsing in the wake of an interactive movie that was released as Urban Runner but spent most of its development under the hilarious name "Lost In Town". It was almost exactly as good as it sounded, only not.

But those are for other weeks, possibly. For now, it's not hard to see why Geisha languishes in such obscurity, even by early Coktel Vision standards. As an erotic game, it fails miserably. As a collection of minigames designed to represent various sexytime activities, it's just sad. If people had to play Mastermind before foreplay, the human race would be extinct within a generation or three, though at least the final one would be really, really good at code breaking. Still, to be nice, I figure I should think of at least one good thing to say about this game - and luckily, it turns out I have exactly one.

It's still slightly better than Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust.

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