Atomic Heart is currently sitting pretty on Steam with over 5,000 reviews rating the game 'very positive', despite the wider controversy about the game's origins. The top review at the moment, however, summarises something that every player of Atomic Heart has to confront. Recommending the game after around 90 hours played, Matt_KPLS's review says only: "BRB, i'm going to the kitchen to f*ck the fridge."
One of the most bizarre elements of Atomic Heart is a vending machine called Nora that the player has to interact with after being attacked by it in a cutscene. With the aid of your glove, the attack is fought off, the appliance is beaten, and… things take a turn for the very weird. In some sort of transplant of a sub/dom fetish onto an appliance, the machine begins to treat you as its master and propositions you repeatedly in grossly sexual terms.
Reaction to this is mixed, but there is certainly reaction. Some people are very enthusiastic about it, in fact. "YES NORA YOU CAN TIE ME TO THE BED," reads Nyceur's positive review. "That Fridge made me question my sexuality," writes DashiVR, "Samsung get on this!"
Other players seem less sure how to take it. "I can check 'get raped by a fridge' off my bucket list now," writes Exderon. Kaif simply says "The fridge touched me." D offers an alternative name for Atomic Heart: "Refrigerator Sexual Harassment Simulator 2023."
"Rebellious dominant men turn me on," Nora says to the player during their first meeting. "What a brute! I love tough guys, I'm on fire!" The appliance gets even more explicit, and the moment it crossed the Rubicon for me was when Nora demanded "squirt your polymer inside me."
To give credit where it's due, I would say that Mundfish is trying to be unsettling with Nora rather than titillating. But this is the internet, and rather than being unsettled people now want to rule 34 the hell out of this fridge (NSFL example). "I have never in my life wanted to fuck a fridge until I played Atomic Heart," writes Nyannie.
I know it's all tongue-in-cheek, but the fact that fridges are common real world appliances does have me slightly concerned.
The thing about Nora is that, while you can use other 'normal' vending machines, there's a good portion in the early part where she keeps cropping up and if you want to upgrade your stuff, you have to deal with the chat. "OMG how is it that the elevator scene went viral from Atomic Heart and not the horny fridge vendor that plays consistently overlapping horrific sexual dialog while you're trying to add +1 to your pistol damage?!" muses L. Jacobs, not unreasonably.
Dafuq is up with the fridge in #AtomicHeart XDInteresting game, with interesting robots...... pic.twitter.com/yR2sKogDDZFebruary 26, 2023
I thought it would be a one-off but the Fridge is still at it lmao #AtomicHeart pic.twitter.com/0FyI1O4uJbFebruary 23, 2023
Tf wrong with this fridge fr #AtomicHeart #AtomicHeartWindows #XboxShare pic.twitter.com/tCOvAQM9PCFebruary 22, 2023
Skadi shares the same Chinese voice actor as the Perverted Fridge from Atomic HeartThis prompted people to meme Skalter acting like the fridge since they both are into the protagonist pic.twitter.com/RVdItkAU6XFebruary 24, 2023
atomic heart fridge bot says anything / me pic.twitter.com/ljLOmvdhkiFebruary 21, 2023
Nora has, of course, been christened as "fridge mommy." You will find no shortage of people online posting enthusiastically about what they would like to do with fridge mommy. Yes, I do hope my family and friends never happen to read this particular article.
You want memes? We got memes.
Nora disappears for a good portion of the game and you end up with 'normal' vending machines, leading to some plaintive wailing on various forums about how to get Nora back. Don't worry: The horny fridge returns in later stages.
What to make of it all? The Bioshock comparison is unavoidable but the vision here, the world Mundfish has built, is compelling and unsettling all at once. Nora's over-familiarity with the player was I suspect intended to land in exactly the way it has, both as a gross-out moment in this alternate history of robots with personality, and as something that would be endlessly clipped and debated on social media.
Or: Nora may just be something Mundfish found funny. My own thoughts somewhat echo those of Steam reviewer Sierend: "This mf red fridge dunno how to act lol."