Sidequest was provided with a copy of Super Seducer 2: Advanced Seduction Tactics for PC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Content warning: this review will discuss misogynistic elements, racism, and contains images that are sexual in nature. This piece also contains spoilers for the game.

Super Seducer 2: Advanced Seduction Tactics

 

RLR Training Inc
RLR Training Inc, Red Dahlia Interactive
PC, Mac
September 13, 2018

Super Seducer 2: Advanced Seduction Tactics recently released despite ongoing fallout from the original game. Richard La Ruina’s Super Seducer is back and supposedly it is better than ever—at least, that’s what La Ruina says.

Like the first game, Super Seducer 2 uses dating sim and FMV (full-motion video) mechanics to provide advice drawn straight from the pick-up artists’ (PUA) playbook. This is not conventional dating advice, as PUAs abide by and promote specific techniques to increase the chances of successfully “getting with” people. PUAs have been typically straight men pursuing women. Some even make a living as “dating coaches” for others. The dating game, in this case, can be won through calculation and psychological manipulation.

Richard La Ruina, the game’s developer, was not shy about reacting to the first Super Seducer’s controversy. He declared that not only would a sequel be better overall, but it would also take into account all the criticism of the first game and be “more inclusive.” Does Super Seducer 2 prove La Ruina is true to his word?

La Ruina speaks highly of the second game’s improvements compared to the first Super Seducer. He introduces Charlotte Jones, a dating coach, and stresses how it is important to have “a chick’s perspective.” La Ruina is also excited about the game’s diversity, now having an array of “ethnic characters, […] even a Scottish guy.” Despite this promise, the team’s attempts to address the criticisms of the previous game proved shallow.

When the player opens the game for the first time, they are treated to a group shot of cast members—a specific visual that has been used across all of the game’s promotional material. Richard La Ruina sits in a throne-like chair in the center. It is an intentionally makeshift attempt to reimagine the regality and drama of Baroque artwork in a modern warehouse context.

Gameplay-wise, Super Seducer 2 is exactly the same as its predecessor. Players complete stages by fulfilling the goals of the “dates.” Richard La Ruina is, once again, an avatar for the player. Players are subjected to FMV cutscenes and provided with choices they must pick from to move forward. As raunchy as it is, the game remains non-pornographic, and scenes end before any literal representation of sex. Overall, the game has clear objectives and it works.

The game is indeed bigger—primarily in the literal size and specs required to play. The first game suffered from poor optimization issues and this unfortunately remains consistent in the sequel. Gameplay lagged, likely because of the constant buffering of video files. Images also sometimes scaled incorrectly on load, creating situations where the aspect ratio looked mismatched across a single scene. It is evident the game wasn’t built with strong, responsive design and its larger budget somehow didn’t resolve that.

Otherwise, the game (technically) works, and its goals are clear. Ultimately, the real troubling parts of Super Seducer 2 are not its technical aspects.

There are actually more than a couple of ways to complete the first stage : “A number, sex, or kill your enemies.”

The scene opens with a tank driving through a pastoral setting. Unexpectedly, Richard La Ruina pops open the door and sits atop the tank, directing an unseen driver. The tank drops La Ruina off at a social outing by a dock. Attendants of the outing look flabbergasted by this man crashing their gathering. He plays things off as cool, and he peels and eats tangerines unaffected as he walks deeper into the scene. This sort of forced absurdity and randomness defines most of the game’s tone.

Richard La Ruina, wearing a white dress shirt and tan pants sits atop a tank against an outdoor backdrop. Super Seducer 2, RLR Training Inc, Red Dahlia Interactive, 2018

What even is this game?

Everything returns to normal when gameplay starts. In fact, La Ruina’s display enthralled one of the women watching from a yacht. The player’s first choices involve getting her to come over and sit with him. The player has the choice to either continue pursuing her, or to switch to the random supermodel who will later happen to drive by. I pressed on for the latter option, and was treated to a montage of La Ruina clumsily running across several locations to suggest he literally chased after the model’s car for miles.

La Ruina looks like a fool for running after the model, but, per his own words, “Although it is nice to be polite, I think women expect guys to be more decisive.” At some point, he texts a “female friend” to call and talk him up to the model. It is later revealed to be a male friend who pitched up his voice. La Ruina clarifies to the player that although the demonstration is exaggerated, the point is that this is an example of gaining trust from a woman. La Ruina effectively encourages lying to “build trust”.

Alternatively, at the cost of either date, La Ruina can answer a call from a different friend, Mahmoud. Mahmoud names off several YouTube and Twitch personalities currently at a convention all together. Interestingly, these are all names that have spoken negatively about the first Super Seducer. La Ruina then orders Mahmoud to “bring the suitcase.” La Ruina meets up with a woman in a jumpsuit who passes to him this suitcase in question. Like a cartoonish villain, La Ruina maniacally laughs, opens the suitcase, and presses a button that sends a ballistics missile over to the convention’s location. This is the “kill your enemies” option. Meant to be hyperbolic and humorous, it comes off as more concerning and unhinged. La Ruina already has a known, poor track record when it comes to his online persona and maturely dealing with others.

A man with a cartoonish grin on his face is holding and looking into something off-frame, corner right. In the background, the sunny sky backlights a woman in a jumpsuit as she poses against a line of stationed missles. Super Seducer 2, RLR Training Inc, Red Dahlia Interactive, 2018

The humor in Super Seducer 2 passes a threshold and just becomes uncanny.

To reiterate, this is all possible in the first stage of the game.

Marketing makes a strong case for the game having multiple perspectives. However, even in dates that are not supposed to center on La Ruina, his character will always at some point come in to intervene, aid, or become a subject of attention. Despite strongly attesting for others, La Ruina still goes out of his way to take the spotlight for himself.

Charlotte Jones is a secondary role despite supposedly being the voice for women. La Ruina still speaks the most to throw in his “advice”—even within stages that are supposed to be women-centered. The “female perspective” is a rather superficial concept and Jones comes off as merely a toady for La Ruina’s views.

When the player can finally control a woman’s point of view, the woman is seeking a one-night stand. This cannot be accessed until the player plays through the preceding man-centered stages (which predominantly feature La Ruina) and is only one out of three woman-centered stages. The women act inappropriately, and are invasive and objectifying to the men they look at. After she rejects several guys, La Ruina ends up being the woman’s final choice—he can’t help but force himself into everything. The game boasts diversity, but it is still largely centered on a straight, male gaze. It also certainly proves that no one is immune to the toxicity of the PUA playbook.

Two women are smiling and facing each other in the midst of a club. Below is a selection of different text prompts: A: "Walk up to a guy and grab his dick to show social dominance," B: "Loudly ask "so what, are there any real men in here??"", C: "Smile a lot and look around the room," D: "Look pissed off like you're playing hard to get." Super Seducer 2, RLR Training Inc, Red Dahlia Interactive, 2018

Super Seducer 2’s “representation” is just another means to promote ill-conceived PUA ideas.

The game’s ethnic diversity is also, unsurprisingly, inauthentic. There is a clear attempt at better representation across characters, yet some ideas presented are misguided and racist.

In one stage, La Ruina’s friend (portrayed by British-Chinese actor Benjamin Lok) is teaching him Mandarin in a restaurant. La Ruina gets increasingly drunk. He eggs on his friend to talk to the woman in the table over. He says he has a good shot because “Asian guys don’t [typically] approach Western women.” The player has to ensure that La Ruina’s drunkenness does not make things worse throughout the date.

La Ruina justifies this stage’s direction by citing and crediting writing involvement to JT Tran, another “dating coach” that, once again, is really peddling PUA bootcamps in disguise. Tran’s demographic is specifically Asian men, but his ideas play into self-loathing, toxic aspects of Asian masculinity, and racist power dynamics.

A woman is mid-laughing facing the viewer's direction. A man in the foreground, wearing white and his hair tied up, has his back turned to the viewer. Below is a selection of different text prompts: A: "Tell her that Asian guys think Western women are not so feminine or ladylike," B: "Immediately accuse her of being racist to make her feel guilty," C: "Tell she needs to try because "Asian is amaz'n"" Super Seducer 2, RLR Training Inc, Red Dahlia Interactive, 2018

A lot of the writing in the game is wonky, blatantly offensive, and racially uninformed.

The character Mahmoud also has his own stage revolving around catfishing a woman with a significant age gap. Jokes are riddled with Arab stereotypes, such as having “multiple wives” or boasting about his money. Players have to alleviate the woman’s disgust and simmer down the situation by making choices aiming to impress her with Mahmoud’s supposed wealth and “maturity.” When date ends, Mahmoud’s eyes wander to another. The game’s ploys for ethnic diversity are simply stereotypes.

Super Seducer never made a clear statement on LGBTQ+ representation, but queerness is actually present—in a negative way. When the player chooses a wrong answer, instead of the typical group composition they will be treated to a red-lit, largely empty set. Jones is seated in the center center while La Ruina is awkwardly touched and invasively fondled by two muscular men. The men also perform all sorts of odd tasks on La Ruina, ranging from polishing his nails with an unusually large brush to massaging his head with a device that looks like a floor buffer, while maintaining dull looks on their faces. It is only in this time that any suggestion of queerness is ever represented. It is not normalized, and is either treated as a joke or something uncomfortable.

In a red-lit room. A woman, wearing a dark, formal gown, is seated. To her right, a man in a suit is seated on a couch. A larger man, wearing a black shirt, is invasively touching his head as another man wearing a similar shirt is seated further right, looking on. A text caption floats on the bottom left: "Play hard to get by telling her you are not attracted to her." Super Seducer 2, RLR Training Inc, Red Dahlia Interactive, 2018

Super Seducer 2 is proud of a form of inclusivity that proves to be more distasteful than progressive.

There is no doubt that Super Seducer 2 is deliberately hammy. It depends on a lot of strange humor to come off as self-aware, but these feel like half-baked attempts to distract from the game’s actual flaws. For instance, in another stage, La Ruina is a CEO of a pharmaceutical company and argues with a client that “[They] didn’t raise the drug prices to 3000 percent, only 2800 percent.” In another, he is a gaming streamer alluding to the infamous incident where a VentureBeat writer faced scrutiny when he struggled to get past Cuphead’s tutorial. It all feels contrived, cringey, and forced without addressing the game’s core issues.

At one point, a character who serves as comedy relief is the subject of an “interlude” stage to get re-booked for another comedy show. The stage will have a good end no matter what you do. The interlude has no defined right or wrong answers and provides unsavory and problematic options making light of things like #MeToo and fatphobia. The game’s affirmations for inclusivity are false and still come from an ignorant place. Although bad choices are played for laughs—and some are more absurd than worth analyzing—the game plays off that real, potentially harmful situations can be used as a punchline. It becomes less of a useful tool for teaching pick-up artistry and an even stronger case for why these ideas should not be promoted, period.

Super Seducer 2 responded to feedback of the first game through surface-level solutions. Attempts at being open-minded miss their mark on what inclusivity actually means, and the game’s poor attempts at self-awareness amplifies its problematic nature. No matter how much “representation” it wants to coat on its surface, this game was wrought out of the unredeemable PUA mindset to begin with.

A man sits menacingly at an office desk with his fingertips touching together. Behind him, right, is a plant. Also behind him on the wall, left, is a framed photo that mirrors the exact same pose and room. Super Seducer 2, RLR Training Inc, Red Dahlia Interactive, 2018

Is this a man you would seriously trust?

So does Super Seducer 2: Advanced Seduction Tactics manage to be worse than its predecessor? Yes. Yes it does. This game is bad.

It is clear the game’s team were happy to be behind its production. But the credits make it clear that much of the game’s support comes from La Ruina’s own social network. After all, a major producer behind the game is his own wife. There is nothing wrong with working within your friends—after all, most indie games depend on this kind of support—but it definitely limits the resources necessary for a title so intent on selling itself on improved “diversity.”

As discussed in my review of the first game, the mockery and memetic energy radiating from Super Seducer can dilute its contents’ toxicity, but it certainly does not stop these ideas from still existing and actually draws attention to them. More attention should be given to dating sims that encourage the growing inclusivity of the genre as opposed to fanning the flames of a harmful community. It is up to players to be mindful of what they monetarily support just for the sake of a few laughs. Diversity and representation can be improved across all games, but players should not feel entitled to hold on to hope for something coming from an already doomed place when much better exists.

A man and a woman face each other in a garishly decorated bar. The man is bald, and has a bland expression on his face. The woman is blonde, with wavy hair, red lipstick, and an expression of disinterest that borders on disgust. There are a selection of prompts at the bottom of the screen: A: "Validate her for not being judgmental and shallow like most women her age," B: Compliment her by telling her she looks like your daughter," C: "Ask if she is still a virgin," D: "Say that you don't like dating apps, more a fan of meeting people in real life." Super Seducer 2, RLR Training Inc, Red Dahlia Interactive, 2018

The face of internal suffering in its most relatable form.

Elvie is an animator by day and tries too hard to be everything else by nightfall. Feel free to join her in screaming about anime and animals as she puts off what she should be really doing at @lvmaeparian.

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