After missing out on the review copy of Hatoful Boyfriend I was rather annoyed, after all who doesn’t want to play a pigeon dating simulator? Happily something more suitable has come along in the gym-fit shape of Coming Out On Top, a dating game for the PC in which you play as a recently out gay man who spends the last few weeks of his last semester trying to juggle friends, relationships and studying.
Describing Coming Out On Top as a game is stretching the definition of the word as you spend 99% of your time hitting space bar to advance the story, pausing only to make a choice that well affect the plot. It’s more like one of those old ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books but with sex toys and flirty college professors, think Fifty Shades of Gay: The Interactive Novel.
You play as Mark Mathews, a senior at Orlin University and within a few clicks of the game you have come out to your two best friends and room mates, Ian and Penny. As the weeks pass you will have to try and keep your friends happy, pass your course and, if possible, try your hand at some sex. And if you can’t win over any of the hot guys you can just use your hand; Mark seems to spank the monkey more than anybody I know.
The script is, for the most part, witty and dry with plenty of banter between your friends, and if you have annoyed them you can always chat to your goldfish who I named Blair after our esteemed editor. Penny is quite gossipy and cheeky whilst Ian is more of a jock who is having girlfriend troubles and a saucy sex life.
As for the sex, well it’s little cringeworthy and about as erotic as a week old cheese sandwich. That’s not the fault of the creator, that’s just my personal opinion on any written descriptions of sexual acts. Although there are no animations there are graphic illustrations to the acts so this is not a game to be played in front of Grandma, “Unless she’s like, into that kind of thing,” jokes the developer Obscurasoft.
Sex aside there are plenty of laugh out loud moments including your mother phoning you at the most inappropriate moment ever, and a built in Grindr style app that lets you browse profiles with amusing takes on gay stereotypes. Your potential boyfriends – or in the games I have played, one night stands – are all musclebound hunks with chiseled jawlines and abs you could use as a xylophone. Obscurasoft, which is comprised of a lone female developer, promise that a greater range of men will be available via a forthcoming update.
There really isn’t much more to the game than clicking and choosing options and a playthrough will take you a couple of hours, but there is some replay value trying to date the other characters. You can also tweak the characters’ appearance, adding beards and chest hair and this has to be the first game ever to come with a “Condom On/Off” option.
The game tries to depict gay men in realistic, albeit idealised way. Everyone is extremely supportive and happy when Mark comes out but making extremely inappropriate comments (which are far too graphic for me to mention) result in a slammed door, rather than a punch in the face which is what you would get in real life. You also seems to be able to seduce straight men which is a little fantastical, but it there again it does happen (ahem ahem). The price, around £13, is also rather steep considering the short length.
I’m not one for flag waving and marching at a gay pride event is the last thing I would do, and I think the best way to combat homophobia is to treat everyone equally, no matter their orientation. In-your-face gayness annoys me and Coming Out On Top, which is quite over-the-top, does raise my hackles a little. Everything is far too perfect in Gayworld, not least the haircuts and biceps, I would have preferred a game which was more true to life.
However, I have to respect and admire the female developer who has had the guts to make, if you will pardon the pun, a balls-out gay game. I’m not expecting you to buy it, I’m not expecting you to like it, and I don’t like it that much to be honest, it’s just nice to know that the western world has finally caught up with the east, where Bara and Yaoi have been popular for many years.