Blurry Sex, Lies, and Scanlined Videotape
What's your idea of fun? As you grow older, your ideas of fun change. One day it's playing your computer, and the next day, it's getting your mack on in some club. Game programmers have always sought the older, untapped market of the adult gamer. And many times they have failed. This is yet another one of those failed attempts.
Tender Loving Care, or as they also call it, TLC, is an attempt to make a game for adults that falls way short on involvement, fun, and having replayability. The story within this game plays out like your late night cable flick, with fair acting, the mandatory T 'n A shots, and the empty promise of a suspenseful, twist ending.
Obviously this game is not for kids. I seriously question the packaging, because of how prominently they say the game is made from the creators of the 7th Guest and the 11th Hour, games made for a wider audience. There's no video game rating on this, but at least there's a disclaimer on the back: "Mature Themes, sexuality, and some violence" on the back. Parents, if your kids ask you for this game, please don't give it to them. If any adults ask you for it, don't give it to them either, but for different reasons.
John Hurt, with an incredibly bad dye job, plays Doctor Turner, the narrator. He recounts the story of the Overton household -- you are given the chance to view events as they happen and possibly change how the story turns out. Six months ago, Michael Overton was in a car accident and his little daughter, Jody, dies. His wife, Alison, can't handle the loss, so she goes into massive denial, believing that her daughter is still alive. Their psychiatrist, Dr. Turner, has appointed Kathryn, a psychiatric nurse, to help nurture Alison back to health. Kathryn starts to manipulate Alison and Michael, controlling their lives and their sanity.
Basically, the game's idea of playing is answering multiple choice questions. The questions are about your personal life, the video segments you just watched, or whatever art image that they show you. And let me tell you… they've showed me some weird stuff. Want an example? Imagine the image that would go with this question: "Would you make love with this woman, even though she has a hand for a head?"
What really annoyed me technically were the scan lines in the video segments! Alternating lines of black with the footage, so that the information could be compressed. It's as if they were working with technology from five years ago. Even if you were interested in the intimate details of the plot, you'd barely be able to make it out. There's a DVD version of the "game" that's supposed to offer a clearer picture.
The game does offer alternate endings. However, it takes way too long to watch all the segments once, which makes me wonder why anyone would try for another ending. And since the ending is based on your psychological responses, you'd have to intentionally choose answers you don't agree with. My ending was that Michael went nuts and killed Kathryn; then he and Alison live out their lives in denial, using a doll to replace Jody. Did I give it away? Who cares.
The interface isn't always smooth. You can't exit during the questioning sessions, and you're only allowed to leave from certain rooms of the game. You also have to search for the 'hot spot' items to keep progressing in the game. The questions seem to get in the way of the flow of the video.
At the end of TLC, you'll receive a psychological evaluation based on your answers. While the evaluation was interesting, it seemed to have little to do with the game. You can search the house between segments, and read everyone's diary, but the story never fully answers the details that are introduced in the writings. There were too many things left hanging.
This game, if you could even call it a game, once asked me if I had bowel problems. It showed me fuzzy, blurry sex. It showed and asked me many more weird things, but that's just it -- you're simply shown things, and you're never really an active player in it all. You don't need to buy this -- if you want this flavor, go watch a made for TV movie, then go read some Freud. As a movie, it was average; just interesting enough to force myself through all the inane questions. As a game, it wasn't even close to the "live out your fantasy" experience that was promised.
Stay away from this scrub of a game.