Possibly the most intriguing (or at least, gratuitous) game title to be issued in 1986, Infocom's Leather Goddesses of Phobos pits you, an unsuspecting barfly from Sandusky, Ohio circa 1936, against .. well, the Leather Goddesses of Phobos, of course. Perhaps one of the best sex spoofs ever invented, this send up of 30's pulp is a timeless artifact of just how horny and bored some geeks are.

The game has a great intro, similar to the opening pages of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - and, like most mid-80s text adventures, its similarities to H2G2 don't end there (both games were written by Steve Meretzky) - with a long-winded and totally irrelevant recap of the year 1936 thus far: "Jesse Owens embarrasses Adolf Hitler by winning four gold medals, a dust bowl is forming in Middle America, and the Spanish Civil War is breaking out." And, of course, "it's an ordinary day in Upper Sandusky."

The game has a lot of innovative touches. First, the game starts you off at your neighborhood bar after yet another hard day at work. You can talk to the characters, have a drink, try to flirt with the waitress, play darts, etc. After about ten minutes of making virtually no progress in the game, you may begin to feel slightly upset at the lack of obvious clues as to what to do next. Then, suddenly, the Leather Goddesses of Phobos burst in and kidnap you, taking you to their ship for "experimentation" before they conquer Earth and turn it into a pleasure dome.

And then you never visit the bar again. I thought this was a great eye-opener to what the game might have in store for later. I was very, very right.

Now depending on whether you indicated you were a male or a female at the game's start, you have a complementary companion with you: Trent or Tiffany. (The game apparently was not very gay-friendly - but these guys' specialty is programming, not social grace.) They are the clueless sort, following you around and generally proving no assistance whatsoever, although they seem to know a bit more about what's going with these crazy aliens than you do.

The plot is pretty straightforward: escape from the Goddesses' clutches and save the earth from total takeover. By building an "anti-Leather Goddesses of Phobos machine." I'm not making this up. Along the way, you visit the desolate worlds of Mars, Saturn, Neptune, and Cleveland. You get to meet an army of sex-starved baboons, a sex-starved Sultan, and several other sex-starved entities. Luckily, this game was basically built for perverts, and virtually any sex command word will get some kind of either erotic or humorous response.

When you bought the original Infocom package, it also came with a spoof comic, "The Adventures Of Lane Mastodon", as well as an instruction manual with an InvisiClues section - you had to put on the "3-D" (read: cheap) glasses provided to get hints when you were stuck. The coup de grace, of course, was the scratch and sniff card, providing not one, not two, but SEVEN different aromas. The best part of course being that at certain points of the story, you had to scratch and sniff the card and use it to answer riddles upon pain of death. You don't get that kind of innovation with Quake 3, do ya?

A fantastic game, never quite given its due in recent days. On the other hand, what the hell kind of fun is a sex game without pictures? Well, fear not, plucky young noders! Just make your way over to the equally titillatingly-titled Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2!


  • http://www.csd.uwo.ca/Infocom/lgop.html
  • http://www.csd.uwo.ca/Infocom/Invisiclues/lgop/ (includes all the InvisiClues)
  • http://infocom.elsewhere.org/gallery/leather/leather.html (includes manual, comic book, sniffing card)

The previous node on this odd game is quite informative, but what always stuck in my mind about it is the story of how it came about. It's kind of strange, but that sort of fits how odd the game is.

According to Steve Meretzky, a game designer for Infocom, the game started out as a joke. Infocom was still a smallish company, based in Cambridge. The little company had decided to have a simple beer and pizza party for its employees. Although the party was supposed to be informal, according to Meretzky, Infocom's president Joel Berez was very excited about the whole thing and wanted the party to run as smoothly as possible.

The party was to take place in the large central office space of Infocom, where all of the computer and console systems the company made games for were kept. This room included a chalkboard with a table of the games currently released by Infocom (apparently including Zork I, Zork II, Deadline, Zork III, Starcross). Each title had the number of printings listed next to it for each system it was available on (Apple II, Atari 800, etc).

Meretzky was feeling rather silly, though. Before the party started, he added the name Leather Goddesses of Phobos to the chalkboard. "It was just a hack, and I just picked the name as something that would be embarrassing but not awful" according to an interview with Meretzky. Berez, however, came by and saw the name added to the board. The Infocom president quickly erased the name from the board, but the name stuck and was used for years as a name for untitled or nonexistant games within the company.

It wasn't until 1985 that Meretzky actually started to write the game, and it didn't hit the market until 1986 after several other things happened. The game was intended as a tribute to the SF pulp fiction of the 1930s.

Work Cited.
Rouse, Richard. Game Design: Theory and Practice. Wordware Publishing Inc. p179-213.

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