IFComp 2020: Turbo Chest Hair Massacre

Date-preparation in wacky mode. The bulk of the game is spent trying to get rid of a single hair growing between the breasts of Theophila, the player character. Her razor is missing, so she resorts to various other household items. All fail, and, in the process, inflict minor bruises and lacerations that you’d think would be more unsightly than the hair. Still, she’s undeterred until she runs out of options.

I frankly find this whole process distasteful. Somehow, the petty injuries seen here bother me more than exaggerated slapstick would. And once you’ve made one attempt, you pretty much know how the rest are going to play out, but have to keep inflicting more harm on Theo anyway. I seriously hesitated to continue once an electric fan got involved, and wished I could just talk her out of it.

The game’s saving grace is Marigold, Theo’s gynoid housemate and secondary player character. A robot of mystery, Marigold spends her time at a listening console, monitoring for extradimensional intruders — in fact, the entire house is called “listening station” in the room descriptions. To be clear: the intruders are definitely real, even if humans can’t perceive them, and may well be responsible for the disappearance of Theo’s razors. There’s a suggestion of a larger and more fantastical story that even Marigold herself is only partially aware of. You can switch control to Marigold at will, and, as in Suspended, her narrative voice and perspective are entirely different from Theo’s — among other things, she prepends every comment with a header like “Subjective knowledge (external):” or “Inferential knowledge:”, to emphasize her roboticness even when she’s offering opinions or expressing emotion.

And she’s in love with Theo. No, that’s not quite right. She has the hots for Theo. No, still not quite right. She yearns for Theo. It’s a desire clearly unreciprocated, and it comes off as ridiculous when you’re playing from Theo’s perspective, putting up with Marigold’s clumsy come-ons. But it all seems different when you’re Marigold. She never talks about Theo at length, even when asked about her directly, but keeps reminding us of her hopeless obsession in little ways, in offhand comments that show how she can’t stop thinking about her. There’s frustration, too, at how Theo tries to show respect for her by treating her like a human, which, to Marigold, is denying her nature and thus not truly respecting her at all. It’s a complicated and heartbreaking relationship and it all culminates in a long story-ending cutscene that can be described as erotic mechanical maintenance — maintenance made necessary by harm she suffers in her brave and selfless efforts to defend the listening station from extradimensional intruders, throwing Theo’s cosmetic struggles into a dim light by comparison.

In short, Marigold is a precious little rabbit who I want to protect and nurture, and it’s worth putting up with Theo’s self-harm to get to meet her.

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