Spooky Starlets

Over the summer sale I picked up a bunch of hentai games on Steam, curious to see if any (outside of the Illusion line-up) were worth one’s time and money. Of these, Spooky Starlets was the first I wanted to try out. I LOVE management sims and the idea of managing a film studio where you shoot monster girl porno seemed curious in all the right ways.

You play as a recently-deceased person who lived a life of wanton sin, for which you have been condemned to an eternity in hell. Fortunately, hell is quite alright. Sure, it’s Halloween 24/7 and there are monsters everywhere, but for the most part everybody just hangs out and “lives” their un-life. It’s really chill once you learn to cope with the existentialism.

Unfortunately, hell has capitalism. As you awaken in a rundown office, you are greeted by Claire the Reaper. Given your proven skills at making money in dubious lines of work, she tasks with you reviving hell’s failing pornography business. The last producer she hired was more interested in molesting his own stars than making profitable movies, so now it’s up to you to set things right at the studio.

If you’re expecting something like 2005’s The Movies, then you’re in for some instant disappointment. Making films in Spooky Starlets takes on the form of simplistic card puzzles. You are given two hands of cards: one containing sex positions and starlets, the other featuring “event” cards. The goal here is to make a combo featuring a foreplay card, a sex card, and a finish card in that order. If you do this while meeting the objective of whatever script you picked, you successfully complete your movie. If you also played a starlet card, that characters then “levels up”.

It is very basic and very short. Each card has a score for production value attached to it and a color, so the game really only has 3 objectives: get production value above 24, get production value under 16, or make a combo of a specific color. It’s the same tasks repeated for 3-4 hours. On top of that, making a combo takes only a few seconds.

I called the puzzle gameplay light, but really it’s just absent. If you need a combo of a certain color, you play those cards and you’re done. If you need a high or low score, you play cards that give you the most or least points. Sure, sometimes you don’t have the right cards, but that’s what the event cards are for. They change the colors, let you discard a bad hand, or swap out bad cards. Sure, you can only play so many cards in a round, but there are event cards that fix that too. You need a lot of bad luck to fail in this game and, even then, there’s no punishment to speak of. You just immediately go again.

Spooky Starlets has a severe lack of depth here. The Starlets are all characterized and you unlock visual novel segments for leveling them up, but none of their personality or design comes into play while filming. It could be interesting if what Starlet you played affected the likelihood of drawing certain colors or changed the production value on positions they prefer. Instead it does nothing.

Each script also lists a reward, but the only reward available is leveling up Starlets; giving the impression that other mechanics were intended and never manifested. My guess would be some kind of financial management gameplay, as that is entirely absent despite being frequently mentioned in the plot.

It also has to be said that the porno you are filming is utterly abysmal. The best way to describe is that it looks like somebody made cartoon porn in Scribblenauts Unlimited. The characters are reduced to basic 2D sprites that all share the same basic skeleton and rigid animations. All those diverse monster designs and body types? Gone! Everybody looks the same and un-erotically loop through the repetitive motions marked on what card you most recently played, with canned moans and frozen expressions. It is aggressively bad.

A saving grace here is that visual novel segments are actually quite decent. The writing is breezy with an occasional punch to it, as your perpetually-drunk character navigates the working environment of hell with a cynical mindset and much sarcasm. The plot sees you helping your female talent overcome the hurdles in their lives. You’re not exactly a psychiatrist, but somehow your half-hearted support and inebriated wit always helps the girls find their inner resolve. Yes, the story is about as “good” as you’d expect from porn, but that’s besides the point.

The visual novel segments also show off the game’s stellar artstyle. It’s a Burton-inspired cartoon look with dashes of anime thrown into it. The backgrounds are appealing and the characters all have solid designs to them. These may be ruined during gameplay, but while reading you get to enjoy full-screen animated gifs tailor-made for each character. These frame the action in much more novel ways and just look really damn good.

Left with nothing else, these will be what you buy the game for. They’re a great motivation for playing through the storylines and, in doing so, learning more about the characters. It’s a shame that you can’t rewatch these scenes, however. Not without replaying the whole game at least.

All this has left me feeling unsure of what to think of Spooky Starlets. On the one hand, it feels half-assed. We haven’t even gotten into issues like audio playing incorrectly, typos, the game giving rewards to the wrong girl, counters messing up, animations not playing correctly, or characters going off-model even in the animated gifs. On the other hand, the writing, character design, and world were clearly made by people who cared. The game received numerous updates and developers communicated with the players on issues and feedback.

However, caring about something is no guarantee of quality. Even a good developer can make a bad game. The whole card gameplay and the incredibly bad sex scenes attached to them can’t be excused, so I can only recommend this game to the most fervent of monster girl fans.

One thought on “Spooky Starlets

  1. Pingback: Gamer Girls: Dating Sim – Legacy of Games

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s