I’ve always been a videogame lover, possibly even before fully understanding what a computer really was. Back in those days though, mainly due to memory constraints, games mostly came in the form of platformers, maze-runners or fast-paced shooters, all genres that I never learned to master…. As a direct result, I never really played that much: at home, on my Commodore 128/64 machine, I got frustrated after 30 minutes of play; at the arcade I went broke after … well, 3 minutes?
Those are some of the reasons I quickly turned to adventures, with text adventures like Scott Adam’s “The Count” (VIC20 version) being the very first of many. In its early days even the Amiga featured a wide range of those adventures, mainly coming from the now-defunt Infocom, and one the games I always wanted to play was Leather Goddesses of Phobos. This insane, adult-themed title, has a really fun story behind it, that probably many of you out there do not know about.
At a certain point in time (beginning of ’80s) Steve Meretzky, who was already cooperating with Infocom as a betatester, was employed by the company as a game designer. There was an open space at Infocom, where all the dev machines were hosted and, on a wall, a huge chalkboard was recording all the titles in development with the relevant release number for any of those machines (eg: Zork I: TRS80 ver42, Apple II ver44, Atari800 ver45 et cetera). Right before a corporate party, Steve went to the board and added a line for this non-existent game, thinking it would have been fun to see the reactions it could cause. Joel Berez (one of Infocom founders) spot the title and erased it, deeming it “inappropriate”, but the name stuck and, eventually, development started in 1985.
When the game finally went into production it was decided to make it into a space opera, inspired by 1930s sci-fi products, and that’s why it all starts in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, in 1936. The story revolves around said Leather Goddesses trying to finalize their plan to invade Earth which is why, all of the sudden, you are abducted and teleported on Phobos (one of the 2 satellites of Mars) to be used as a sort of guinea pig. Their plan is to make humanity into their sex slaves but, like it or not, this outcome is considered not-acceptable, so you are only left with the option to ruin said plan. During your first steps into the game, you’ll get the chance to choose to be a male or female character by just walking into the relevant toilet room of the (lurid) bar you were visiting at game start.
Once on Phobos, your first steps will be escaping your prison, meet your new companion (Trent, if you chose the male restroom, Tiffany if you went the other way) and starting to explore the surroundings. You’ll soon discover “black circles”, teleporting devices able to let you travel back and forth through the game’s locations: a space ship, Mars, Venus, Cleveland – Ohio (!?!) …
Like other titles of the period, Leather Goddesses of Phobos did not feature an anti-copy protection, yet anti-piracy measures were enforced by means of “feelies”, hints and tips recorded in the accompanying documentation, without which most puzzles were impossible to solve. As an example, part of the game is set inside a 2-level catacombs sporting a non-standard layout. There is no chance to get out of them alive without the maps depicted below. Actually, I had a hard time getting out despite a very detailed walkthrough, since missing a move, while pausing to “look” or “examine” will probably end up in an attack by critters, resulting in losing your flashlight. At that point, the game won’t give you any reference, and you’ll end up wandering in the catacombs forever. Well, I take it back: you’ll end up eaten alive in a couple of turns!
The game was very well received by critics, and sold a significant (for the time) amount of copies. Its feelies are still a well worthy collectible (which, by the way, I sadly do not own), with its maps, scratch and sniff card, and 3D comic readable via 3D glasses. As you can see from the screenshots (captured live while using UAE on my next-gen Amiga) Leather Goddesses of Phobos got a sequel, Gas Pump Girls Meet the Pulsating Inconvenience from Planet X!, which is not worthy our precious time for 2 reasons: 1. it’s a graphical adventure that for plot and mechanics completely destroyed the spirit of the original; 2. it was never published for the Amiga.
In the end, due to a thousand different reasons, it took me 32 years to complete this game, but now that I did I’m thinking about starting a new blog section named “My Amiga Milestones”, just to give you back a little more of the good old times. The next entry in such a section could be the unforgettable … ZORK!
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