This is a very strange project from Rob Landeros (of The 7th Guest fame) and filmmaker David Wheeler.
It's a DVD game that bills itself as a truly interactive movie, and the producers even snagged a big talent to star in it--John Hurt, a two-time Oscar nominee (for Midnight Express and The Elephant Man), always a favorite actor of mine.
Okay, so they have a good actor in the film. A good start. Next, Landeros and Wheeler decided to make the project very much "adult" subject matter. In other words, lots of sex. Good again--we don't have enough games willing to tackle truly adult subject matter.
I was very intrigued as the game began. I watched the opening cinematic of a car wreck, then Hurt drove up in front of a farm house, introduced himself as Dr. Turner, a psychiatrist. He's developed a brilliant new form of analysis he calls "TAT"--Thematic Apperception Test. More on that shortly.
He invites you to participate in unraveling all of the terrible events that took place in this house. Again, very promising indeed. I'm practically rubbing my hands together in front of the computer. Bring it on!
So I watch the opening scenes. It's the story of Michael Overton (Michael Esposito), a handsome young husband and father. His wife is the very pretty Allison (Marie Caldare), who's been unfortunately a bit mental since the car accident in which their daughter Jodie was hurt. Dr. Turner has recommend the Overtons hire someone to help Allison work through her trauma. Michael lies to his wife and tells her the woman coming is to help their daughter Jodie.
The woman arrives in the person of the ridiculously sexy nurse/therapist Kathryn Randolph (Beth Teagarden). She takes immediate control of Allison.
So much for the first episode. Now, time for a little interactivity, I thought. Dr. Turner comes back on screen, mulls over what we were just watching, then asks us what we think. I then answered a series of questions based on my reactions to the episode I had just watched. Did I trust Kathryn? Did I think Michael was attracted to Kathryn? Et cetera.
Next I got to wander around the house on my own, peering into diaries, emails, and letters, learning more about the major characters. At the end of this sequence, Dr. Turner gave me one of his TATs--which was sort of fun. It was kind of a conceptual Rorschach test. He'd show me a picture and ask me questions about it, that sort of thing.
After this, the whole cycle begins again--scenes, answering questions about the scenes, exploring the house again, another TAT. This cycle repeated itself sixteen times.
The first half of the story leads up to a Big Secret that's so blinkingly obvious it was silly. It's always a problem in a movie to let your audience get ahead of you, and that was a real interest-killer in this case. Come on, give us a bit of credit, guys--either make the "secret" less obvious or reveal it earlier.
From there the story got progressively darker and darker. In fact, by the second half of the movie I found the whole thing distasteful and cruel. What's more, my interaction didn't seem to have any meaning. Evidently my answers to questions affected how the story moved forward, and in particular determined which end I saw (there are evidently quite a few different endings). But since my interaction was so oblique, I didn't get any sense of exactly how I was moving the story forward. It was never anything as straightforward as "have Michael fire Kathryn," or "have Michael refuse Kathryn's overtures to sex." It was all hunches and feelings.
Therefore, the only way I could find out how my responses affected the story was to slog through all sixteen of those episodes again. And, brother, that ain't gonna happen. It's a decent movie, but Lawrence of Arabia it ain't.
So the makers of TLC have attempted to create an interactive movie with true replay value and, in my opinion, failed--because what's replay value without a desire to replay?
For the record, every ending I heard about was dark and depressing.
Final Grade: D+
If you liked Tender Loving Care:
Watch: The Other (for a good creepy domestic story)
Read: The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford (for a good tightly knit domestic nightmare story)
Play: Byzantine (for good use of video)
Pentium P-60, Windows 95, 8MB RAM, local bus video card with 1MB of RAM capable of displaying thousands of colors and supports DirectX 2.0, double speed CD-ROM drive (which sustains 300k/sec transfer rate), 100% Sound Blaster compatible audio card, mouse. Recommended options: Internet connection and good powered speakers.
Pentium P-133, Windows 95, 16MB RAM, DVD/Mpeg2 decoder card or software solution, local bus video card with 1MB of RAM capable of displaying thousands of colors and supports DirectX 2.0, DVDROM drive, 100% Sound Blaster compatible audio card, mouse. Recommended options: Internet connection and good powered speakers.
This review is copyright Ray Ivey and Just Adventure and may not be republished elsewhere without the express written consent of the author. Republication of said review must also contain a link back to Just Adventure.