Strange Flesh (NSFW)

A game by Greatest Bear Studios for PC and Mac, originally released in 2017.
Sex in video games has been around almost as long as the medium itself, with the first examples appearing in the early 1980’s. There have been more than a few sex-focused titles released in the ensuing decades, although they have generally been of lower quality than their mainstream counterparts. Perhaps the best known games oriented around sex are those from the Leisure Suit Larry series, which has seen numerous iterations on home computers, and even some on consoles, but none of these games are terribly explicit.

In general, mainstream publishers have shied away from games with mature sexual content as the core gameplay focus, but recently distribution services like Steam have begun to allow more explicit content, despite years of prohibiting such games on the platform in an uncensored format. Still, the most explicit games tend to appear outside of primary distribution channels, often being offered directly from developers’ websites or via adult websites, and often available for free. Many of these are browser-based games that don’t require players to download and run programs on their machines.

Quality varies greatly in the adult gaming arena, and games that are offered for free often have low production values, with serviceable artwork, poor animation quality, and usually very limited gameplay, often amounting to choose-your-own-adventure scenarios with simple motion-based mechanics for the sexual acts themselves.

Strange Flesh, on the other hand, is a full-fledged beat ‘em up that could stand on its own mechanically even without its focus on sexual content. It offers beautiful artwork, high quality animations, a compelling world filled with visualizations of psychological personas… and lots of dudes performing sexual acts with each other.

The game begins with a fellow named Joe who is working late in his office, mindlessly executing his boring job until he finally decides to leave and have a drink. He wanders the streets looking for a bar, and finally stumbles across a joint called Strange Flesh. The smoke-filled establishment is populated by men in various states of undress, and a bartender with glowing red eyes.

Joe sits down at the bar, and the bartender offers him a beer on the house. Joe becomes more relaxed as he drinks and begins telling the bartender how much he hates his job, and the bartender listens to his woes. But after a while, the smoke in the room seems to intoxicate Joe, and the bartender stares at him deeply with his red eyes… and then travels directly into Joe’s mind.

The entirety of the game takes place within Joe’s mind, with the opening areas representing Joe’s outer fa├žade, and later areas representing his deeper desires, eventually leading to Joe’s true self, buried deep beneath a series of psychological barriers. Joe is a repressed individual who hides his homosexuality and desires toward BDSM behind an emotionless and disconnected veil as he simply goes through the motions of life without expressing himself or taking action to get what he truly wants.

In a nice touch, the opening area establishes that Joe is still sitting in the bar staring into one of the bartender’s red eyes, and this is conveyed with a giant hovering eye and spiraling smoke in the background of a city. The bartender begins his mission on a rooftop. Noticeable as he bobs up and down in a traditional fighting stance is a huge bulge in the front of his jeans, which bobs up and down along with him. In gaming terms, this is what is typically described as “jiggle physics”, often used when animating the oversized breasts of female video game characters rather than male genitalia… and that’s about the least naughty thing this game has on tap.

The opening tutorial area features billboards in the background that explain the game’s controls in a way that is clear to the player but also cleverly themed to the game world. The bartender has several moves at his disposal, including a jump, a punch that strings into a 5-hit combo, a jump kick, the ability to grab and throw enemies or throw objects at enemies, a double-tap dash, a separate double-tap dash that lets him pass through enemies, and a double-tap sidestep to dodge into the foreground or background.

All of these moves are fairly standard and are featured in numerous beat ‘em ups, but the bartender has one special move that other brawling heroes do not: smoke. Just as the bartender’s smoke mesmerized Joe in the bar, this same smoke can be used on enemies within Joe's subconscious for a variety of effects, all of which focus on Joe expressing his sexual desires (more on this in a bit).

Unlike other games where players smash their way through various street thugs and hooligans, almost every enemy in this game is a psychological representation of Joe himself. In earlier levels, the bartender faces off against these passive characters who simply stand around sipping coffee in their work attire, or maybe snapping some pictures with their phones. As with many fighting games, engaging an enemy causes that character’s name and health bar to display in the upper right corner of the screen, and the bartender faces waves of characters with names like Disinterested Joe, Rundown Joe, Detached Joe, Exhausted Joe, etc.

These characters don’t even move in to fight the bartender, but rather just stand around until he walks up to them and begins attacking. Later levels, deeper within Joe’s psyche, feature varations of Joe wearing less clothing, sporting more leather, and becoming more inclined to be amorous toward one another. This is represented by burlier Joes in the background flirting with the more passive office worker Joes from earlier levels, and eventually leading to areas where the Joes are pleasuring one another.

After leaving the rooftop, the bartender enters an office area where he smashes his way through office worker Joes, more relaxed versions with their sleeves rolled up, a coffee pot version of Joe that spits coffee, and little winged Joe heads with printers on top that spit out paper as they get chased around by their angry serpentine boss with a computer monitor for a head that is constantly yelling “WORK!”. In the background, a sea of identical Joes sits in cubicles staring at computer screens.

Following this, the bartender exits the office building and enters the city streets where Joes appear with their sleeves rolled up as anthropomorphic beer bottles wander around and spray beer, which can get the bartender drunk. This gives the bartender a wobbly stance and a flush face, while also slowing his attacks and causing him to trip if he performs a dash. Beer is Joe's primary means of escaping the doldrums of his life in the real world, which also serves to lower his mental barriers a bit so that he feels more like his true self.

From here, the bartender moves into a park which features burlier Joes with facial hair, green rooster comb haircuts, tank tops, and leather gloves and boots, eventually giving way to more pronounced versions of these features, along with studded collars and leather vests with no shirts. When the bartender reaches the bar at the edge of the park – which is called Kneel – the world becomes a smoke-filled playground of sexual desires with various sex acts going on in the background, eventually leading to Joe’s core self in the game’s only boss encounter.

By beat ‘em up standards, the game is quite easy, with frequent checkpoints and 1UPs, and a lack of enemies with complex behaviors. Veterans of the genre will have no trouble making it through the entire game on their first attempt, particularly if they are relying on their fists to defeat enemies. However, things change a bit when the player begins using smoke…

The bartender has several different smoke attacks, which include a short puff on his cigar to hit enemies up close, a longer draw that leads to a larger cloud of smoke at a medium range, and a desperation attack that delivers a cloud of smoke affecting enemies on both sides of him, but this causes the bartender to lose some health in the process. Smoke as an attack is very weak, so it’s not very effective in combat. However, when combined with other moves, the entire game takes a turn for the naughty.

By grabbing a Joe and pulling him close, the bartender can blow smoke into his mouth, which immediately causes the Joe to become aroused, as evidenced by the unusually large erection-shaped bulge in his pants. In this state, the Joe will fight for you, but if you manage to arouse another Joe using the same technique, the two will come together and begin making out and rubbing each other’s bulges until they disappear in a puff of smoke.

However, if the bartender weakens a Joe with physical attacks and then uses smoke as a finishing move, the Joe becomes entirely compliant, stripping off his clothes and lying on the ground pleasuring himself. If left alone, he will eventually reach climax and blow a thick ropey load all over himself. However, the bartender can also walk up to the waiting Joe and press a button, which prompts the Joe to service him, or to get on all fours to take it from behind.

The tables are turned when the bartender is drunk, however, as he then services the Joes and allows them to pound him from behind. Every character has unique animations for giving, receiving, and self-administering pleasure, and they all have cartoonishly large and meaty genitalia, with a girth roughly equivalent to that of an average man’s fist and forearm.

Joes that are killed with physical attacks drop yellow triangles, which fill a meter representing domination. Joes who are led into sexual acts drop blue cubes representing corruption, along with some red orbs that restore health. The game features three different endings depending on whether Joe experienced mainly domination, mainly corruption, or a mixture of both, and these traits are expressed in post-game cutscenes where Joe is finally free to express his sexuality and desires.

There is some question as to whether Joe is being drugged by the smoke, but this immaterial given that the bartender is interacting with representations of Joe's psyche - not actual people - and he is ultimately on a quest to help Joe overcome his own psychological barriers and come to terms with his true self.

This message is conveyed in the game’s artwork and can be seen by comparing the harsh tones and unnatural hues in the office environment, where Joe is buttoned down and unable to express himself; to the more natural appearance of trees and grass in the park, where Joe begins to relax and accept the advances of his more open selves (albeit with the aid of a bit of alcohol); to the final bar scene which features puffy clouds and soft couches in a veritable fantasy world where Joe is fully comfortable and free to explore the pleasures that he denies himself in his daily life.

Strange Flesh was developed by Greatest Bear Studios. The game was coded by programmer and writer of gay erotica, Ursa Maximus, with art by Italian artist Blazing Cheeks, and sound by Fann, whose musical works can be heard in A Fox in the Stable, Bedfellows, A Cathouse Tale, and My Very Own Lith.