Computer games have a hit with soft-core software

December 30, 1993|By Dwight Silverman | Dwight Silverman,Houston Chronicle

You are a single male looking for love in, you hope, all the right places.

At the moment, the right place is the Man Enough Dating Service, and owner Jeri has given you five "clients" to get to know. You meet the first one, a TV anchor named Quinn, at the Iron Maiden Gym. Your possible opening lines are:

"Excuse me, but are you filming a Playmate workout video here?"

"Ah, if I've died and gone to heaven, are you a naughty angel?"

"Pardon me, but could I lift those barbells of yours sometime?"

Tasteless? Probably.

Tacky? Most likely.

Politically incorrect? You bet.

The new CD-ROM based computer game called Man Enough, from Tsunami Media, is deliberately cheesy, one of a growing number of "in your face" software products that have appeared as personal computers proliferate.

There's now something for every taste -- or lack thereof. "We wanted to be politically incorrect," said Tsunami President Ed Heinbockel. "We want to do products that are on the edge. The way we look at it, we are going to have fun with this.

"And maybe, just maybe, there will be a few people who will play this game, and it may cause them to think in a broader way." Man Enough comes on compact disc, playable only on those computers with a CD-ROM drive. The disc can hold more than 600 megabytes of data, ideal for storing audio and video information files, which take up a lot of space.

Much of the software that falls into this "on the edge" category comes on CD-ROM, running the gamut from the merely suggestive, as is Man Enough, to hard-core pornography, such as the popular L.A. Strippers: Babes, Bikes and Rock 'n' Roll.

CD-ROM software is often called "multimedia" because it combines text, sound and video.

The Tsunami game is billed as a "social adventure," the object being to date five Man Enough clients and, if successful, win a date with owner Jeri herself.

Jeri is played by Tonia Keyser, the reigning Miss California-World.

In the game, the player must first persuade each woman to give him her phone number. In a subsequent call, he must talk her into a date. On the date, the player must say all the right things to achieve seduction.

The action is advanced by delivering one of three lines in response to something the on-screen date says. Pick the right one, and she responds favorably, often with a sleazy line of her own. For example, one of the women is a pilot who's fond of making flight-stick jokes.

The wrong response brings a stinging rebuke and may send the player back to the starting point.

Man Enough is an unusual twist on adventure games, which usually require players to navigate a dangerous location using both wits and weapons.

But here, your wits are your weapons. The women -- a pilot, an attorney, the anchorwoman, a sales representative and a psychologist -- are smart, tough and no-nonsense. The dialog is drenched in double entendres. There is no nudity in Man Enough, though every woman appears on screen in some form of undress. Mr. Heinbockel said it's supposed to look like a Victoria's Secret catalog.

There's no sex. Something happens to interrupt the action at critical moments.

Although it's only been in release for about a month, the Man Enough already has sold "just north of 30,000," according to Mr. Heinbockel, who expected the game to sell more than 50,000 by the end of the month.

In the world of computer games, 50,000 units is considered a hit. Man Enough's list price is $79.95.

Although Man Enough is on its way to becoming a hit, some retailers are uncomfortable stocking it. Although Tom Setaro, store manager for the CompUSA store in Glen Burnie, says his store does not currently carry Man Enough, Houston's CompUSA store manager, David Keefus, says they stock it -- but the game is kept out of sight.

"The woman on the cover of the box has a provocative look to her," Mr. Keefus said. "We don't demo the game on our systems in the store, either, which is something we do with most of our CD-ROMs."

He said the store gets only five copies a month, and they sell immediately.

Man Enough is similar to a longtime standard of tasteless software: the Leisure Suit Larry series.

Larry, a cartoon computer nerd perennially in search of love and lust, has been a fixture on personal computers since the early 1980s. The sixth in the series, subtitled "Shape Up or Slip Out," was just released.

The more sexually explicit CD-ROM titles are sold through direct marketing or in magazines. Even mainstream, business-oriented

computer publications, such as PC Computing and PC Magazine, carry ads for adult titles, usually banished to the back of the book.

The market for tasteless software is expected to grow as more people buy computers powerful enough to handle multimedia software.

And at Tsunami, they're already planning for Man Enough 2, and a "corollary" aimed at women.

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