What would you expect when offering your hand out for me to shake? I’d wager that tentacles scratching undercarriages and teeth greedily gnawing at the bridge of your nose wouldn’t be on your list. Oh come on, what’s wrong with you—don’t you want to make a good impression? Would you clobber a rottweiler with elbow and foot if it pressed its nose against your anus for a sniff? It’s just saying hello the only way it knows how. Such is the case with the frightening cast of extraterrestrials in Ledoliel.
The goal is to travel diplomatically across the universe, that is, by safely tip-toeing through the peculiar lexicon and customs of multiple species of alien. A meeting of courtesy and fear manifested as back-to-back blind dates with polite Cenobites.
Interstellar diplomacy is as difficult as you’d imagine for us humans considering that we can’t even agree upon which side of the road cars should drive on. We barely tolerate each other’s differences though those of a being so far removed from our native cultures. These aliens grope and mutilate parts of your body as a welcoming gesture, unknowingly testing your boundaries, violating your personal space. Within a minute of playing I’d experienced a Croatian handshake and been shown the genitals of one entirely unpleasing creature. The game had me at “hello,” firmly, right around the pubis.
That initiation endured, you spend most of your time trying to match the three cryptic attributes of each stark alien, such as “religious” and “deviant”, with your similarly abstract selection of nouns (blood, ego, pain, army, and so on) in order to appease them. Your exchanges are enacted with one of three verbs: Say, Touch, Give.
Improvisation within this lexical system results in a rich cocktail of bizarre mannerisms, not unlike the poetic nonsense of Twitterbots. You touch garbage and talk about technology hoping that your new apprentice would be interested. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you give a kitten to an alien to which that is the ultimate insult.
Ledoliel can also be a strangely warm and intimate experience, such as when touching another being’s blood, or giving each other affectionate pain. Whether terrifying or mildly arousing, your success in wooing your date determines whether or not you’ll survive or have brambles inflated in your veins. It’s a tough break up.
What Ledoliel demonstrates is how deeply concordant we are with the cultural engineering that informs our exchanges with each other. It exposes the constructs we engage and rely on by removing the common understanding of communicative procedures between two individuals (yourself and a being from another planet). But, really, the game’s interchanges are only as weird as it is that some of us shake hands while others bow to greet each other. It’s just much, much more violent.
That Ledoliel does this is not at all surprising considering its creator Aliceffekt’s adoration of semiotics and etymology—he has even created his own language—and his back-and-forth migration between Canada and Japan (experiencing two divergent cultures). He’s ensured that each conversation in Ledoliel is deliberately elliptical, as if to demonstrate and teach Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophical notion that “If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.” Aliceffekt translates that idea into a play thing that’s dressed a little sexier and easier to swallow on account of its buttery touch of weird humor.
Ledoliel can be purchased for iOS on the App Store.