To get the pretentiousness out of the way up front, one might categorize Luxuria Superbia as an “experience” rather than a game. It’s a visual, aural, and tactile assault with very few obvious goals and barely any direction given that’s all about touching your device in creative ways. It’s repetitious, can be downright flummoxing, and is truly a tablet-only title. Still, you’ve never played anything like it and also, it’s one giant sex metaphor! Yow!
Luxuria comes with a deliberately vague page of instructions as it’s the developer’s intent for you to just get in there and feel around for yourself. The level select screen is a garden (which actually looks like a pillared gazebo). In each level, you enter the inside of a flower. On the inside, every flower looks like a different-colored tunnel that you’re hurtling through in first-person perspective. In the top-left corner of the screen is a three-ringed circle. This circle fills with whiteness from the inside out as you play. You must completely fill one of the rings. Then you must end the level by making the flower, in the game’s words, “finish.”
As you fly down a flower’s tunnel, rows of little buds pop up all around the sides. You hold, tap, and/or glide your fingers (up to ten of them) everywhere to make buds bloom. Blooming enough will cause that section of the tunnel to fill with color and will also fill the circle in the top-left corner. However, once a flower is completely colored in, it becomes easy to “finish” it. Doing so before you’ve filled a circle is the only way to lose, so you must learn to temper your touching, rhythmically caressing your Android so that you can complete the circles before finishing the flower. Filling circles adds color to the pillars in your garden/gazebo. The more circles you fill up in a level, the quicker your garden gets fleshed out.
The gameplay doesn’t change much. Every subsequent flower adds another row of buds and white buds that instantly remove the color from an area show up. There are also technically some auxiliary goals (detailed in an online guide available from the options menu), but the basic concept remains the same throughout. The game’s vague simplicity is also its undoing. I found the approach quite engrossing, but one could easily argue that Luxuria is just plain repetitive. Furthermore, though I thought I’d developed a pretty solid strategy, in one of the final levels I absolutely cannot get the flower to climax. But I’ve accepted that this is in no way a reflection on me or my capabilities as a gamer.
Graphically, Luxuria is geared around absorbing you into it. Each level presents a terrain—sometimes bumpy, sometimes wavy, sometimes ridged—that becomes flooded with vibrant colors as you activate buds. The initial levels look pretty flower-esque, dominated by bright pinks, reds, and oranges but later levels have a space theme of black, dark blue, and purple pinpricked with dots of white. Touching buds causes them to produce a variety of weird, animated objects like blinking eyes, fluttering flags, spinning satellites, and rockets that blast off. The onslaught of stuff makes for a complex and eye-catching style.
The music functions similarly. It’s bizarre, haunting, and often noisy. Like the gameplay, it seems structureless, with random sounds and the occasional voice of women harmonizing nonsense words. But it does in fact build as you color a flower, taking on a hectic rhythm with the sounds coming together to create a cacophonic yet somehow cohesive melody.
Finally, the game also constantly throws text at you like “So good” and “Touch me.” It also says “That felt magic!” at the end of a level or reassures you that “These things happen” if you climax too quickly. One time it said “Oh my God hell yes” while I was playing on the train and I became very self-conscious and quit. There’s an option to turn the text off altogether, but you’ll still look like a freak drawing slow, sexy circles on your tablet’s face.
Speaking of which, I played this game on a phone and it’s evident I wasn’t supposed to. The troubleshooting section of the online guide makes no reference to phones whatsoever, so it’s obviously meant for tablets. On a phone, at times your fingers will be covering up almost the whole screen so you can’t see what you’re doing. Also, some of the later levels chug so hard on my Galaxy Nexus as to be nearly unplayable. However, just before posting this review, an update with a “Low Rez” option was released. While this helps a bit, some levels still suffer from slowdown, which again leads me to believe Luxuria is really for tablets or at least newer phone models.
Luxuria Superbia’s unconventionality is both its greatest draw and its core weakness. People looking for a more conservative gaming experience will just be bored. But if you want something that feels more like a trippy toy than a video game and that, abstract though it is, pulls off a kinky vibe, this is for you. Just be aware that you should really only play it on a tablet and that, though you’ll sometimes be on fire, finishing levels one after the other, sometimes you’ll finish too quickly, and sometimes, no matter what you try, nothing will satisfy that flower. Wink, wink.