The porn industry is booming. Do you have what it takes to sort through the semen soaked love toys to rise to the top? You can find out in Lula: The Sexy Empire.
Lula: The Sexy Empire, otherwise known as "Wet: The Sexy Empire," is a Tycoon management simulation released for Windows in 1998 for Europe. It was the brain child of German developer CDV Software and Interactive Strip, which is a sub-label of New Generation Software. Take 2 Interactive published and distributed it.
I was honestly at a loss for writing this review for the longest time, as this game is all over the place. I'll get into detail on this shortly, but I would like to stress this to you, the reader, why this review may sound slightly disjointed. For example, in game text refers to itself as "Wet: The Sexy Empire." At other points during the game it refers to itself as "Lula: The Sexy Empire." Both names for the game are used interchangeably. What I can surmise is that during the development process the name was changed to Lula: The Sexy Empire from Wet: The Sexy Empire as CDV Software would start making multiple games with Lula as their titular selling point and mascot.
The introduction to the game is simple as it uses basic cartoon images superimposed on a background with the most simple of 3D models and animations. It tells the story of how your character was robbing a bank, and your two accomplices decided to hang you out to dry in the middle of nowhere. You meet a buxom, blonde bombshell who you decide to hook up with to create a pornography empire that the world has never seen. Seeing as you are a man on the run, your first task is avoiding federal agents.
Sounds daunting doesn't it? Don't worry, you have that buxom blonde named Lula to help you out. She will offer help and advice whenever you need it. No, I don't mean the two-dimensional cartoon character. There is a real actress portraying Lula in the help and introduction videos. The two couldn't look more different. In the FMV segments, a very softcore style movie will play while Lula's voice actress dubs over the video of the actual actress in various states of undress. Many of these videos are just condescending to the player. The voiceover states that you either bought this game for the sexual content, or that they're just a brainless man. Insulting the player is never a good idea. As you can guess, the game is not off to such a great start.
Upon starting a new game, you are immediately dropped in with no flavor text or instructions. The developers expect you to both watch the introduction video and then immediately hammer the help button to learn the basics. Regardless, time starts ticking the second you're in. You have approximately a week to get a new identity and get base funds to start up your company. At the risk of making this sound like a walkthrough, you first have to purchase a hotel room, some lighting equipment, and a camera to start taking nude pictures of Lula to then sell to the porn distributor. You can either sell them for a smaller amount of money that builds over time, or sell them for a lump sum. Considering a new identity costs around $70,000-90,000, lump sum is usually the way to go.
Occasionally Lula may ask for certain toys or lubes for your video/photo shoot. At that point you have to head down to the local porn store to buy them for her before the shooting can start. There are hundreds of different accessories you can buy, but, to my knowledge, the basic ones suffice just as well as the high price ones — which offer no real advantage over another. If Lula feels frisky, she may ask for a partner to have some fun with. You can either head to the bar and find an amateur girl to proposition, or head down to "grandma's chicken farm" and hire a girl there. Important to note here, all the actors' and actresses' in-game profiles have an real photo attached to it. In the credits it states the CDV Software team for the actors' photos. While many of the male actors actually look the part of game designers, they may have had extra help when it comes to female pictures — unless the female staff outnumber the male staff three to one, and didn't mind posing nude.
After gaining about $200,000 in capital the game kicks you out town and you start up an adult film studio. This part of the game is significantly more complex than before. After buying a lot, you will have to construct buildings on the lot including but not limited to: a warehouse, sound studio, cutting room, office, and studio. Each position will have to be filled by staff and hiring staff consists of RNG and baiting. To send out a staff request you have to place an ad in the newspaper each position and list how much experience they should have and what the approximate pay should be. There are no numbers, just a sliding scale with pictures attached to it. Usually you will get two to four applicants per job offer. Even if you do get applicants, they may not match what you asked for in the advertisement.
After getting your writers, set designers, cutters, directors, actors, etc. you're finally able to start shooting film on set. Time to have some fun.
In addition to toys and lubes, you now have to get special equipment based on different occupations in the lot. The gate guard needs automatic weapons to keep protesters at bay. The copier needs a copy machine to churn out thousands of VHS tapes. As you can see in the above picture, we're still in 1997, DVDs are a few years away. The sound engineer needs software. Cameraman needs a camera and set designers need a set. All the expenses start to add up very fast. As I previously stated, the bottom of the barrel stuff works just as fine as the high end items with little to no difference in benefit.
Thus begins the most micro-management section of the game. Every click becomes agonizing as you wait each hour in your distribution center to make sure you distribute copies of the movie. Failing to send out movies requested by different companies by even one minute will cause them to lower their buying price of said videos. If that's not enough, the actors get upset and refuse to perform for stupid reasons at random times. These can range from a hangover to the actor's dick smells and makes the actress physically ill. You can either put the entire shoot on hold for one hour of time or throw money at them to get back to work. I found this method to be the best as putting the entire game on lockdown for an hour can hurt your distribution business. There are also random bad events, such as a feminist protest or too much garbage on the floor, which will cause time immediately pass.
In the end, you'll end up just clicking the same items over and over, day after day, to get more money into the company. There's no ability to auto-sell here. To try to keep the player entertained, every screen in the game has a sort of "Easter egg" in it. For example, clicking a TV will show a small animated GIF of a live-action porn on the screen. These have the exact same quality you would would expect from a 56k modem on a porn advertisement. On the other hand, you can molest your staff members. Clicking the breast of a storyboard artist will make her tits fall out of her blouse. All of this is done with their two-dimensional counterparts. There are no real actors or actresses to molest. Sadly, these are just distractions for the player to try to keep them entertained through the hours of endless clicking.
After making over two million dollars you will give up the porn shooting business and take on adult distribution itself. This by far is the worst explained part of the game. It's all about spreadsheet management and sabotaging other companies. The previous two parts of the game made relative sense with how they worked together. The second segment built off the first. This section is completely unrelated. Even the help screen to explain the situation needs help. Below is an exact screencap of it without any edits to it. All previous menus, videos, help screens, were displayed correctly.
What you do in this section is fly around the United States and buy up real estate to place an adult entertainment store. You choose the size, location, staffing, and what the store will stock. From there you place capital into the store to buy supplies all the while attempting to make some money. A second part to this section is building your own mansion and private airfield. This feels so far removed from the sex industry. The only "sex" thing you handle at this point is choosing which adult items to put in your store. At this point it feels as though you're just a corporate big wig who's attempting to get into the pants a younger woman. Everything feels hands off, and as a result the game falls apart at this point.
Now I've rambled on about the gameplay and it's about time I discussed Lula's other assets. The art for the entire game is done by German artist Carsten Wieland. Apart from his work in the Lula/Wet series, he is also known for his work on The Rocking Dead, Sudoku Bondage: Tied up and Bound, and Airline 69: Return to Casablanca. As you can guess from these titles, he is adept at drawing women in various states of undress.
The overt cartoonish art meshes perfectly with how the game is structured. It's meant to poke fun at itself and not to be extremely sexualized but still enough to tantalize. As a result of that, the mediocre gameplay drags on with the only reward being a bouncing boob when you get tired and give one of the female characters a click. The game hopes the promise of new girls to expose their chest will be enough to trudge through long sections of clicking the same screen over and over again. This is not a knock against the art. The rewards for completing sections should be a lot more art then what it currently offers.
I harp on and on about the monotony of the gameplay, but there is only one thing that's worse, and that's the music and sound. Each part of the game has a different memorable track. The first part has the desolate desert music. Most of the first part's music and sound is actually not bad. It's fitting for what it is and where you're located.
When you hit part two, that's when it starts to fall apart. Each section of your studio has different music to accompany it — pretty diverse too. In addition to that, you can even select different types of music to overlay into the porn movie you make. You can play a sample of whatever music overlay you want. Granted that it makes no difference which music track you put in the movie, but it's nice they included that.
What kills me here are the sound effects. Every 20 or so seconds, assuming you're on fast speed, you'll have to go to the studio room to bribe, or wait for, your actors complete the scene. Upon entering the room you will be greeted with a vocal sample of a woman going "Ohhhh, Ohhhhhh, Oh yeah...." on repeat. This has been burned into my brain. I can recite it, in perfect tone, on command. All the sound effects and vocal samples are just laughably bad. Splorts and fake moans are everywhere. Even Lula talking to you is so bad that I can't take her seriously.
Part three is mediocre at best. As you will spend most of this section looking at spreadsheets, there's little in terms of sound effects and only a few tracks. Most notable here is the mansion theme where you spend your time chasing your secretary around while trying desperately to click on her to remove her clothing. As you, the player, are a millionaire at this point, what else is there to do but sit in a mansion and throw parties? That being said the music falls a little flat in this section much like the gameplay does.
Where does that leave the game? Is it a good game, a bad game, or does it ride that middle? It hits somewhere between bad and middle. There's a video game to be had here even if you subtract all the pornography. The sad part is that once you do remove all that pornography, it has no drive. The player will see the cracks in the game's design and figure that wasting their time playing this with no reward other than game completion is pointless.
I want to make it clear, i'm not saying video games are pointless without porn. I enjoy tycoon-style games and business management simulations. Those types of games stagger the progress enough that you feel rewarded after completing each section. In Lula: The Sexy Empire there is no progression. The game shows you a wall and tells you to climb. You climb the wall and succeed. Instead of saying "Good job now take what you learned from climbing the last wall to climb this wall," they show you a completely different wall and say climb. The only link between these two walls is the promise of a scantily dressed girl on top of it. Is that enough to make the person climb to the top? Yes and no. It depends on the type of person and their personality. For some the challenge is the reward and they may enjoy this.
Lula: The Sexy Empire is available on gog.com for $5.99.