It's a typically peaceful Monday lunchtime in the pub closest to Zombie Cow's Kingston HQ. Two grey-haired pensioners nuzzle sandwiches in the corner, while at the bar two businessmen mutter about a particularly important deal that may, or may not, be on the table. It's all rather serene, but that's nothing compared to the silence that descends after chief ZC developer Dan Marshall opens his trap. The phrase, "I think I'm most proud of the ascent through the anus," is something that no-one present will ever manage to un-hear.
It's simply impossible to discuss Privates without alarming the populace at large. Further chit-chat now scorched into pub patron consciousness includes: cervical mucus, giant background penis shafts and the fact that the primary 'Eww!' factor from the denizens of the web towards Marshall's free-to-play platform shooter has come from his unflinching approach to the curliness and texture of pubic hair. In the latter case, he claims to have discovered that a solid diet of internet porn has taken the expectations of a generation on something of a detour.
From the second you start to play Privates, however, the fact that it's an education tool as well as an encyclopaedia of bum gags is apparent. Free to download and funded by Channel 4, this is Inner Space Uncut - designed to go some distance in reaching the minds of Britain's countless teens who remain unswayed by current classroom sex education.
More on Privates
Calls on Microsoft to admit it's been a failure.
Beat off stiff competition.
Microsoft pulls the plug.
Nudge-nudge wink-wink platformer gets personal.
It's not school teacher-y (unless your personal seat of learning was heavy on Left 4 Dead references and spunk splotches) but it does lay down the bare facts on each and every sexual health gribbly you come across. How each STD is passed on, what each will do to your innards and how they can be treated and avoided is routinely covered in the chatter of lead character Captain Jack Sterling. Meanwhile, every enemy can be scanned and have its notable characteristics underlined in clipped 1950s BBC tones by the Moneypennyish mission-giver Celestia.
Captain Jack (no relation) is tasked with leading three new condom-hatted recruits into harm's way - with you racing him through levels in platform fashion, aiming his gun with the mouse. As your followers' Johnny-hats tumble then they're less and less protected from the perils of syphilis and the like - and if they all die, then the mission is over. The recruits may follow you around in a way that's vaguely reminiscent of Cannon Fodder, but their role is to open fire at everything that they consider sinister - while you take out the major threats and make sure they have the most applicable ammo selected.
Each different variety of infection requires a different sort of ammunition from a bank of four: a spermicide/insecticide machine gun, an anti-bacterial ghostbuster-style energy stream, anti-viral laser blasts and a green anti-fungal hose. The primary challenge of the game is to remember which STI needs which treatment - leading to all manner of fireworks in mimsys and bottoms that are riddled with more than one variety of infection.
Chuntering sperm, meanwhile, fly through levels and can be blasted for a higher score: inspired by the Big Train Hitchcock sketch in which The Working Class took the place of The Birds. As such, whenever you hear mumbled lines like "Mind your backs," "Watch it," "How, you doin' darling?" and "Geezer," your trigger finger can't help becoming itchy.