Last year Starmaid games released the experimental coming-of-age drama Cibele, a quasi-autobiographical game by developer Nina Freeman. Now, two of Starmaid's ranks (Nina Freeman and Emmett Butler) have joined forces with a couple of other devs (Diego Garcia and Maxo) to make yet another game about college sex - only this one is a lighthearted arcade comedy.
Entitled Bum Rush, this latest offering is touted as "an eight-player car combat dating sim racing game." Indeed it is all the things.
The basic premise is ingenious: eight university student sharing a dorm each get texted for a booty call. The only problem is that their cramped living quarters are such that only one person can secure the bedroom for the night. The solution: whiz through your date as quickly as possible so you can be the first one back home.
To do this, you must take your date to a handful of hot spots to set the mood. These include such classic locales as a movie theater, a fast food joint, a relaxing spot for necking in the woods and a pub. Upon arriving at each point, you must wait a couple of seconds for a meter to fill up, denoting that you've gotten that part of the date out of the way.
What complicates matters is that players can knock each other's dates out of their vehicles by crashing into each other. Smash into someone's car and you'll knock their date across the road where they'll blindly get in a vehicle with the first person to come across them. In fact, players can even snag multiple marooned singles into the same date. Threesomes and more are not out of the question.
The core mechanics of Bum Rush are very simple - the inputs are limited to the D-pad for direction and A for gas - but scrambling around the neighborhood cockblocking your mates and stealing their partners is a hoot in short doses. There's not a lot to it, but Bum Rush is a free game that was conceived as an exhibition piece for NYU Game Center's No Quarter Exhibition (run by Rinse & Repeat and Radiator 2 developer Robert Yang) so don't expect much mechanical depth.
That's not to say there isn't much substance here. Bum Rush's quirky concept may sound juvenile, and in many ways it is, but there's some genuinely clever themes behind the madness. For one: the cast of both playable characters and dates run the gamut between gender, race and sexual orientation. This orgiastic flat doesn't discriminate and acknowledges that when you get right down to it everyone f***s. It even represents sex as more than a vanilla ritual as the cutesy post-match victory scenes gleefully tease kinkier pleasures for our horny heroes.
What really elevates Bum Rush is that it transcends snickering sex humour into a sophisticated satire about young adulthood. College kids do share small living quarters with several other people, young people are really horny, and it's quite natural to harbour feelings of bitterness when you're single but most of your peers have dates. One minute you may be moments away from sealing the deal with your lover only for a rival to intervene at the last moment, leaving you lonely, frantic and resentful as you cruise around looking for a kindred spirit (or three).
Of course Bum Rush's silly nature isn't gripping on a deep emotional level, nor should it be, but there's a thematic honesty to a bunch of young friends imprudently chasing their earthier desires, no matter the cost. Play Bum Rush with a full set and you'll no doubt hear other players spouting lines like "I need a date!", "they're mine', or "I got greedy", such as when one ambitious player brazenly put all their effort into setting up a fivesome. Bum Rush is about as far a cry as one could get from Cibele while still tackling the same topics. It's too silly to identify with on a literal level, yet just familiar enough to be a comic reflection of the chaos of youth.