Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars


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Rating: 4.2/5 (47 votes)
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TrickyLesbian Spider-Queens of MarsNo wait, come back! This one is satire, I promise! The kind of Swiftean satire that runs straight into Poe's Law, yes, but this is a game that, like The Leather Goddesses of Phobos before it, deserves a look beyond the title. For one, there's its pedigree: Anna Anthropy, master designer of such games as Redder, someone who clearly knows from killer pixel art, engaging concepts, and uber-difficulty minus uber-frustration. Then, there's its sponsor, adult swim a network that time has shown to have quite the track record in promoting works that capture just the right blend of retro aesthetics and modern sensibilities. And, last, but not least, there is the fact that Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars is a heck of a lot of fun to play. It's a high-quality throwback to 80s arcade-style risk-reward action whose gameplay sucks you into a frantic world of patterns and rhythms, scratchy sounds and blocky graphics, high scores and extra lives. And Lesbian-Spider Queens, of course. This game includes suggestive themes and implied nudity.

The game plays like a more confrontational version of Pac-Man, or maybe Wizards of Wor, with you in the role of the Wizard. Player as the titular (though singular) Spider-Queen of Mars, you skulk around various maze screens with the [arrow] keys hoping to smash the rebellion that has swept your kingdom. Your weapon is an ever-firing crystal scepter that ensnares any unfortunate renegade that walks into its line of webbing. Once webbed, you must collect them to remove them from the board. Fail to, and they'll be back faster and stronger. Generally, your revolting slaves follow along the walls of the maze, though several varieties will block your shots with shield, give chase if they spot you, or leave a trail of fire in their wake. There are fourteen mazes screens to complete in total with a certain element of non-linearity in choosing the order of room-clearing, meaning that you can beat the game without visiting every screen.

Analysis: First, the elephant in the room: Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars features content that is quite suggestive, if not really obscene. There is some bare skin on display, but nothing worse than what you would see on a Barbie doll. There are themes of bondage and domination, but said themes are so typical for Space Opera in general (e.g. Orion Slave Girls, Leia in a Gold Bikini), that it doesn't seem all that inappropriate. That said suggestiveness is presented with a layer of loving camp mutes much of the potential offensiveness. This one won't be for kids, but Anthropy has her tongue firmly planted in cheek, and that counts for a lot. In any case, it's not out of place along side site-mates like Gigolo Assassin or Hot Throttle. In fact, I would say Spider-Queens was tasteful by comparison, if it didn't seem like that could be taken as an insult.

Lesbian Spider-Queens of MarsOf course, some might find the invocation of lesbianism to be problematic in and of itself, or, for that matter, the portrayal of it herein. I don't feel particularly qualified to comment on that issue so I'll limit my thoughts to the following: I don't know if requires a LGBT designer to be able to successfully satirize the not-always-stellar-track-record of lesbianism in games, but it doesn't hurt. Gaygamer.net has a good discussion here.

Okay, enough philosophy, how does it play? Quite well actually! I particularly liked the mechanics of the constantly firing weapon. If shooting webs required a button to be pressed, I'd likely be holding it down 100% of the time anyways. It simplifies things by cutting out the middle-man, and just makes me wonder why more games aren't designed to require only one hand to play. Beyond that, I loved how the weapon it fires across the screen, slowly dragging a captured enemy towards you once it has one in its grasp. It's quite intriguing as a central play form, but also is entirely appropriate for the spidery protagonist. As you wait in a corner for an unfortunate barbarian to wander in to your path, you'll be all but ready to rub your feelers together in glee when your positioning pays off.

As well as it plays, the game might be slightly unremarkable if it didn't have style, but Spider-Queens has that in spades. It's easy to dress a game up in pixel graphics and chirpy music. It's much harder to capture the feeling of retroness: the beats, the glitches, the cut-scenes that pack hours of story into seconds of screen times, the taunting sounds, the not-quite PC politics, the frenzy of enemies speeding up as time goes by... As a throwback, Spider-Queens does nearly everything right, and all that's missing is "Winners Don't Do Drugs". Certainly, there are those who think retro is overplayed nowadays, and they may have a point. Still, if you are going to indulge in a trip to the past, this is the way to do it.

It is not a trip without a few bumps. Particularly... the sound mixing is terrible. I couldn't seem to find a volume level that was comfortable for all the effects: if the taunts are playing at a nice level, you can barely hear the queen's foot-steps. Turn it up, and you'll be hit with an expected blare. The sound really adds to the experience, but I think it would work better coming out of an arcade cabinet than my speakers. Also, my eyes got tired looking at some of the flashing effects. Epileptics be warned.

In conclusion, though it has a name that might be awkward if spotted in your browser history, I highly recommend Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars. I only wish that I was able to play it on a cathode ray tube screen, instead of my laptop, but hey, you can't have everything.

Play Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars

27 Comments

SonicLover Author Profile Page April 22, 2011 1:45 PM

This game is a LOT more fun than it has any right to be.

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The game is addictive like pac-man, but it doesn't really seem that funny to me. I'm not any uptight about the theme, but should slavery be considered funny?

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Evergreen April 22, 2011 3:00 PM

In the bondage community, the master-slave relationship is consensual. I think it's all right to laugh about it. It might be worse to treat it too seriously.

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Mingy Jongo Author Profile Page April 22, 2011 3:19 PM

I'm a huge fan of Wizard of Wor, and this game kicks its butt. 5/5.

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SonicLover, I completely agree.

5/5 for addictingness.

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The name put me off at first, until I read more about Anna Anthropy. This game was surprisingly addicting, amazingly retro, and didn't cost me a pocket full of quarters!

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I REALLY enjoyed this game. The Spider Queen's voice in-game was nicely done and complete with static. The cut-scene text held my interest, and even the "GAME OVER" screens were interesting (if quite suggestive). There are 2: normal and then dying on the Queen Tarantula level.
And then I had to laugh at the win screen.

Question:

So, the end screen suggests that those princesses were your Queen's offspring...who's the other parent?

And if so, why aren't they spider-people, too?

As for the lesbian issue, I thought that it was so over-the-top, heavy-handed, bondage/dominance that it ceased to be a problem and just became a shtick.

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For some reason, I can't add this to my Favorites. I checked to make sure that feature worked by testing it on "I Have 1 Day" and that was added, but LS-QoM just isn't!

[Try it again, there was a problem with the name of the icon. I fixed it. Thanks for pointing that out! -Jay]

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I tried to scream but my mouth was full of flab.

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Anonymous April 25, 2011 2:39 AM

I'm actually not mad at anybody here, so please don't let my comments make you feel as if I'm attacking anybody here. But y'all might appreciate hearing another perspective. Anyway, this game is offensive on so many levels to me, but then again I spend a whole lot of time analyzing gender. For somebody who doesn't think about it much, this might be the first time you've heard a lesbian say anything in response.

An analogy might be helpful. Try imagining a game where Black people pick cotton and you just might begin to comprehend why games which sterotype marginalized groups are not exactly respectful. And then there's the fact that the game designer isn't even female, which is seriously problematic.

The person is a biological born male who believes that if any boy prefers to express more than a few traditionally-coded feminine qualities, then that small boy must really "be" stuck in the "wrong" body and need a sex-change operation -- as if ALL females come by feminine mannerisms naturally (and not strongly encouraged by society since birth). If the game developer prefers to believe that, great. He's entitled to his opinion but let's not forget I am entitled to my own.

I think he was socialized to expect strong gender coded differences to exist in men and women's behaviors, but he didn't feel comfortable with the excessively masculine expectations his family imposed on him and which were further enforced on him by society. There's been a tremendous amount of research accumulated on this subject from advertizing, etc about how those expections occur. Considering his internalized assumption that genderized behavior must match perceived biological sex, he's the last person to understand how harmful genderized sterotypes actually are.

Since you all might not be privy to the latest lesbian memo, here's something relevant: since most lesbians do spend a lot of time deconstructing harmful gender roles and sterotypes which negatively affect us, we tend to be quite a bit ahead of the heterosexual public when it comes to recognizing bias, and as a result of what we've learned most of us will not accept transgendered male-to-female individuals as actual women -- and as a result they resent us greatly. They assume women are supposed to just accept whatever they say at face value without critically evaluating it first. Except we have, and that's the problem. The more we think about their ideology, the more clearly the harm is made manifest.

So this video game is a way for him to make gross ridulous sterotypes about lesbians. And all because they resent being excluded from a few women-only lesbian venues. If a white person born to white parents said he "felt like he was really a Black person" and his reason was "because he enjoyed sterotypical Black music", would you expect Black folks to just accept that crap? Hell no. Learned mannerisms are learned, they don't arrive naturally with the stork. There are no behavior traits which are exclusive to white people -- and its the same principle when the subject is gender.

Anyway, sorry if this came off as angry, but well I tend to get that way. lol You guys are awesome, have a great day.

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Anonymous April 25, 2011 1:06 PM

jiguest- the developer of the game is also a lesbian

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... Yes, because the only reason any considers themselves trans is just because they like stereotypically feminine things. Rather than, y'know, that they identify as a gender other than what they were assigned at birth, and feel uncomfortable being described as their birth gender.

The reason trans people sometimes bring up masculine/feminine things and liking them is not because that's "the reason" they consider themselves such. It's because it's evidence of their identity -- that even before they could put the issue in words or fully understood it, they enjoyed or sought out things that were socially coded as not for their coercively assigned gender, but for the gender they would identify as.

A better comparison would be someone who claimed they were actually Black when born white because they felt deeply uncomfortable and wrong as a white person and felt more "themselves" if they thought of themselves as Black. Still not something most people would be used to, but far less laughable or ridiculous than what your scenario.

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Please god, don't tell me I forgot to actually submit that comment pointing out the ways this irate trans-hating lesbian was wrong, and I just need my comment approved. I'd hate to lose that, and doubt I could refabricate it quite as eloquently.

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Oh, also forgot the fact that the whole black person thing is really derailing. I think it might be "Who Wins Gold in The Oppression Olympics", but I'm not really sure and I don't have the time to check if there's a more appropriate one. http://www.derailingfordummies.com/ Go there.

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Anonymous April 25, 2011 4:11 PM

Some otherwise physically male people are born with physically female brains. I don't know if Anna Anthropy is one of these people, but it's something to think about.

She also identifies as a lesbian into BDSM, by the way. If anything, this game's a tongue in cheek power fantasy, not an attack on lesbians.

-a different jiguest

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I think the first "jiguest" (the one with the longest post) had a good argument. I'm not saying I agree, merely that I approve of the logical and rational approach. It is clear and to the point, complete with examples that actually make sense (other "jiguest," I'm still not saying I agree, merely that that example is more relevant than some I have heard before).
She didn't ramble on and on. She used personal examples, too.

I approve, since I have to deal with people and seriously flawed argument styles often. It is refreshing to see logical and clear-headed arguments, especially in a controversial topic like GBLT people.

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To clarify that last part:

When is the last time you saw more than 2 people arguing __________ that did so calmly? Politics, GLBT, War, Abortion, etc.

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xochiquetzal April 25, 2011 5:49 PM

@JIGuest(1)

Didn't come off as angry, no. But coming off as condescending with an argument by Nebulous Sapphic Consensus isn't much better. At least I know the angry are just reacting with pure brain-stem fear. But if you're going to dress up your transphobia as rational discourse, please take time to properly cite Lesbian Memo so we can better deconstruct perilous assumptions that negatively affect us.

And moreover, what negative stereotypes do you see being perpetuated in this game? That all lesbians are secretly Martian arachnids?

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Anonymous April 25, 2011 8:46 PM

So if I calmly explain how blacks are inferior and hitler was right, would you be cool with that?

Sorry, that JIGuest is just another irrational, hate filled person who wouldn't know common sense if it decked her in the face. She's nothing but a drama queen out to win the oppression olympics, and to prove it she'll write page long comments full of hate and illogic. She knows absolutely nothing about the daily pain and hardship trans people go through, and in the ultimate display of hypocrisy, she demonizes them just to make herself seem more like a victim. Absolutely pathetic.

"Personal examples", yes, she showed quite a few of those demonstrating how much of a hate filled bigot she really is. Easy the most offensive thing I've read all day. But hey, cap it with "have a nice day" and it's rational, right guys?!?!?

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Anonymous April 25, 2011 10:22 PM

I feel the need to say in the defense of lesbians, most of them are NOT hate filled transphobic jerks like the person here is trying to say. People like her are a VERY SMALL minority, and I daresay there are many among them who only claim to be lesbian for the attention.

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Evergreen April 26, 2011 2:45 AM

I'd like to echo xochiquetzal's question. What exactly is the harmful lesbian stereotype being perpetuated in this game?

The angry comment that started this discussion doesn't say anything at all about the content of this game. It just says there are harmful stereotypes and provides no examples.

The focus seems to be on a rift between biologically female lesbians and transgendered women. Fine. I'm no expert on that subject. But the conclusion, that Anna Anthropy made this game as revenge against exclusionary lesbians, seems suspect. In fact, it seems like a massive leap.

What I'm really offended by, though, is the comment by SkylerF describing JIGuest's comment as logical and rational. That is not a good example of logical or rational argument. It makes numerous claims without evidence, appeals to emotional hot buttons with inaccurate analogies about racism, and reaches an unsupported conclusion.

I agree that rational debate is good, but let's have higher standards for it, and not be distracted by long words and pleasantries.

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The very fact that the first JIGuest implies that Anna Anthropy is not fit to call herself a lesbian because of birth, even after making the massive leap and terrifying decision to physically alter her gender... the nerve! Instead of talking about that, I went and played the game.

I didn't see anything offensive. I saw a lot of fun, camp humor and the pixel-art is adorable. The gameplay's a bit TOO twitchy for me, but it's Anna and she loves masocore, what can you expect really?

Anyway, for anyone that enjoyed this game, you can read her blog at: http://www.auntiepixelante.com/

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Sorry, I've been gone for awhile.
My intention was to say that IN COMPARISON (especially online and in regards to heated topics), the argument was fairly calm (no streams of vitriol) and rational (the REASONING may have been flawed, but you could see that it existed).
It also did not have the grammatical flaws or tone of someone self-righteously tearing down the opposition simply because their moral code differed at all.

Considering that this topic involves sexual orientation, it was far calmer than I had expected for someone who disagreed. That was what I meant to imply. Sorry, Evergreen, if that was not the case.

Personal opinion of the game? The review said: "There are themes of bondage and domination, but said themes are so typical for Space Opera in general (e.g. Orion Slave Girls, Leia in a Gold Bikini), that it doesn't seem all that inappropriate. That said suggestiveness is presented with a layer of loving camp mutes much of the potential offensiveness."
The game doesn't seem to be saying bondage/dominance/lesbianism is right OR wrong, but more of a "hey, some people have strong opinions on this topic...I'm going to make a game about this and try to make them laugh about it!" in a way that suggests poking at an open wound...just because.
As the Joker says, "Why so serious?"
The gameplay itself is quite nice and the level of difficulty is PERFECT for me.

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Another added note: I was trying to emphasize "clear" and "calm."

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My account is disabled April 29, 2011 11:15 PM

I'm not even going to touch the argument.
Liked the game. Didn't find it offensive. I'm biologically female.
That covers all my bases right?

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Anonymous May 4, 2011 3:27 AM

As a G.I.R.L. (Guy in real life) I have a differing opinion on gender then you do, anonymous lesbian. I *personally* became what I am on the internet because, on the internet, I was not accepted in my natural personality as a male. IRL I have had *no* problems with this, but I was kicked out of an internet community for using the hug emote too frequently, which was "Creepy" because I was male. So I solved it by rejoining under a different name and claiming to be female. Problem solved. I still think of myself as a male (unlike a transgirl).

Anyway, as I was saying, I'm the sort of person you should be hating, anonymous lesbian, because I wind up perpetrating female stereotypes through my own protective camouflage. Many of the transgirls I know behave more masculinely then I do, and I get confused for a cisgirl even by those who think they're good at detecting men pretending to be women. That's because transgender seems to be a very different thing then just 'thinking you're too feminine to be accepted as a male'.

Transgendered people want to be someone other then who they were born as. They may (or may not) feel that physical changes will lead to mental ones, but no matter what they are *uncomfortable* with their body and appearance. (And I would like to reiterate that I am very comfortable being male, it's just that online everyone else is uncomfortable with me being male). In a world as accepting of cosmetic surgery as ours is, why should we deny them this? Would you deny people with crooked teeth braces? People with glasses laser eye surgery and contacts? Would you deny people tattoos and piercings?

Sex and gender is a fluid thing, as you yourself said. A person's gender is unrelated to their sex. Given that we have the technology to do it (and can clone working vaginas for male rats, and working penises for female ones) why not just let people do it? Does it somehow hurt your identity as a woman and a lesbian to allow people to cross the sex barrier freely? Sure, I guess there's the 'ick' factor of realizing that the girl you slept with used to be male. I don't have that, but I suppose you might.

As for review of the game: very funny, like it a lot, but I seriously *suck* at playing it. I've been getting 'continue y/n' 5+ times per level in the 'red' levels. I worry I'll never make it to the last level because I'll get tired of losing before then. Mostly I laugh at it, but the game over screen is getting boring and less funny.

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Anonymous May 4, 2011 8:38 AM

Enjoyable game, but OMG it's really hard! I keep losing all my lives!

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