Tender Loving Care
Review by Old Rooster
"With Fresh Eyes and an Uncluttered View" Dr.
Back in the last century (1998, to be precise), a small group of
very creative developers put their minds to the idea of an interactive
motion picture. Of course, being located in Oregon, where dreary
weather encourages indoor activity, may have helped not only with
the game-making process itself but also with the generally dark
theme of their product.
7th Guest and The
11th Hour under their belts, the team set out to
make what they hoped would be the first of several "extended-play,
multi-path motion pictures" that would "represent a brand
new genre of entertainment." They may not have met their goals
commercially, but this surprising and quite wonderful production
is very deserving of a prominent place in your gaming library. Even
though it's dated by gaming standards and has a couple of flaws,
Tender Loving Care is one of the most involving and entertaining
"adventures" I've played in the last several years.
"Looks Can Be Deceiving" Dr. Turner
Dr. Turner, played impeccably by John Hurt, is a psychiatrist with
a problem (so what else is new?). He introduces us to a beautiful-looking
home for salea home that "nobody is buying after what
happened." Dr. Turner not only doesn't give us the "what"
but also says he doesn't understand the "why" or even
necessarily the "who" of the tragedy occurring in this
nice suburban residence.
We, as the player and Turner's helper, bring a fresh set of eyes
to the exploration and ultimate unraveling(s) of the mystery.
With the good doctor acting as narrator, helper, even evaluator,
we are introduced to the cast of characters. Although two dozen
are in the entire "film" and its variants, we primarily
are interested in three: Allison Overton, the wife and mom, suffering
unresolved acceptance of the sudden and tragic death of her five-year-old
daughter; Michael Overton, the loving(?) spouse, trying to find
a way to comfort his wife; and Kathryn Randolph, a beautiful psychiatric
nurse hired to help ease the pain (but whose pain, we might
TLC moves through several acts, 16 scenes, and five different
endings! Full-motion video (FMV) is employed with a fine and professional
cast of characters. After posing the initial dilemmahusband
comforting bereaved wife and employing a nurse helperDr. Turner
suggests a series of questions, some of them a bit strange and certainly
personal, which actually help shape the direction of the story.
This is done seamlessly, with FMV conversations actually changing
along the way depending on your path(s). Here are just a few examples
of Turner's questions, basically with "yes," "no,"
and "sometimes" or "maybe" as responses:
- At least once in my life I've felt as if I'm living in an alternate
- Do you feel compelled to know the intimate details of Allison,
Michael and Kathryn's lives?
- Four-foot-long penises are: Funny, Offensive, Too Big, or Just
- If you stare at your face in the mirror long enough you will
see the devil;
- Do you like to look in people's windows at night?
As is apparent, this is not a full-family game, with paths moving
from PG-13 to R or Mature. There are adult situations, sexuality
(including nudity) and some violence. From the questions as they
evolved, you can tell the first path this player trod!
"That Was Illuminating. Let's Do This Again a Little Later"
As any good psychologist or psychiatrist should, the doctor does
like his evaluation tools! Indeed, he even probes us along the way
with a variant of the Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT. This brought
back fond memories from my early days in the profession. Here, we
typically have paintings on the wall, with some ambiguity as to
meaning, that you are encouraged to interpret, using such questions
- The woman in the hall is a call girl, usher or opera buff? (a
pensive woman in a theater);
- A woman who wears a red dress is mostly likely a prostitute
(that same woman);
- I enjoy the smell of gasoline on my fingers;
- Is this man married? (referencing a lonely looking, elderly
gas station attendant).
As we move through the eleven room home and its hallways, we also
find diaries to be read, phone messages and e-mail to collect and
examine, even radio and TV shows to check out. When Allison comments
in her diary, "Poor Michael wants to touch me, but I can't
let him," we add one more note to our attempted understanding
of these complex individuals in an even more complex situation.
Interestingly, along the way, and at the end of the game, Dr. Turner
will offer his observations of you, the player, as well as a final
personality analysis upon completion of your task. Of course, this
is the same guy who couldn't figure out things himself, so how seriously
can you take him?
"I Like Big Keys in Old-Fashioned Keyholes" Dr.
Well, in accordance with Dr. Turner's preference, the keys and
keyholes (i.e., hotspots) are certainly big and readily evident,
especially from an experienced adventure game player's point of
view. After answering questions following a scene completion, you
are given the freedom to explore the house, read diaries, etc.,
until you come upon another painting of interest. The good doctor
aids in this along the way with such comments as, "In the upstairs
hall, look for the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks."
From movement arrows on the screen edges to magnifying glass to
the selection arrow, the interface couldn't be simpler.
I played the CD version, and I suspect the also-offered DVD was
the primary intent of the developers. However, even with XP, I was
able to set up and run the game smoothly using Windows 95 compatibility
mode. Only one game save slot is offered, and that comes at the
point of your temporary departure from the story. You return to
exactly that point and are unable to go back. However, four player
"profiles" allow you to play up to four different variations
of the game simultaneously if you choose.
"An Interactive Motion Picture Adventure" Developer
I think the developers met this description and goal, especially
given the technology of 1998. Tender Loving Care is a superb
story, beautifully acted, with smoothly integrated path variations
available to the player. There are some glitches to be sure, such
as the one save slot per player, the relative shortness (about five
hours) of a single play-through, the graphics outside of the FMV
itself, and the whole FMV approach to the game, which some may find
limiting. However, these are much more than compensated for by the
story and unique approach to looking at game character motives and
desireseven player motives and desires, we might add!
Some may think, with the huge and wide worlds presented to us with
today's games (e.g., Oblivion),
that eleven rooms in a house is quite confining, even a bit claustrophobic.
But with TLC, we are not looking at land and buildings; rather,
we are exploring the depths, desires and depravities of the human
mind and spirit. And that can be the most challenging mystery imaginable,
even in eleven rooms!
What I Liked Most About TLC
- The basic storyline, based on a novel by Andrew Neiderman;
- The seamless variations on the storyline, with five different
- Fine acting, especially from John Hurt, narrator and friendly
- The ease of navigation in the game;
- The novel TAT and player analysis approach;
- TLC is not nearly as linear and straightforward as you think
it's going to be;
- It runs in Windows XP.
What Disappointed Me a Bit
- Only one save game slot per player;
- One play-through is only about five hours;
- We haven't seen a lot more of this quality of "interactive
Release Date: April 1998
Four Fat Chicks Links
8 MB RAM
Local bus video card with 1 MB of RAM capable of displaying thousands
of colors and supporting DirectX 2.0
Double-speed CD-ROM drive
100% Sound Blaster compatible audio card
Internet connection recommended
Good speakers recommended
Where to Find It
Links provided for informational purposes only.
FFC makes no warranty with regard to any transaction entered into
by any party(ies).