Tender Loving Care (1997)

Tender Loving Care (1997), Directed by David Wheeler, written by David Wheeler, based on a novel by Andrew Neiderman, Starring Michael Esposito, John Hurt, Beth Tagerden, Marie Calder

After CD-ROM drives begun to come more common in the 1990's, the developers noticed, that they had more storage capacity at their disposal. They didn't have to settle for tens of megabytes when the magic of CD gave them hundreds of megabytes to use more sound, music and even video on their games. During that time a term "interactive movies" entered into a more wider discussion among the gaming industry.

Most interactive movies had more than just a movie in them, they incorporated real actors in order to tell a more cinematic story, but at the same time adventure games still had puzzles and action games had action. But not so much with Tender Loving Care.

Tender Loving Care is an interactive movie, released in 1997,  in almost its purest sense: it has no puzzles in it, it has nothing to solve, no action to distract from the story. The only thing that really makes it interactive is how it works, as between the movie clips you move inside the house and look if there's something additional info you can read or watch to beef up the story, but nothing of that is really necessary to find out. Only mandatory parts really are the small psychoanalysis bits that Dr. Turner, played by John Hurt, presents to you. And after those are done, the story usually continues from there.

So this is one of those cases, where the end result should be reviewed more as a movie than as a game, as there's no game in it. And as a movie, Loving Tender Care isn't that bad actually. It is a story, that doesn't even turn into a game that well, as it tells about a couple trying to cope with the death of their daughter. Michael, the husband, has been on sabbatical, taking care of Allison, who is in denial and thinks that their daughter is still alive.

Dr. Turner decides, that they could use more help and he suggest Michael hire a full-time nurse, Katherine. At first, all seems to go well, as Kathrine manages to breach through Allison, but soon her unorthodox methods begin to seem odd to Michael. Not to mention, that Kathrine is a seductive woman, so it doesn't take long for the two to start an affair. But still, Kathrine insists, that she will do her best to help Allison.

As a movie, TLC is above your standard TV-movie. It's well shot and acted, even surprisingly so for a 1990's FMV game. The script is pretty solid on its own and as far games go, extremely original. Back in the 90's, and even today, the kind of an erotic, psychological thriller it presents is a rare thing to see as a subject matter of a game. But then again, after FMV was taken into use, there was some rather peculiar entries it brought to gaming arena, TLC being one of them.

But as I said, TLC doesn't really work as a game. The story is at times stopped so that Dr. Turner can ask you questions. At times he asks what you think about the things you just saw, like if Michael hates Kathrine. Or then he just asks some probing psychological questions about your sexuality or presents a picture with some claims about it of which you need to pick one that you fancy the most.

Then there's the house you can navigate from room to room, looking for additional tidbits about the story and how it's about to unfold, but there's no game there as such, just a bit of easy treasure hunting. The house also works as a means to locate the psychoanalytic tests, but that isn't a challenge either, as the in-game map generously shows you the location you need to go next.

Some things you do will show you different bits and pieces here and there but as a both feel more like a distraction than a genuine game mechanic. It's really no wonder, that there is a real movie cut version of Tender Loving Care as it does seem to function far better as a genuine movie rather than a game.

Tender Loving Care is none the less very interesting piece of the history of interactive narratives. It shows well, that the kind of a non-game it is isn't a modern invention, but something that people very actively pursuing even back then. And if you don't expect to find a deep game with it, it's even a pretty enjoyable at what it really is.

If you want to get Tender Loving Care, the interactive movie, you can find it on Steam. 


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