Played on: PC
Coming Out on Top gets lots of love from me for using Pansy Division’s Luv Luv Luv in its opening screen. Forget Riverdale: this song is how the true masters do a cynical version of Archie and the Bunkers. Embrace the happy sunshine while cheering about how love is actually sex and blah blah blah – ooh, that hits the spot so nice.
Okay, this one. It’s a dating simulation game, and yes, it’s gay. Pornographically so. But take note that this is not a harem game – you don’t get to collect boyfriends and live vicariously as the gay stud of the block. Instead, you play through one main story as Mark Matthews, an annoyingly cute clean-cut final year college student, comes out to his roommates Penny and Ian, and subsequently, the adventure opens up various possible routes that lead to love with one of a passel of gay male tropes present here. Choosing to commit to one guy closes off opportunities to score with other guys, so no, there is no chance of cheating or boyfriend collecting here.
Wait, there may be a bit of all that. This game also offers an option of “side quests” called dates, which allows you as Mark to embark on ten different short “dates” that, if you do things right, will get you a happy ending in every sense of that word. If you are romantic at heart, though, you can play these side quests as some kind of alternate reality thing, I suppose.
But let’s talk about the main boys that you can score with first. That’s what we’re here for, aren’t we? Well, say hello to the boys:
The beefy bear at the far most left is Amos. His story is most eye-rolling one: if you want to take his big beefy salami into your wholemeal buns you need to grit your teeth and agree with him on everything and anything, don’t do anything that he won’t like, and generally be his nodding bobblehead. When he is revealed to be with some flaws, you can’t say sod it and yell at him for being a hypocritical control freak – you have to nod and go, aww baby, you’re the best. Frankly, he can sod off. I mean, the “rewards” are just some third-tier version of pornographic Tom of Finland-style twink-mounts-bear picture sets that are… oh, okay, they’re pretty hot, and once I’ve unlocked them, I consider my duty done and I will never play that romance route again. Amos is such a boring douchebag.
Next to him is Phil. He’s a black guy, and since this is a politically correct era, that means he has no flaws or sense of humor (don’t want anyone to get offended by presumed racism or anything, after all) and hence this guy is as dull as dishwater left out in the open for five weeks. He is also a judgmental ass, although this is of course never played up as a flaw, and Mark needs to go “But you’re still cute!” and go down on him after he’s been a stick-in-the-ass bore all day, if you want to unlock the happy ending and some boring pornographic scenes that feel as dull as that guy, especially when compared to some of the other guys’ offerings here.
Next up is Ian. Ah yes, he’s the meat in everyone’s favorite “womanizing hot room mate who turns out to be secretly gay only for you” story. Okay, Ian is very easy on the eyes, I have to admit, and there is something about the way the artist draws that fellow’s adorable facial expressions… ahem. Ian’s story is also one of the most sexually explicit ones here, culminating in a scene in which you can do anything you want to a blindfolded Ian. This fellow is also one of the more well developed – I mean… oh, you know what I mean, come on – meats in this game: he’s not the brightest bulb at times, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s a solid buddy who sticks by Mark and Penny no matter what. Also, even if you as Mark romance other guys, he sometimes shows jealousy at those guys, which is too cute. On the downside, this story route utilizes the tired “females as plot devices to advance a gay romance” tropes that feel contrived in an otherwise adorable story.
The guy in the middle is Mark. Seriously, look at him, he’s so cute. Like all the guys here, you can decide whether he should have body hair or beard, but that’s the extent of the customization. Oh, and you can change his name too, but I personally can’t be bothered. I’m just here for the dirty scenes, er, romantic story arcs.
After Mark is Brad, the football jock who is just starting college. Yes, that stereotype. Okay, Brad is very nice to look at, and the naughty scenes get two thumbs up from me. His story is a twofer: the quintessential nerd and jock romance smashed up with the gay nerd and the straight-acting jock coupling. If you can overlook the rather implausible fact of how Brad manages to stay in the closet and avoid having sex with the girls who keep throwing themselves at him, without anyone else talking and speculating, this one is also an adorable story route to go into. You can opt to be the naughty nerd who abets Brad’s lazy-ass ways and get very little out of it (not even raunchy moments), or you can work a bit more as the stern nerd who gently pushes Brad into having faith about his own ability to study well and pass exams. Of course, he has a nice reward for Mark for all that hard work the guy puts into tutoring our football beefcake here.
Jed is the guy standing to the right of Brad. He’s the “edgy” type: he’s in a punk band and your first meeting with him can culminate in a nice raunchy moment. Interestingly, the story gets less raunchy and more conventional if you choose the right options: as you can guess, Jed has some nice and sweet side to him, underneath that edgy “I’m a screw-up, yeah? So FUCK YOU GRANDMA!” façade. Sadly, I like the early version of Jed better, and the Jed Mark gets in the happy ending has me rolling up my eyes. Oh, and the anti-corporate “We don’t sell out to the big wigs SO FUCK YOU GRANDMA!” message gets an especially big eye roll from me, as this is another one of those stories where the anti-capitalists pooh-pooh on the rest of the world while miraculously never seeming to lack money to get those equipment and such after their epiphany. I’m here for the sexy times, not the Tumblr-level social justice gobbledygook moments, so whatever.
The blond guy is Alex, the token hot professor. Okay, I love looking at this guy the most, especially when he’s wearing glasses and sporting sexy professor gear like those form-fitting “lecture time” slacks, but alas, his story is actually the least romantic and sexually explicit. Okay, there is a memorable dream sequence that gets my inner bara fangirl squeeing in a most embarrassing manner, but that’s the problem here: Alex wants to keep things professional, so there are few romantic interactions here. Getting the romantic happy ending is frustrating because if you have Mark say screw it and seduce Alex anyway to get the hot scenes, you get locked out of the romantic happy ending (or so in my attempts anyway). It seems like Mark has to keep his pants zipped to finally kiss Alex for real in that grand climactic declaration of love, ugh. And come on, they barely interact, how am I supposed to believe that the love is real?
The bonus for all the forced celibacy is a scene of these two cuddling in bed – you get to see Mark’s bare bum, so I guess that’s… worth it? – and these two bathing Alex’s cat. Compare that to happy endings such as Brad kissing Mark in front of everyone in the stadium, or Ian and Mark getting married, or hell, Amos and Mark enjoying the peace and quiet of an European countryside, and Alex’s story as well as happy ending is a letdown. He’s the hottest guy of the bunch to me, and his story is like swimming in ice cold water just to touch the lifeguard’s hand. Buster, after all that work, I deserve better.
The dates are all a mixed bag, but there are some really cute ones – that weird construction dude who is so shy, but if you’re patient, you get a very sweet moment of him being a devoted daddy to his son as well as an explicit yet tender happy ending sequence (ahem), that cop who practically rapes Mark in such a hot manner, the twin paramedics who extract the goldfish out of Mark’s rear end in ways that I wholeheartedly approve. Really, why isn’t that construction dude the meat in one of the main stories? I’d take him over boring-ass Phil or Amos anytime. The rest are forgettable. The dates can also be ridiculous in how Mark turns into a big Mary Sue type here, wielding a pee-pee or po-po that can miraculously give his more problematic dates a magical epiphany to become a better person. Sex is great, but come on, it ain’t that great.
If I have one complaint, it’s that the extent of choices in this game is an illusion. If you want to get the happy ending, you have to take certain options. This can be exasperating sometimes when the right choice is defined solely by the writer’s personal whim, and this means forcing you to agree with the meat’s every whim and prejudices if you want to get into that meat’s pants. The implication of this is unfortunate, but more unfortunate is the fact that you are forced to do this for some character whose whims and principles you may disagree with. Jed, Phil, and Amos are especially annoying meats – if you want them to put a ring on your finger, you have to agree with everything they say and do even when they’re being jackasses. Jed’s story route will likely make you feel like he’s just using Mark, but have Mark say this out loud and it’s bye bye happy ending. Sure, you can just ignore these Z-tier twats to focus on A-grade beef like Ian and Brad, but if you are a completionist and you want to unlock all the “rewards” (choice scenes in every romantic route), you will have to let them treat you like their personal marionette.
So, Coming Out on Top. It’s not exactly top tier stuff if you ask me, but this is also like a few short gay romances in one game, with the bonus of letting you feel like you’re behind the wheel, directing Mark into the pants of the meat of your choice. My advice: boff the room mate and the football jock, maybe the hot professor, but save the rest for really long rainy days. Oh, and enjoy the song.
Cantankerous muffin who loves boys that sparkle, unicorns, money, chocolates, and fantastical stories.