Sex with a mouse?

CD-Roms: The Lovers' Guide Andy Oldfield
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Indy Lifestyle Online
When it was released on video five years ago, The Lovers' Guide series found fame not only as a reliable and uncompromising source of information about sex but also as probably the strongest sexual material granted an 18 certificate in the UK. Producers of porn movies wept jealously and then started a bandwagon by releasing pornography thinly veiled as "educational" in order to win the coveted 18 rating.

The same might happen in the world of CD-Roms. Legal "adult" CDs have tended to be of the Fiesta variety - strong on titillation, fantasy and innuendo, but essentially coy when it comes to real sex. Now there's the 18-certificated The Lovers' Guide CD-Rom, complete with its famously explicit video clips.

To be fair, like the original videos, it is not about just the mechanics of sex. More than equal emphasis is given to the context in which sex takes place. Much talk about psychology and the importance of relationships is presented by a non-threatening, male, middle-class voice set against a tasteful background of light piano music. It's polished, designed to appeal to a certain sort of British common sense, carefully avoiding New Age psycho-babble.

It is easy for the cynical to see the CD as a way of selling the same material, probably to the same people, in different formats. Although it does use clips from the videos and text from the simultaneously published book, it also makes pains to justify its "interactive" label. A simple point and click interface allows the use of an index to find out about subjects ranging from anatomy and sexual health to the use of aphrodisiacs. Similarly, you can search for frank advice about specific problems.

The CD is themed, which means you can skip the foreplay and get straight to the nitty-gritty, as it were, of whatever interests you. There is less playing-time (just over 40 minutes compared with around an hour each for the videos). But the quality of the Windows AVI files is first-rate.

The most innovative way of handling the interface is to use the profile option. Answering an on-screen questionnaire about yourself, your relationships, your tastes and what you think you know about sex and society generates a suggested programme for you to follow to "maximise your sexual potential". Sounds like an offer too good to refuse? Perhaps. But, like any psychological test, it can be very revealing. So the option to password-protect the whole caboodle is a welcome one.

At half the cost of many games, this is competitively priced. And the content, claimed to be "the definitive guide to sex in the Nineties", is hard to fault. It's authoritative, up-to-date and funn

`The Lovers' Guide' (YITM, pounds 24.99). Minimum requirements: 386 processor (486 recommended); 4mb Ram; VGA graphics (SVGA recommended); Dos 5 and Windows 3.1 or greater (or Windows 95); 2xCD-Rom drive, mouse, soundcard.