Do you remember the first big trip you took after COVID-19 vaccinations became available and lockdown restrictions lifted?
Wherever it may have been—the beach, a mountain getaway, your gay destination of choice—it was probably a vacation embarked on with a confusing mix of enthusiasm and apprehension. We were determined to get back out there, to reconnect with the world, while simultaneously afraid the people and places we once loved had changed. Or maybe we had.
That swirl of feelings is at the heart of a new game called Mediterranea Inferno, created by Lorenzo Redaelli and indie studio Santa Ragione, and available now on Steam.
Described as a “visual novel,” this artful, immersive journey is far from your typical platform-jumping, shoot-em-up video game. If anything, it’s more like The Sims, albeit with a structured narrative—one where you have the choice to send your Sims to nightclubs, join sex parties, or eat strange fruits that give them hallucinatory visions.
Mediterranea Inferno follows three young, queer men on their sun-soaked vacation to Puglia, spending three days and three nights in the scenic, southern Italian beach destination.
There’s the charming Claudio, a wealthy heir with a hefty chip on his shoulder thanks to his family’s lofty expectations. Andrea, the party animal of the bunch, is still readjusting after a long period of isolation from the pandemic. And Mida, who became something of a fashion influencer during lockdown, hopes to prove himself out in the real world, while nursing a one-sided crush on Claudio.
Through flashbacks, we learn that the trio of friends refers to themselves as “I Ragazzi del Sole” (“The Sun Guys”) and, prior to 2020, they were the life of the party anywhere they went.
Of course, Italy was one of the Western countries hardest hit by the pandemic, shutting down entirely in March of that year, with a death toll higher than anywhere else. That collective trauma lingers under the surface of Mediterranea Inferno, coloring every friend reunion, every beach party, every night out on the dance floor.
Despite the darker subject matter, the game is far from a slog. It’s got a uniquely dazzling visual style that makes the days of sand and sun and the nights of neon-soaked disco equally addicting, and there’s plenty of sex and nudity to go around, including one fun-and-food-filled beach scene where practically everything you see on screen is a metaphor for getting it on.
As the game-player, you essentially get to choose The Sun Guys’ vacation itinerary for them, which offers its own escapist pleasures. But playing God to the group of gays takes a surreal turn when they meet a mysterious figure known as Madama who sells the boys “the fruit of the mirages,” which grant those who consume them access to trippy visions of their most intimate desires—and fears.
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Each vision uncovers Claudio, Andrea, and Mida’s deeper truths in sometimes sexy, sometimes sexy, and all-together surprising ways. The added catch with the fruits is that Madame will only sell thee guys two per day, and as they tell us, eating four fruits will bring you to a state of enlightenment where you ascend to heaven.
As The Sun Guys’ stories unfold—as individuals and as a friend group—you get to decide whose visions are explore further, which vices to partake in, and ultimately who (if any of them) get to reach nirvana. Even after one play-through, you’ll find yourself eager to head to Puglia again and again, to uncover more truths, and… you know, maybe hit up that nude beach again.
Santa Ragione’s Mediterranea Inferno is available now via Steam on Mac and PC.
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