On the pulse of crowdfunded gaming

Review: Love tears out your heart, dares you to win it back

Posted by Marcus Beard on March 6, 2014 | Jump to 0 comments

After ten minutes inside the bleak, hostile world of Love my frustration faded in a warm, meditative acceptance of the game’s central motivator: failure.

Love is a minimal platformer which gives you 100 lives and the ability to set your own checkpoints, then challenges to you get to the end of 12 levels.

You might be tempted to believe this is a simple, see-the-sights indie platformer that you’ll breeze through once and never boot up again. You’d be wrong.

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Love requires precision, forethought and an ability to keep your cool. You’ll be navigating tight jumps lined with spikes, hopping from successive bounce pads and watching on-screen cues to perfectly time you movement, dodging a variety of dangerous white splodges.

The first few minutes and levels of Love might frustrate you. Re-learning a new checkpoint system means the satisfaction you’ve just gained from clearing a gap or obstacle can be destroyed by taking a wrong step and having it all undone – when a simple button press could have push you on further.

It’s takes time to grasp, but by level three I was in a ‘check-and-move’ state of mind. The system encourages you to take risks and move forward boldly, while giving a safety net that you control. It feels stylish. You’ve got a great sense of ownership over your successes.

Even if you only make level seven and then drain your last handful of lives, you’re eager to give it another shot. For pride. For satisfaction. For the sweet music.

Platforming feels simple – there’s not a lot to complain about, and there’s no learning curve to controlling your avatar. It’s easy to see where your four-block wide character is going to fit. Each level feels varied from a gameplay standpoint, but visuals and a bespoke soundtrack bolster the experience. The muted, tri-tone color pallet and minimal, ambient soundtrack help soothe and give color to a sometimes punishing experience.

For most players, it’ll take a long time to get the game to acknowledge you posses any skill. Your grade (F – A) is presented to you after beating the full 12 levels or running out of lives. It’s based on number of deaths, checkpoints placed and time to complete. I never broke higher than an E.

I never got to end of all 12 levels without running out of lives. Easy mode gives you infinite lives, and I used it to let me see all of Love’s sights. The difficulty never scales up to platform hell, and  if you’re slightly more patient that me, even the average platform gamer could beat the game in 100 lives after a few days of trial, error and contemplation.

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The speedrun mode is where the game will find staying power. But, looking at Steam community, an average gamer like myself could never dream of competing with the current bests.

Nevertheless, I can see myself dipping back into Love as a nut I’m struggling to crack. Or, just to wash away the complexity of the daily grind and slip back into the two-button, three-color gamescape with some great tunes.

For $2.99, it’s a lovely little refrain from mechanic-heavy games. At the same time, Love isn’t afraid to present you with a challenge and that’s why it’s so compelling.

The BitPulse Perspective

Love was in Early Access for a mere few weeks before launching in earnest. It was clear developer Fred Wood was ready to publish the game with the funding he had, and just wanted to iron out bugs. I haven’t found any – so he’s done a good job. People that bought into the game in Early Access won’t feel short changed at all.

Even at $2.99, the scope of the title feels a little small. The 12 levels are gorgeous but, even with the 10 additional levels, it’s not a lot of content. Wood clearly has plans to push the already player-friendly level editor (Love+Custom) into the mainstream, generating an infinite amount of levels. Additionally, he’s toyed with the idea of local and online multiplayer.

These additions will definitely bring a lot more hours of enjoyment to the game, but nothing is absolutely set in stone. Wood has already updated the game’s control scheme since launch, incorporating the community’s requests. I’d wager that Wood won’t lose sight of the community, and Love will blossom into something larger. We’d hope that further updates will bring more music from composer James Bennett, which are a highlight of Love‘s experience.

For now, though, Love has done everything a crowdsourced title should: delivered on promises, brought value to backers and strived to serve the community.

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