LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories review for Nintendo Switch, PC

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC
Publisher: Thalamus Digital
Developer: Rocketship Park
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

Though I don?t know much about game development, I suspect that it wasn?t easy to make LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories. It?s a puzzle game that also strives, as its name implies, to tell emotional stories about people?s lives. Consequently, that means that it needs to strike a balance between making those stories engaging and interesting, while also making puzzles that challenge the player without getting too much in the way of the stories the game is trying to tell.

Unfortunately, it?s not a balance that LOVE comes anywhere close to striking.

It?s not that the stories are bad. They may not look amazing (more on that in a few moments), but LOVE does a good job of giving each of the characters you encounter an interesting backstory. Given that the whole game is about meeting all the people who live in an apartment building, that?s a pretty important thing. LOVE gives you pictures from the past and the present, and you have to figure out how to connect the two, whether it?s discovering what happened to a young couple, finding out how a pair of kids became friends, or seeing why a woman gave up on her dream of being an artist.

The problem is, the emotional impact of all of these is dulled significantly by the puzzle aspect of the game, to say nothing of its core mechanic. LOVE allows you to turn the apartment building around, level by level, sort of like a Rubik?s Cube. While that?s certainly neat, in practice it often feels like you solve the puzzles just by spinning the floors around until you click on just the right spot. Or, even worse, you have to focus so much on spotting the right items to advance the story, you completely lose track of the stories the game is trying to tell, no matter how simple they are. The whole thing feels kind of like doing a Where?s Waldo puzzle in a 3D diorama, which isn?t anywhere near as fun as it sounds.

It also doesn?t help that LOVE is ugly. In terms of the puzzles, it means you have to rely on visual cues that often look kind of blurry. More broadly, though, it means the game wants you to build emotional connections with fuzzy, indistinct blob-people. It?s not the easiest thing to do.

On the flip side, if I?m bashing LOVE?s look, I should also praise its sound. The game is scored by the songs of a singer-songwriter named Neil White, and even if it?s your standard guy-with-a-guitar folk, in this context it works spectacularly well.

I just wish the same could be said about the rest of LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories. It?s definitely got heart, but it needs a lot more than that to make it worth recommending.

Thalamus Digital provided us with a LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C-