Splatformers have really solidified themselves as a genre of their own. In the past, titles such as the infamous I Wanna Be The Guy, were kinda niche in that they only appealed to the very hardcore. That’s still the case to a certain degree, but Super Meat Boy also brought them more into the mainstream.
One series that passed me by was LOVE, which came out in 2008, and has recently received a third entry on the Switch. With its cutesy thumbnail and hardcore 2D platforming, I was sold on it – but can it live up to the pedigree of the other genre classics?
LOVE 3 ACTUALLY
Playing as fiveEight, a simple little stickman dude, your goal is to work your way through the mechanical world looking for other stick people. It’s a simple premise that the game barely even acknowledges, because it’s clear that the gameplay is the primary focus.
There are 25 levels for your little fella to work through, with each offering a small area for you to navigate its various obstacles. Each one has its own colour scheme and music track, which really helps give them all a sense of identity. It also helps that the music is so good, with the electronic beats adding to the adrenaline rush.
As for how it plays, I’d describe it as being a little like VVVVVV except without the gravity flipping. That’s not to say that the game does nothing new, as there’s a range of interesting gimmicks for you to overcome; there’s some generic traps like moving saws and dropping platforms, but then the game throws in some more unique ones like a bubble helicopter and a manually controlled gun that can destroy blocks to create a route for you to proceed. There’s a nice sense of progression, especially as the later levels mix gimmicks together in an interesting way, allowing you to put your previous knowledge to the test. Even the levels themselves feel just the right length so that they never outstay their welcome. They’re long enough for you to gain just enough usage out of a level gimmick before it ends and you’re onto the next thing.
The great thing about LOVE 3 is that its unique checkpoint system works wonders for accessibility. Of course, the game saves automatically after every level, but with the click of a button you can set your own checkpoint. As long as it’s not in the path of danger (if anything hits it, it’ll disappear), you can set down as many as you like. The game is tough, and this really alleviates a lot of the challenge. Purists may find that it lessens the difficulty a bit too much, but it only really affects the main ‘unlimited’ game mode where you have infinite lives at your disposal. Thankfully there are many more modes for the truly hardcore that may be more to their tastes.
SAY THAT YOU LOVE 3
Whilst it’ll likely only take you about an hour or so to make your way through the ‘Unlimited’ game mode, things don’t just end there. The best thing about LOVE 3 is just how much content is crammed into this package. If unlimited lives aren’t your thing, there’s an Arcade Mode that gives you 150 lives to work with. These are easy to burn through if you are playing through for the first time, so most will probably want to tackle this challenge on a replay. Time Attack, unsurprisingly, times how long it takes you to beat the game and records your time for both ‘Any%’ and ‘100%’ completions – depending on whether you uncover all of the deviously hidden secrets. Finally, ‘YOLO’ challenges you to beat the game with just a single life, which is hilariously difficult to do.
…and that’s just for LOVE 3.
On top of all that, the game also include LOVE, LOVE 2: kuso, LOVE Remastered, <3, along with the three main games lumped together in both classic and remastered forms. There’s a lot of LOVE here to go around. At the end of the day, they’re all more of the same – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when the gameplay is so tight and just so damn enjoyable. For the completionist, there’s also a variety of achievements that encourage you to play the games again and again; some are as simple as simply beating the game, but others are much tougher – from speedruns to level specific challenges. It all helps add more value to an already jam-packed title.
Overall, there’s nothing really to criticise with LOVE 3. It’s full of well-designed, challenging platforming, and there’s loads of content here for people who want to keep playing. It’s not a game that will appeal to anyone who isn’t already a fan of splatformers, but those who are are sure to have a great time!