In today’s world, competition is a rarely missed feature in games (look no further than Xbox Live, with its Gamerscore). This whole concept of friendly contention just works because it adds a layer to games that not only offers addiction and replayability, but provides chaotic fun as well.
So what if a game lacked any form of this competitive spirit?
That means no Achievements, no leaderboards, and no high score.
Would the game in question even be fun? Would it even classify as a game? I honestly didn’t think I’d be asking myself these questions when I hit the “Install” button on a little puzzler called About Love, Hate and the other ones. So without any idea what was coming, I dove right in.
About Love, Hate and the other ones (which is too long for me to tolerate typing, so I’m just calling it “Love&Hate”) offers 70 levels of puzzle/platforming action. Your two characters, (black blobs called “Love” and “Hate” respectively) must try to reach a red button somewhere in each stage, by moving, step by step, towards the goal, and switching between each as needed. Obstacles are introduced as stages progress, and each requires specific manipulation to assist you in your pursuit of the button. This manipulation mostly involves “talking” to the obstacles (called “other ones”) with either Love or Hate. Love moves the regular Others towards itself, Hate repels the Others. You use this manipulation to reach other areas of each stage, by creating makeshift steps, or something of the like. There’s nothing really surprising or revolutionary here as far basic gameplay, and such a description makes Love and Hate sound unremarkable. Don’t be fooled, though. It’s the implementation of the gameplay that’s something to behold.
By the time you’ve played through the introductory levels, you’ll notice some things that are different about L&H. Radically different. For starters, there’s no counters, lives, or even a timer. That means every level is a methodical test, sans ticking clock overhead or score to keep track of. The game’s “redo” feature is likewise paradigm-breaking; you’re able to press a button to back up a move, free of penalty, and you can do this as often as you want throughout each level. And no, there’s no in-app-purchase for this feature, as a matter of fact, there’s not an IAP present ANYWHERE in the game. There’s not bonuses to track down in each stage either, no harm can be done to your characters: it’s quite intriguing, overall, how the game tears down this school of thought that players must have threatening detriments (lives and such) to keep them motivated. If nothing else, the game is a must play just to experience this ideal-breaking gameplay.
Now don’t think that because the game lack antagonistic features like a score counter, it lacks mental provocation. On the contrary, each puzzle is a challenge, and a beautifully balanced one at that. I found throughout the 70 brain-teasers, I didn’t experience the hair-pulling that accompanies other puzzle games, yet I was still pressed to figure out each solution. This balance strikes a gorgeous chord that manages to keep you motivated throughout the game, despite the lack of normal motivation techniques.
Wrapping up the sweet package is a beautiful hand-painted art style, a catchy soundtrack that permeates the menus, and a quirky story to frame the action. All in all, it’s hard not to be satisfied by the calm atmosphere and refreshing puzzles that are offered.
“Puzzles for the sake of puzzles.” That’s what crossed my mind as I played About Love, Hate and the other ones. If nothing else, the game offers a slow-paced break from the big, flashy, marketable puzzle games out there. “But there’s no records to break! No times to beat!” Yes, but after playing through the game, I’m starting to wonder if that’s a bad thing. Love and Hate is a well-polished rebellion against modern puzzler design, and it needs to be checked out if only to experience it.