There are puzzle games in existence that are built around a clever mechanic or two that persist through the entirety of gameplay. And then you have games like Curiobot’s Love is Dead, that instead of embracing a single type of puzzle, has incorporated many different mechanics into a puzzle game that skirts that line of being a full-fledged adventure title—and looks absolutely adorable while doing so.
In Love is Dead you play as two lovers that died tragically, and under ridiculous circumstances, right before a zombie apocalypse. You wake up as zombies, and must puzzle your way across hundreds of levels over seven stages to find your pets, Dogface and Catface. The story is told through adorable pictures and a great voice over by Elspeth Eastman (known for her work on Crypt of the Necromancer, and Torment: Tides of Numenara) as she narrates the adventures of the two pancake and human eating lovers.
Love is Dead is incredibly cutesy and charming, but don’t let the aesthetic fool you when it comes to the content. There is a progression that starts you with easier, low stress puzzles. The puzzles consist, at first, of simply reuniting the zombified lovers together by navigating them around obstacles or hazards. If you persist long enough, things get a tad more difficult—sometimes in clever ways, but just as often in frustrating ways—more on that later. Movement is grid-based—with the current lover you’re controlling only able to jump from one adjacent square to the other. This means there are no diagonal movements, and it also means that moving through the increasingly difficult challenges can feel a little stiff, and sluggish.
The puzzles in Love is Dead are incredibly eclectic. There are scenarios in which you avoid hostile zombies, or humans. Or scenarios in which you have to trigger a platform, or run move across a crumbling floor. No matter what the current level’s goal, you will eventually have to reunite the two lovers afterwards, which adds an extra step of complexity in some cases. In every level there are pancakes to find, adding even more points of failure. These collectible pancakes aren’t just for replayability or extra challenge, though: they actually are an important part of progression. Some areas won’t let you pass unless you’ve collected enough pancakes, so merely completing levels isn’t enough.
When the puzzles do become more challenging later on is when things start to get frustrating, for a number of reasons. First of all: most of the puzzles are fun, and well-thought out, but they aren’t head-scratchingly stumping. Instead, their difficulty is based on their multiple points of failure. Any single hit or misstep will make your undead lover for real dead. With some of the levels requiring lots of work to get across, dying from a single lapse feels a bit unfair. Combine that with not just hazards that move in a set course, but AI enemy humans that wield guns, swords, spears, etc. and make things a little less predictable. The humans are sometimes a problem, because though their attack arc is shown, they attack more quickly than you can react sometimes.
These one hit level-enders are sort of multiplied when you’re playing Love is Dead with a friend (or lover!). Local co-op is not only supported, it’s an extremely fun way to play Love is Dead, but it can make things both harder and easier simultaneously. Some of the timing puzzles are A LOT easier with a partner–making positioning and quick character switching not as important as it is if you’re playing by yourself. Conversely: any single hit misstep or hit can kill either lover, and with two people bouncing around the squares simultaneously sometimes completing levels with a friend can be a little frustrating.
Luckily, a lot of the frustration is forgiven due to Love is Dead being absolutely chock full of cutesy charm. If that’s your thing (it’s totally mine), it is perfect. The music can get a little repetitive, but it’s never obtrusive, and perfectly sets the mood. The sounds are great and perfectly suited to whimsy; my personal favorite is the sound made when you zombify a pesky human.
I have to admit, this was a game I thought I could breeze through in an afternoon, but there is a surprising amount of content. As I mentioned before, there are seven unique areas that hold over 200 levels. Whether you’re hunting for collectibles, or just working your way through the levels, there’s enough content in Love is Dead to keep you occupied for a while. Luckily, the puzzle mechanics change along with each new area, and there is enough variety to prevent the experience from going stale. There’s even bonus levels that are just pure fun, featuring strange pancake based animals like pancake deer and butter and syrup birds.
Love is Dead is a puzzler that flirts with being an adventure game, tied together with a charmingly cute aesthetic that defines everything from the story to the sound effects. The puzzles are fun, but sometimes they feel like they’re more work than they are difficult to figure out. If you dig the aesthetic, and want something to play with a friend or lover, Love is Dead is great for filling a few afternoons.
Love is Dead is available now on Steam.
A copy of this game was provided to us for review purposes.