When I saw the words ‘love, puzzle, stories’ in the title, I was immediately intrigued. They were keywords that piqued my interests, and I was eager to see them interwoven into a game. LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories features a simple point and click gameplay, but it’s the nostalgic storytelling within a puzzle that makes it quaint and heartfelt.
In the opening, soft guitar acoustics set the scene and remains as a soothing accompaniment as you meet the residents in the apartment. A quick tutorial explains how the black and white sections depict the ‘past’ while coloured areas represent the ‘present’. By finding and pairing up ‘past’ and ‘present’ photos, you fill up the pages in the photo album which completes a story and unlocks more tales to discover.
As mentioned in its namesake, LOVE is a puzzle so locating the photos require some detective work. The apartment complex has four rooms per level, and each floor rotates so it can be viewed in the past or the present. Many interactions are between the apartment levels, and occasionally, there are even fragments drifting from the past into the present.
Besides clicking on the obvious camera icons, you can also select the pixelated characters or objects. The correct alignments trigger the characters into action so that you can snap the next photo for your collection. Sometimes a scene will play out which gives you insight into the background context behind an image.
Selecting objects have various effects, and they’re not always clear. Surveillance cameras provide a new outlook to the surroundings from the higher angle, whereas a broken pipe was an unexpected clue to progress one story.
It took me approximately 3 hours to finish the game, and that was mainly because I was stumped by the visuals. Despite its charming vivid colours, I had trouble differentiating between various characters. In reoccurring shades of red, grey, and navy, they all looked similar, particularly if they appeared in both the ‘past’ and ‘present’. Then again, I also didn’t recognise the characters when they no longer looked like their former selves! This was heightened by solving multiple stories at once as more characters roamed around the building. Uncertain on how to prompt more photo scenarios, the only way I proceeded was by clicking on every possible item in every single room.
However, that doesn’t detract against the poignancy of LOVE. Another piece of the puzzle is deducing the memory behind each photo. It’s up to you to work out the story. Every photo is open for interpretation. The detailed items in the background enhance realism. These characters seem like real people with relatable narratives.
I had front row access to their lives. I peered and zoomed into their rooms like a Peeping Tom. I was privy to their joys and vulnerabilities. The characters aren’t stagnant and continue on with their activities as if no-one is watching. While a young couple dances to the radio in the past, a man slumps on a park bench in the present.
I know what happened to them in the past and what happens to them in their present. It’s hard not to feel nostalgic when I compare how far they’ve come, or how much they’ve lost.
After completing this puzzle box filled with games, would I replay LOVE? No, as I experienced its unique storytelling structure in my first playthrough and there’s nothing new for me to uncover. But is it the end to the stories? Definitely not. Through the powerful medium of photography, LOVE highlights the characters bond with their lovers, friends, family, and each other. Not only does it encourage us to reflect on these fictional connections, it’s a gentle reminder that our own photos also tell a story.
So, why should you play it?
Unique abstract puzzle-solving
Appealing aesthetics and acoustics
Emotionally driven stories with emphasis on relationship changes over time
But why shouldn’t you play it?
Little direction and hints to advance the stories
Stories may lack closure as they are open to interpretation
A review code was provided for the purpose of this review.
Tiffany is an aspiring writer with particular interest in dystopias and angsty romances. She often finds herself immersed in games that are brought to life by their rich narratives and lavish landscapes. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys long walks in the wilderness and relaxes with a book under the glow of a scented candle.