Not a ton of time today, so I'm reviewing a short artsy game. Loved! It is, despite the name, not a very happy title - though it does get you thinking.
Loved calls itself a short story, but you might be hard pressed to puzzle out the actual plot. What APPEARS to be happening is this: you, a blobby little monochrome creature of undetermined origin, are subjected to the capricious demands of an unseen, unknown presence. This presence asks questions of you and tells you to do certain things, and how you react to these requests changes your very landscape. If you comply like a good little slave, the world resolves into something approaching detailed normalcy, like so:
If, however, you consistently ignore what's being asked - and you're typically told to jump into spikes or hold still during lethal situations, so you'll probably WANT to hold true to your own decisions - the world becomes indistinct and pixelated, like so:
Your actions also have some bearing on how the game ends, so playing it a few times is a good idea if you want to get the whole plot out in the open. (Though you'll never quite understand what's going on.)
Beyond the story? Loved is a platformer, straight and simple. Avoid problem areas.
As a platformer, Loved requires precise controls. And, yeah, for the most part it delivers. There is the occasional tendency for the controls to carry you a bit too far on jumps, thanks to over-sensitivity, but the sheer number of save points littered throughout the game - not to mention its already short duration - makes this not much of a problem at all.
There's not a hell of a lot to see in Loved, as the world is, even at its clearest, still a series of black-and-white silhouettes. The jarring changes depending on how you progress are pretty neat, though, and even when the game is reduced to long corridors of glowing boxes, it still looks pretty neat.
Loved sports a one-track musical accompaniment, and it's not so much a song as a haunting tone that's half Gregorian chant and half scream. Difficult to describe, and not terribly pleasant, though it suits the themes of Loved rather well.
Loved isn't a difficult game. On your first play through you shouldn't require more than ten minutes to get through the various traps, especially if you ignore the demands of the over-voice. Subsequent plays will become easier and easier. Seeing everything there is to see in Loved won't take more than an hour at most, and probably less for solid platforming players.
Difficulty is, that said, not necessarily the point of Loved. It instead seeks to leave its players with a message about the nature of love... whatever that may be. Probably not a pleasant one for most people, though ever open to interpretation.
Loved is an art game. What can I say? Its aims are not those of traditional games, and it often tries to force you to do things you wouldn't normally do. It's still fun to play, and will, if nothing else, kill twenty minutes of your time.