LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories Review: Love and loss
What is love? Baby don’t hurt mes aside, it’s a four letter word used to describe an incredible amount of complex emotions. We love our parents differently than our children, our friends differently than our partners, and all of them in a way that’s unique unto their own. And while sometimes love can evolve over time, it can also burn brighter… or burn out completely. In fact, it’s arguable that sometimes love is defined by a snapshot in time, meaning something else altogether in the past, present, or future. Perhaps a better question to ask instead is when is love?
Love filtered through the lens of time is what the emotional puzzler LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories attempts to show players. A Rubik’s Cube-type puzzle game set in both the past and present, LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories is available on Switch and Steam for $19.99 and mobile for $9.99. Set in a lively building featuring a whole host of characters to get to know and… well, love, LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories tries to show a lot of relatable emotions in an oblique manner. Can you feel the love in the air, or will you struggle to read the room?
LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories’ concept is what drew me to the title. Players will be presented with a building that is split down the middle vertically. On one side represents the past, while the other represents the present. Each floor in the building can be rotated so that players can see what happens to the room’s inhabitants in the here and now or the long gone; this will enable players to piece together each inhabitant’s love for a person, hobby, or something else entirely. By highlighting people, rotating the floors, and following their stories, players can see and resolve love stories through literal snapshots, some packing a more powerful punch than others.
Controls are interesting in LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories; I really loved the use of the shoulder buttons to rotate the floors, but trying to click around on people and objects was something of a frustrating experience. The game gives feedback to players in odd ways — sometimes helpful, sometimes just highlighting that a certain move is capable but not relevant at the current moment — that puzzle solving often just became “clicking around until something happens.” Although I genuinely enjoyed the satisfying rotation movements on the Switch, I couldn’t help but wonder if this game was better suited for PC.
Additionally, I feel like some of the stories are a little hard to follow, either due to the unclear photographs or the lack of verbal communication. The first puzzle is a crystal clear gut punch — I credit this story in particular to keeping me hooked on the title — but the rest were either hit or miss. Perhaps I would have felt more connected to the characters if I could tell them apart better or could get a read for what they were really feeling; instead, the low-poly characters came off as blank more often than not. Through the context of the situation I could sometimes gather what was happening in their lives, but for the most part I had a hard time grasping what was unfolding in front of me.
I’ve often said that, when it comes to puzzle games, the story doesn’t matter so much because people who like the genre come for the puzzles, but LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories requires you to know what’s happening to the building’s inhabitants to solve said puzzles. I can’t really skip the story because the story leads players from point A to point B, which is unfortunately made all the more difficult when you’re struggling to get a clear picture. With that being said, this past/present floor rotating mechanic is an incredible concept, and the story will definitely resonate with people who understand context clues in social situations better than I do.
LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories has such a clever concept implemented in a unique way — who would have thought to make a game focused on a building’s past and present, its windows open for players to peek inside and see how love grows or wanes over time? Unfortunately, this labor of love was a little hard to understand, its stories only sometimes resonating through confusing feedback and cluttered scenes. If you’re here for puzzles, you may want to pass this one up (or at least give it a go on your PC); if you prefer sentimental stories above gameplay, then let love conquer all and give LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories a shot.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Mobile, PC, Switch (reviewed); Publisher: Thalamus Digital; Developer: Rocketship Park; Players: 1; Released: May 28, 2021; MSRP: $19.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories provided by the publisher.