LOVE 3 (Nintendo Switch & PC Review)

Wow. Few games leave me speechless the way Love 3 has. I’ve thrown out so many drafts of this review, I nearly matched my LOVE 3 death count (give or take a few hundred). LOVE 3 has put me in a strange position. Really, there’s no point in getting too in-depth here. LOVE 3 is pretty much a stand-alone expansion pack to Kuso with twenty-five extra levels. If you didn’t play LOVE 1 or Kuso (LOVE 2), fear not: they’re not only included in this, but there’s remastered versions of the previous games. My one issue with that: they’re unlockable. If LOVE 3 had given me the option, I would have selected the LOVE 1+2+3 Remastered game and played through all the levels at once from the start. I really think this is something Fred Wood should consider, but, as the creator of one of the most sadistic platform games on the planet, I imagine he’s off doing evil things like blowing up frogs with firecrackers or running for office.

The art style is pretty striking, but you’ll quickly get a feel for the rule of “if it’s white, it kills you.” There’s so many inappropriate jokes I could make there, but being the classsy bitch that I am, I ain’t.

At this point, you should probably go read my Kuso review. Go. I’ll wait.

Look, I can see my page views. I’ll know if you’re reading it.

What do you mean “you already read it?” Read it again!

Did you? LIAR!

Whatevers.

LOVE 3 (all caps, like you’re screaming, and trust me, you will be) really is just a +25 to Kuso. I don’t endorse LOVE 1, as it has some iffy design choices, like blind jumps or straight-up GOTCHA-type deaths. Kuso and LOVE 3 are lacking those entirely. Which is not to say LOVE 1 is all bad. Just, enough bad that I can’t in good faith recommend it. It’s the type of punisher that becomes demoralizing instead of intense. Kuso and LOVE 3, meanwhile, are about as perfect as the subgenre of punishers get. The fifty “rooms” they contain are really just a series of unrelated vignettes tied-together only by the fact that it’s the same game with the same engine. Sometimes you’re dodging projectiles. Sometimes you’re precision-jumping. Sometimes both. There’s lots of pattern-solving, and tons of timing-based challenges. Despite the stripped-down graphics, the set pieces can be downright awe-inspiring. Hell, I almost said “WOW!” as often as I laid a checkpoint down. See, that was a variation on the joke from the first paragraph.

It’s nothing short of remarkable how many different themes and jaw-dropping set-pieces are squeezed into this entire set. Just when you think “okay, NOW it has to be out of ideas” something original and fresh hits. It’s bonkers. Three games, 67 levels, and it never gets old the entire time. Amazing.

The concept of setting your own checkpoints really pushes the franchise onto the top of the punisher mountain for me. It’s the perfect game for finding your own difficulty level. You can be bold and lay few, if any, and increase the thrills of playing the stages. Or, you can be a total coward and lay them down like you’ve got checkpoint-shaped diarrhea. If that’s not enough “do it yourself” challenge, can even play in arcade mode, with a limited amount of lives, and YOLO mode, which gives you only one life. This is REALLY screaming for a multiplayer survival/race mode. You can also level-select for all three games and their enhanced editions upon completion of them, and every stage has a hidden coin that unlocks an alternate ending. Amazingly, of the 67 stages included in the entire package, despite the same basic concepts repeating, nearly every level feels completely fresh and unique. Once more, for old time’s sake: WOW!

This level I had one small gripe with. The concept here is you have to use buttons to aim the cannons on the level to break the barriers of blocks. It’s a nice twist on one of Kuso’s most memorable stages. But, there’s a barrier of blocks above you that you can’t see, and once you reach them, you have to go back and jump up and down until the camera scrolls enough to get the gun’s projectiles to blow them up. It’s not exactly a GOTCHA because you have a (relatively) clear path there and back to it, but it feels like busy work.

Now, it’s not all sunshine. LOVE 3 has problems that the nearly-perfect Kuso didn’t. Two, in fact. The first is there’s levels based around “guiding arrows” which function like trampolines. There’s a section where you must use these while dodging a huge chain. Here, the normally-intuitive controls become hard to grapple with. It took me a long time to realize you’re best served going totally limp and letting the arrows do their thing, but even that doesn’t completely work, and it crosses over into that line of frustration. The other point of contention is the addition of helicopter-like bubbles in some of the levels that lack the smooth, instinctive movement physics the franchise is known for. The controls are too fast, too loose, and too sensitive, and I never got used to them even after finishing the game twice. Neither of these things are deal breakers, but they’re annoyances that I can’t ignore, because those sections weren’t fun. All the other levels, some BRUTAL, are incredible.

This is a 100% true story: I once saw the go-kart attendant of a little highway amusement park get run over by a terrified six-year-old who couldn’t take her foot off the gas. The young, scruffy looking park worker went to check her seat belt AFTER starting the motor, and the poor kid, who had never before been in a go-kart, discovered the gas pedal and was startled by the sudden acceleration of her kart. The guy’s panicked, blood-curdling screams of “LET OFF THE GAS!” only further scared her into putting the pedal-to-the-metal. I was reminded of that dark day when I tried to use the helicopters here, which go from 0 to light-speed pretty much instantly and replace the blind jumps of LOVE 1 as the worst aspect of the whole series, if only because they reminded me of that poor guy whose foot I probably broke that day.

Did I underrate Kuso in 2019? Perhaps. I debuted it #14, and it ultimately ended up #19 before I removed it from the leaderboard to merge it with LOVE 3’s ranking. Despite being nearly flawless, I said, “Kuso still feels like it’s more about the dying, and not the surviving.” I stand by that. But, my views on gaming are always evolving. At one point, I disliked Cuphead. Now, I have it in my top five, and it’s obviously a game where the body count seems to have been the point. I’ve come to learn “that’s okay, as long as you’re having fun.” Well, let me tell you: LOVE 3 is fun. Not only that, but it’s one of the best packages in all of platforming, punisher or otherwise. It comes with its two predecessors, and tons of options and extras to go along with them. Including both the original games is such an unexpected, atypical decision, but Fred is clearly proud of his work and wants to show it off. And that decision makes this statement undeniable: LOVE 3 is the best pure indie platformer ever made, and, as of this writing, one of the ten best indies I’ve ever played. I can feel the love.

LOVE 3 was developed by Fred Wood
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch, Steam

$9.99 fell in love in the making of this review. Typically to her death, but sometimes she stuck the landing.

LOVE 3 is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

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