Love Hurts, but it’s worth it

Review of Love Hurts on XBLIG: Buy
This brawler has some issues with control and hit detection, but it’s worth taking a look for the cartoony art style.

Love Hurts is a short, simple brawler in the style of Kung Fu. (As I’ve never played Kung Fu, I’m taking the developer’s word for it—although there was some discussion about this comparison when we covered Love Hurts on The Show.)

The game follows Matt Merit, an average joe who discovers that his girlfriend D.D. has been kidnapped by the villainous Baron Von Blight. Matt must fight through the mansion where she is being held—but butlers, chefs, ghosts, librarians, toy trucks, and giant teddy bears will all block his path.

As suggested by the description, the game doesn’t take itself seriously, and this is why I enjoyed it so much. The art style is an excellent example of how to do retro right—mainly, its style is unique and compelling, rather than aping other 8-bit games. It manages to convey a quirky sense of humor even when it’s not relying on sight gags and jokes. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say it particularly impressed me in this regard.

The gameplay is where Love Hurts hurts. The fighting system is competent, but it has obvious rough edges. Matt executes attacks quickly, but moves and turns slowly. This is doubly frustrating considering that hit detection requires a certain amount of precision. For example, I often found myself overlapping an enemy just enough that my punches didn’t land, although he could usually still hit me. The game isn’t forgiving, either—once I started getting pummeled by an enemy, it was often hard to regain control of the situation.

There is a silver lining here, though. After playing the game several times, I began to discover that Matt’s diverse arsenal of moves can be used in a variety of ways, some more effective than others. In addition, each enemy had its own unique attack pattern (especially the bosses), so I had to adapt to new challenges on each level.

I actually found the learning curve satisfying, although it took a lot of dying at first. The game started out feeling like an uphill battle, but with the right rhythm and tactics I found it a breeze—in fact, enough to compensate for the initial problems with control and hit detection. Given that the game only has four levels, this extra bit of depth and fun made up for it being short.

I give Love Hurts a Buy. The gameplay will likely be unappealing or frustrating to some people, but I had a lot of fun… eventually. You get out of it what you put into it–this isn’t a game you play to kick back and relax. But even if you can’t stand the gameplay, it’s worth playing the Trial just for the art.

A copy of Love Hurts was provided to GameMarx by the developer.

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