LOVE describes itself as a “reductive platformer” and I think that fits. It’s almost too minimalistic, an exhibition in pure mechanics independent of any fluff. That descriptor may also be selling it a bit short though, since the problem with declaring that sort of simplicity is the implication there’s an absence of style, but LOVE, more than anything, has that in droves.
I feel like we’ve reached a point where we can safely say the novelty of pixel art has worn a bit thin. What used to be a reliable crutch has become trite, leaving us with the feeling that every worthwhile landmark has been pinned on that visual map, so it’s even more of a testament to LOVE that it still seems to offer something fresh, whether it be a theme suggested by the color palette or the appeal of seeing complex shapes and obstacles mesh with the simplicity of your interactions.
It’s that contrast that has the most lasting effect, I’d say. Just from an initial screenshot, you can surmise the sort of audio cues you’ll hear during gameplay; the beeps and boops that once defined games as a whole and are still oddly recycled whenever someone in a movie or TV show is seen holding a controller. But where LOVE really sticks the landing is the decision to subvert expectation and not double down on the aesthetic with a chip-tune soundtrack. Instead, you hear electronica; ambient music often bordering on trip-hop. In the 20 minutes or so it took me to beat my first run of LOVE, it had already become one of my favorite soundtracks of the past few years. I don’t just say this because I’m a mopey white guy and and think trip hop is awesome. I mean, that is a reason, but it’s not the only reason.
Even if you want to distance yourself from the obvious speed-running hooks, LOVE has enough under the hood to sustain a much longer experience and I would love (snicker) to see other games learn from its approach to level design and perhaps even outright steal its respawn mechanic. For a few bucks (even less since it’s on sale right now), it’s a no brainer.
You can find the LOVE soundtrack on Bandcamp here. “Kid” is my personal favorite.