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LOVE A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories Review — A narrative joy but a confusing puzzler

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LOVE A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories Review

Speed Run
Speed run is our review format to take a look at smaller and shorter games out there that may deserve your time and money.

Again, we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that while the game is good, it probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future. Maybe ever. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: May 24
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: Narrative Puzzle Game
  • Similar Games: Maquette, Coffee Talk
  • Price: $19.99

If you could change your past, how would your present look like? This is the thesis that LOVE A Puzzle Box Filled With Stories answers providing a somewhat relaxing puzzle game where you play as a disembodied deity that fixes people’s regrets in the past to have them live their lives in their present. In a way, it reminded me of Maquette, but I had a good feeling about this game as I started it.

Within the first fifteen minutes, the game is a straightforward narrative puzzle game where you control an apartment building and affect lives by subtly changing things in their past to fix the present. In a way, if you think of classic films like It’s a Wonderful Life, this is how it would play out as a video game. While a part of me got my heartstrings tickled, another part of me stumbled each step of the way because of the non-straightforward puzzles.

The apartment building is like a disembodied rubik’s cube where you could turn as much as you want in order to shift things in the past to affect events in the present. It’s pretty neat how just by changing where the building faces, certain items can change many of the characters’ lives right away. A poster from the past could land into the present, which could inspire a character to work towards their dream lost while working a dead end job in the present.

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One thing I’m going to point at is the music is quite easy on the ears. It’s relaxing and switches between the three main themes ranging from indie rock to blues. It’s a pretty neat mechanic as they are easy listening tunes that you could jive to while you change the different characters’ lives.

LOVE can go either way, as certain snippets of each characters’ lives are presented visually. One thing that I will not complain about is stilted dialogue, as the stories are largely visual and could be appreciated and enjoyed by careful observation. However, many stories flew by my head as some weren’t conveyed as well as they should with the pixelated graphics. Some characters do look alike and could be confusing as a result.

Also the puzzle solving can get somewhat confusing as your only guide is the photo album to find the clues to solve the puzzles to change characters’ lives. After a while, I was just randomly rotating the building and clicking on anything to solve any puzzle. Half of the puzzles I was able to solve by just randomly clicking on things and the other half I was able to solve by careful observation.

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I was able to complete the game in an hour a bit, and in a way I was satisfied with some of the stories. They are heartwarming and some are heartbreaking. Overall, it’s an easy uplifting game to get into and repeat when you’re feeling down. I guess the replay value is there, but we could’ve used some context by providing names for these characters and a little bit of back story. While they are snippets to the whole setting, I wanted to learn more about these characters, which I didn’t and in the end, is a short but a somewhat forgettable experience.

What we liked:

  • Beautiful and uplifting narrative experience
  • Interesting puzzle mechanics
  • Soothing soundtrack

What we didn’t like:

  • Puzzles may get confusing as you only have the visual cues to go with.
  • Characters could use backstory or even names to distinguish from each other.
  • A really short game, about an hour and a bit.
  • Doesn’t motivate much for a second or third playthrough.

Verdict: Wait for it.

I really liked this game from the get-go, but I slowly became confused with the puzzle solving aspect and hoped that there was more to it than what was presented. The soundtrack is great and having a fully visual story that could tug at the heartstrings really made the game shine. Sadly, some backstory and some context could’ve been provided with some text and would not completely take away from the emotional experience.

I felt that after the tutorial, the training wheels came off right away and then we’re left to our own devices. While I was able to complete the journey by figuring out half of the game and the other half, I fluked out by trial and error; I didn’t feel much in the way of a sense of accomplishment in doing so. Doing a repeat run made me follow the similar path, thus killing the replayability for me.

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I would say wait for a sale or a playable demo to see if this game is for you. It’s a narrative joy but a frustrating puzzler. Though, if you need a quick lift-me-up when you’re stressed, this game is a good medicine if you’re feeling down.

*LOVE A Puzzle Box Filled With Stories was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch with a review code from the publishers.

Author

Vincent Ternida moved Vancouver, Canada in 2006 and called it home ever since. He spends the lockdown catching up with his Japanese RPGs, writing his new manuscripts, and figuring out why he suddenly became the main character of the latest Haruki Murakami novel.

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