Loved Review: a game about a twisted love
Loved contains content that some players may find disturbing.
Loved is a simple web-based platformer with basic movement controls. There are barbs and other obstacles to avoid and navigate through. Naturally, the levels become more complicated as you proceed, but overall the game is not that difficult. Its value lies in the overall narrative experience.
Perhaps one of the most striking indie games I have ever played, Loved is a minimalistic aesthetic and an eerie, but powerful message.
The game begins by asking:
Whichever answer you give, the game will tell you that you are wrong. If you say you are a man, the game will insist on calling you a 'girl'. Not only are you misgendered, you are also infantilized.
This sets the tone for the rest of the game.
The game does not explain anything to you. Instead, it simply insults you if you make any mistakes.
The message you get if you press the wrong keys for the game controls - even though the game never explains to you what those controls are.
The game proceeds to give you orders that you can either choose to follow, or directly disobey.
If you obey, the game will praise you. If you repeatedly continue to do so, the game's appearance will grow more detailed. But it also starts to look more desolate.
If you disobey, the game insults and berates you like an abusive partner, and the graphics remain very basic in appearance.
However, color begins to come into your world.
Slowly, bit by bit, they spread. Each time you choose to go against the game, the world becomes brighter.
The world also becomes messier and more difficult to navigate. This increases the difficulty of later levels by obstructing your view of your surroundings.
One striking design choice was the animation for the death of the character; it consists of you shattering into many pieces, accompanied by what sounds like breaking glass.
There are two different endings to the game: one for obeying the game's commands, the other purposefully ignoring them.
Either way, no matter what the player's choices are, Loved is a striking allegory for navigating an abusive relationship.
It shows how love can be something very dark. It shows how someone can try to guilt and manipulate you into obedience, and it shows how you can refuse them.