Compilation of Carnal Choices
Seduction, love and suspense are all finally together in one convenient app! 1492 Studio’s flagship franchise Is It Love? finds a new home in its new all-in-one app, Is It Love? Stories. The franchise consists of five inter-connected universes and over 30 romance routes spread throughout 14 discrete apps. These Otome-inspired visual novels are finally coalescing in one accessible hub.
For the uninitiated, Otome games—a genre originating from Japan—are basically the gaming industry’s trashy wine mom romance novels. Think 50 Shades of Grey, but less explicit and more legitimate. Perhaps a more favorable analogy would be playable soap opera melodramas where you’re the star. In short, they’re emotional junk food that you just can’t put down! In the case of Is It Love? the player generally takes on the role of a female character seeking a romantic relationship. They must make choices that then have an impact on the plot. The game confronts players with a range of emotional scenes, including seduction, love, suspense, betrayal, joy and sorrow.
Junk Food for the Soul
That brings us to the meat of the matter. The thing that makes this genre such a decadent guilty pleasure. The tropes! Oh, the tropes. Those cheesy, goofy plot devices that keep you shoveling popcorn into your craw. And boy, does Is It Love? have it all. I’m talking amnesia, secret cults, secret affairs, secret bastard children, evil twins, evil exes, accidental murder, intentional murder and that barely begins to cover it! Demons are real and they’re hot as hell!
Speaking of hunky guys, these dating sim games are only as good as their illustrations. After all, delightfully trashy writing is only worth a damn when there are some luscious studs to back it up. To that point, Is It Love?’s art style is as alluring as it is unique. They take a more grounded, westernized approach to the anime art style of its Otome inspiration. It manages to strike an excellent balance of simplifying naturalistic features without being cartoonish to the point of diminishing attractiveness. In layman’s terms: hubba hubba!
Accompanying these lovely character models, we have some truly gorgeous, intricately detailed and damn near photorealistic background art. These backdrops set the tone throughout every scene, and they do a fantastic job of it. Their top-notch art and competent usage of visual effects mingle together to create some rather effective staging. The only palpable drawback being the lackluster sound design. While not necessarily low quality, the variety was slim and quickly became somewhat stale and repetitive, albeit negligible.
There’s Always a Catch
The only major downer to be found here is that it seems 1492 Studio really doesn’t want me to play their games! Being a free game, Is It Love? lines its pockets by putting gameplay behind a wall of microtransactions. You see, they let you read the first couple chapters of a story for free, but from then on reading further costs Energy. Once you get a taste, you’re limited to 500 free Energy a day, which only amounts to about 5 minutes of play. After which, you’ll have to either open the ol’ wallet, or painstakingly watch enough ads to earn up to 100 Energy every five hours.
That’s right, unless you shell out the cash, you’re restricted to a measly ~6 minutes of gameplay a day. To put that into perspective, this app is a collection of over 30 playable storylines, each of which has multiple Seasons, with each Season consisting of an average of five to six hours of gameplay. I’ll go ahead and do the math for you. That’s 36 days to complete one Season of one storyline. Planning on a full playthrough? You better leave ~2,160 days open. All things considered, unless you’re the type who would pay through the nose for romantic catharsis, and no judgment if you are, Is It Love? probably isn’t worth your time. This particular junk food’s flavorful blend of foxy dreamboats and sinfully indulgent melodrama simply doesn’t come in big enough portions to satisfy. Let’s face it, no one in their right mind would pay $50 for a bag of Doritos. Well, maybe for Spicy Sweet Chili.
Is It Hardcore?
A hardcore time sink.
Is It Love? Stories, in some sort of cruel joke, compiles all their inter-connected stories onto a single app for the sake of convenience. Yet leaves every story in an unplayably inconvenient state. Steer clear of this wallet suck unless you’re suffering from serious drama withdrawal.