Review – From Madness With Love

The quirky and offbeat nature of a game trying to be different – whether that be a unique tone, gameplay mechanic, or presentation – can land one of two ways. It might be something that people around the world embrace and covet, such as the now cult success of the Mother/Earthbound series. But it also wasn’t popular in the West when it launched, and it even now is a very divisive title that generates love or hate. In the same vein, Hylics is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played that no one seems to know, and those who do are usually put off by the art styling. The point is, sometimes the ones that stand alone end up either as a lighthouse or a forgotten tower.

From Madness With Love is a visual novel that comes to us from Playism and is clearly looking to hook that demographic of unique players. Setting the stage in a classic high school idea, everything is off from the very beginning of this title. The school appears to be underwater, but there’s always weather elements, including rain. The teachers and faculty range from mostly humanoid to distinctly fishy, with a distinct affectation to capture some of the weirdness that lives under the sea. Within a short amount of time, it becomes clear of three things: this school is bizarre, some of the boys are cute, and terrible things are going to happen. This latter indicator is more subtle, but we can get to that in a moment.

From Madness With Love opening song

A subtle warning in the opening song for what might come.

It’s clear that From Madness With Love is trying to stand apart from other visual novels, and I think that it succeeds in several facets. For one, a single route is significantly shorter than most: you can get to at least one ending (good or bad) in five hours, potentially less. Players have a fair amount of text to digest, but this isn’t some massive tome like CLANNAD or Muv-Luv. It’s gotten relatively good, bite sized dialogue along with a minimal amount of exposition from the protagonist. This allows for brevity to be the spirit of it all without feeling rushed: you can get a good sense of atmosphere and intention with a concise amount of reading.

The character design is also quite excellent, and I think the visuals should not be overlooked. While there are some purposefully strange choices made in accents and accessories, it gels well with the world. From the dapper and proper Aorta senpai to the more sporty and grungy feel of Yuusuke, the selection of love interests for this boy centric title are small, but feels like it hits all the notes you could want. Overly affectionate and rather dumb? You pick Yuusuke, which also felt like the easiest ending to achieve. Want someone who absolutely hates you? Grab Marshmallow, that’s never a secret! Need a teacher who’s obsessing over you in a very uncomfortable way? You need help, and you should also pick Mr. Arakawa, the creepy school nurse!

From Madness With Love Mr. Arakawa

Okay, I did like the Vacation reference.

Visual novel fans tend to be drawn in by the potential for truly horrific bad endings, and From Madness With Love is no exception. There were some bold choices here when it comes to endings, but the scale is wildly imbalance in terms of “good” and “bad.” On the one hand, getting a good ending means the boy likes you and you can date, and there’s some implied physical activity that’s never fully portrayed. I’m grateful for this, as the overt focus on sexual acts can take away from the game and traumatize the player. The neutral ending also just leaves you by your lonesome and you just have to deal with the idea that maybe school and romance isn’t for you.

falling down

How do anime characters keep falling on each other like this? I tried once with my wife and we both ended up with concussions.

The bad endings, without spoiling anything, are absolutely ghastly. While the visual aspect of it is fairly tame (one dead boy that’s pixel painful to view), a lot of it is just reading and then needing to digest what the hell just happened. I would go through the list of bad things that await you, but the best answer I can give without spoiling is “all of them.” Did you see something that really disturbed you in an episode of Law and Order: SVU? For better or worse, there’s a chance that might be an aspect of a bad ending here in From Madness With Love, so please be aware and ready for things like this.

From Madness With Love Yuusuke

He’s fine. In all honesty, the idiot is fine.

In all sincerity, there’s plenty to appreciate within the world of From Madness With Love. Cute art, novel design, good chapter breaks and auto save system, and a direct pathway approach that defies more obtuse visual novels. That is, if you want a certain boy for your ending, you go for THEM. Don’t try and play the field because they’ll all abandon you in the end, just pick the broken man you most want to pursue and then learn about their own issues while trying to simultaneously get into their pants/hearts. It should be the most straightforward thing in the world if it wasn’t TRYING SO GODDAMN HARD.

I get it: the word Madness is in the title. Awesome. But we don’t actually have to make the whole world mad all the time without any relenting. I give a pass to Aorta senpai’s style of talking, which is reversed Japanese with incomprehensible subtitles (hint: check the dialogue log to actually know what he says). I get there are random acts of violence that don’t seem to impact the story because that’s quirky and funny in an anime sense. I also get that Yuusuke and other students (but mostly Yuusuke) speak in non sequiturs because peak humor was Invader Zim and we can just yell disconnected nonsense and that’s funny or something. I get all of this.


We all have different love languages.

What I don’t get is trying to shovel it all into a single game, and then also make the soundtrack and sound effects so very grating. The opening song is delightful and, naturally, seeming gibberish. My daughter and I still sing it sometimes because we both actually like mushrooms, but damn if an anti-mushroom song isn’t catchy. But the constant sound effects of shrieking and screaming are just awful. Yuusuke almost blew out my speakers by screaming into the mic at one point and it genuinely hurt my head. It’s just a never ending soundscape of abysmal horror that actually made me mute the game so I could play it longer. 


Thankfully, it’s just a normal Anti-Semitic high school conversation.

It just gets to be too much. From Madness With Love makes no attempt to balance the oddities with actual connection, and it lost me as a result. I’m sure there’s some genuine feelings in there somewhere, but I couldn’t find them amidst the noise. I was ultimately quite put off by the overall tone, and it didn’t incentivize me to continue going any longer than I felt I had to. This clearly will be a big hit with streamers and offbeat VN fans, but it simply couldn’t find a place in my heart. I’m not keeping this catch, it’s going back in the ocean.


Graphics: 7.0

A delightful seascape done in pixel art, the characters are well crafted and the color balance is beautiful for the setting. While some smaller elements can get murky and the use of blackscreen for dramatic effect is a bit high, it works well.

Gameplay: 6.5

Herding players towards one love interest or another is more compelling than the traditional harem approach of some visual novels. Save sequences are in good spots, but players might feel that time passes too quickly as a result.

Sound: 1.0

Opening song is great and everything after that is terrible. It’s too chaotic, too unbalanced and honestly just offputting. I’ve never preferred playing a visual novel silent but this was a first.

Fun Factor: 5.0

Good endings were pretty vanilla, bad endings were wildly upsetting but it all made for a solid package in terms of a visual novel. Quirkiness can be grating but there’s a level of heart that I’m sure will appeal to some players. Just not me.

Final Verdict: 5.5

From Madness With Love is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of From Madness With Love was provided by the publisher.