Review – Love Kuesuto
Many years ago, I found a game from way back in the year 1986 by the name of Alter Ego. This PC game, a relic from the MS-DOS era, allowed players to essentially live a life as either a man or a woman through a series of choices. As you went, you would have events happen, starting all the way from birth if you so wanted. These decisions would have repercussions – learning empathy, developing skills, crafting habits – that would somewhat influence future events and ideas. At the time it was very formative for me that a game could create such a detailed outcome and series of notions that felt, well, like life. When my character ultimately died of a heart attack during a pickup baseball game when I was in my 70s, the effect hit me hard. I saw my “life” laid out in metrics and genuinely wondered “Could I have lived better?”
I bring this up in the stark, boring and honestly offensive contrast to Love Kuesuto, a quickie throwaway game from Ratalaika that somehow managed to take the very simple task of questions and answers and make it awful. You play a 95 year old man who is on his death bed, because Sloth Hug Games saw the opening to Up and thought “perfect, let’s really dig in on that level of enjoyment.” As you flatline, alone, in a nursing home, you suddenly encounter Aphrodite in limbo. She explains that the balance between men and women is out of wack and you, a five time married wreck of a human, needs to fix it. Assisting you will be God and the Devil, played by pixel art babes, and if I type more of this I legally don’t think I can be a parent anymore.
Here’s what you do, and I’ll speak slowly so I don’t miss a single detail. You, as an avatar of any flavor of man you want, can walk around one of four boards, choose a question, choose a card (one to four), then choose an answer. When you answer, you’ll get some points, and you may also entertain either God or the Devil. After you answer all the questions, the board is finished. You then can do the next board. After you do all four boards, humanity is judged and you go to an Afterlife that relies entirely on your answers and the imaginary points you racked up with the aforementioned symbols of good and evil. It’s so simple my brain started going into sleep mode and now all I can think of is flying toasters.
Let’s gloss over the fact that Love Kuesuto allows the existence of Aphrodite and the Christian concepts of God and the Devil to coexist, because what the hell ever (ha, Hell). Let’s first just figure out the gameplay, because it’s pointless. You have to answer all the questions. The questions are hidden and randomized, so their order doesn’t matter. But you still have to walk, relatively slowly, around a board. You don’t even have to stop anywhere, you can just walk past questions to go to another question or go and save. But you still have to answer them all. Yeah, the board is a framework that means nothing. It’s like if you told your kid they could do their homework only if they finished all their homework. They would slow blink at you and do their homework while looking into the emancipation age for their state.
This, unto itself, disgusts me. The main concept of a game is to be entertaining, and this simply isn’t. I really enjoyed Alter Ego when I was younger because I saw growth and got immediate feedback after I answered a question. If I decided to push the dog licking my face away instead of licking him back, I would raise my independence but lose a bit of my empathy. Here, you have questions that you answer for points, but the points don’t change anything. With Cards Against Humanity and the like, the points come from social feedback, but here they come from the developers own choice of what weighs more, a single feather or the soul of an indie game. It’s basically a Quizlet that doubles as a misogyny tutorial.
You might think “But Oliver, it’s a game where a FIVE TIME DIVORCED NONAGENARIAN has to ‘repair’ the bonds between men and women! Surely it will be progressive and fair!” I don’t even need to state the obvious issue that you only get to be a man. I don’t even need to point out how weird it is that you get four race choices and one “other” in a desperate effort to be inclusive. This game is honestly a Running Man style race to make you figure out who the developers hate the most; the player, all women or themselves. Spoiler: it’s a three way tie and Stephen King is PISSED.
Every single question is from a random point in life, from babyhood all the way up to your dying days, and every one of them, for better or for worse, is about how you interact with women. It goes from “Your ex girlfriend is going to move out of your apartment but can’t afford rent. Do you help her?” to “This old woman in the nursing home that you’re hot for wants to drive but you’re too damn old to drive. What’s your secondary date idea?” It feels like a lot of generic The Newlywed Game queries, but if the wife had no voice. In theory, this could be a fun concept as long as it was presented in the aforementioned party style, but the lonely nature of the game just feels like you’re crouched over a Cosmopolitan in the dark, trying to figure out why you get maced every day at the bus stop.
Naturally, the answers are hyper specific and limited, so you rarely (if ever) just get a chance to be a decent human being. For an example: one question outlines that there’s a girl at school who is very nice, but your friends think she’s quite ugly. You have four options for what to do when you see her in the hall: wave to her, ignore her, make fun of her or grab her and kiss her in front of everyone. If you just wave, you get a handful of points and that’s all. If you do the cruel option, you get fewer points but you have the chance to unlock artwork. But if you decide to just commit assault on someone who we’ve established is only a friend, then you get the most number of points possible. Plus, Aphrodite chimes in how you’re romantic and such an awesome dude.
That’s the crux of many awful questions in Love Kuesuto. Most, if not all, of the “positive” answers (at least from my perception) relies on the tropes, concepts and misguided notions of romance that were heavily overused in the 80s and 90s. Does your wife want a spa day even though your budget can’t handle it? Screw debt, make your woman happy! Did the boy at school take your sweet gift you made for the girl you like? Fight his ass, she’ll love you more! Fiancee doesn’t want you drinking at your traditional guys night? Try lying and saying you won’t, maybe that’s better than just getting hammered obstinately! Since everything is obfuscated in terms of “good” or “bad,” you have no way of telling what’s appropriate or just terrible other than your own moral compass.
Plus, this sort of scenario builder is inherently damaging, psychologically. You are telling people there are right and wrong answers for theoretical situations where you get a handful of details but not everything, and a handful of choices but not all the ones that could be done. For example, when your girlfriend is coming to visit your messy apartment (because you’re a MAN and you never clean) for the first time, you can choose to clean one of four rooms. There isn’t the option to say “sorry about the mess, I’m a slob and I live in squalor, please fix me.” Or at least something better than frantically cleaning ONE room like a serial killer trying to fool the police. Also, I got the most amount of points for cleaning the bathroom; do women just love to poop, or are they glad I don’t poop in filth? The mind reels.
Also, maybe it was played off for humor, but Love Kuesuto had at least two questions about breastfeeding that I recalled. As in “you’re a baby, now make a decision that impacts the future of humanity.” If you’re going to craft a situation in which I’m literally making calls about the way the species continues to propagate, maybe don’t ask “You’re mad at mom, how do you punish her during breastfeeding?” When all of the options are to be a crappy baby (suck too hard, bite the nipple, refuse to latch or just glare at her) and not “eat because you’re less than a year old and don’t want to inflict revenge on your primary caregiver, you infant Caligula.” And DON’T encourage my BS behavior, Aphrodite!
The technical indignities of the game only unraveled further when I loaded up a save after turning off my XBox in disgust, then realizing that I had to finish this game. Upon replaying some questions, I realized that there was NO DIFFERENCE IN THE QUESTIONS. You have to choose one of four cards when you select a question, implying some kind of variety, but that’s a boldfaced lie. Regardless, it’s the same points value, same question, and the same answers. Love Kuesuto takes an already threadbare form of entertainment and creates more indignity by falsely creating the idea that more possibilities await. It’s just further steps to draw out what’s already a massive time sink that could have just been five pieces of double sided A4 paper. I had more questions for my Wal*Mart online job application, and even that left me with less shame at the end.
So you’re filling out all these questions, meandering around a board while one of four public domain pieces of classical music fill the air (Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies while asking me about an overly morbid girlfriend, sweet), and trying to figure out if these God and Devil points are good or bad. I’ve unlocked a handful of artwork (because that’s the big replay draw, trying to find all the pictures to look at), I’ve done the four boards, and I’ve successfully kept my sobriety because I’m somehow stronger than I imagined. The game is over, and now I get to see what my ending has wrought. Surely something grand must be waiting: I did my best to try and give decent answers while also resisting the violence rising inside.
The ending – the C ending, implying the average – is I go to Hell. No infographic, no details or reasons as to why. My old soul is condemned to hell.
But that’s just my fate. Love Kuesuto also wants me to know the fate of humanity, and the ending goes on for an uncomfortably long amount of time. Have you ever had a new Dungeonmaster lose their notes and start improvising a scenario, and it becomes apparent that the sheer level of detail and unnecessary information is just filling time until something finally clicks? Or had a children’s pastor try to explain to some wide eyed five year old why their daddy isn’t going to Heaven because he has to work on Sunday’s in order to provide for them, but now he’s not honoring the Sabbath and God’s got a hard and fast rule about why you should die of poverty instead of hanging out at his house during the weekend? That’s the level of word salad you get for the C ending.
So this doesn’t become ANY longer, here’s the gist: Aphrodite appeared before the world and told them of how you did, and how much you suck. The leaders, both religious and secular, take this to heart and discuss how to mend the connection between men and women. The conclusion: men need to register their relationship history like their credit score so women know what’s to be expected. Also, men need to get training so they know what women are thinking at all times. Men who resist this will be imprisoned for failure to adhere to the new law. Some men live the rest of their lives on the lamb. But it’s generally okay because half the male population goes along with it, so ignore the horror of this dystopian outcome: it probably doesn’t affect you.
I was aghast throughout this entire TWENTY SCREEN LONG ENDING, trying to wrap my head around it. This might, in the mind’s of the devs, make you want to go back and play again. But I was done. I could already tell that the worse endings would be positively wild with even heavier misogyny and probably something about the end of the species, and the better endings would show how you saved everyone by being like the best guy ever and forever. Everything about this spoke of heavy handed misdirection and broken notions of trying to play to both men and women and failing miserably. And you just spent five dollars on a game that was a deck of cards that also made you feel bad about yourself. Killer.
This could have been handled well. Love Kuesuto, though clearly antiquated in concept, could have been given a little bit of a fun tone – play as a woman, have more open ended questions, involve literally any gameplay – but it’s just rough and painful. It takes far too long to play while also taking no time at all. It isn’t fun, it isn’t clever, and it soapboxes so hard to no one about nothing. You could watch an Andrew Tate video fed through a Donald Duck voice filter and get the same amount of humor and good information. Do your own life a favor and play anything else. Go actually talk to a person you fancy and don’t limit yourself to what The King of Queens might do. Be a goddamn human, and not whatever simulacrum wrote this game. Be better.
Pixel art is alright, but overly blocky for weird things like Aphrodite’s mouth and the shape of the world. Literally looks like it was drawn in MS Paint. Also, why is the lying down Aphrodite given a booty line? Why?
Walking simulators get a pass because you go somewhere. Walking around a board that has no game to it is like Candy Land for the kid who hates numbers, turns or candy.
Putting Moonlight Sonata over your ending is so overdone it’s almost laughable. Plus, no music in the beginning, so just the sounds of nursing home ventilators. Amazing choice to put the players in the head space of “terminal.”
A game where you cannot tell if there’s more misandry or misogyny is a technical feat of brilliant and unbelievable failure. I cannot recommend this to ANYONE.
Final Verdict: 1.5
Love Kuesuto is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and Switch.
Reviewed on Xbox One X.
A copy of Love Kuesuto was provided by the publisher.