Flirting With Danger

HIGH The robot’s ‘good’ ending.

LOW Losing a debate three times in a row and deciding to cheat.

WTF That is one weirdly pleasant Satan you’ve got there, game.

With all of the strange visual novels going around — dating birds, cats, swords… even Shakespeare characters who are also dinosaurs — Lovingly Evil‘s premise feels like an inevitability. The story is set at a supervillian convention held in a strange interdimensional hotel. There are four days of conferences, product displays and partying to get through, during which the player has the opportunity to meet, befriend, and possibly romance five different villainous archetypes.

Lovingly Evil is fairly simple, as visual novels go. The player is presented with a map of the conference center, and they’re free to move to various locations. In each, they’ll find characters to interact with via a basic dialogue system.

Once with a character, players are given a menu of conversational topics and they’re free to select whichever one they like. The developers have helpfully marked which choices have the opportunity to deepen a relationship , as well as which topics move the clock forward. This is a vital piece of information, as any time-based question will advance time by one hour. Since the player only has a few hours each day to hang out, tough decisions must be made about which characters they want to invest time into.

There’s more depth than just time management in the relationship system, however. When the player picks a topic that will deepen a connection, it generally has one or more choices to make — these are opportunities to decide exactly what kind of a villain the player is.

Since each romantic interest has both a good and bad ending associated with them, it’s important to weigh answers carefully based on what they know about their crush, and more importantly, what kind of ending they’re hoping for. Of course, being a visual novel built on the Ren’py engine, players are free to save and load whenever they like, meaning they don’t have to worry too much about overcommitting.

Saves are especially useful when dealing with the minigames that pop up from time to time. I encountered both a quiz and a card game designed to simulate debate, and while I did fine with trivia, my card-playing was so unlucky that if I hadn’t been able to jump back a few hands, I might never have gotten the chance to chat up an evil queen.

Of course, as a visual novel, the most vital question is ‘how good is the writing?’ and the answer here is ‘pretty darn good’.

There’s a wide variety of characters to romance, from a vampire to a robot to (literally) the Devil, and each one is written with style and a distinct personality — the conversations are always lively and entertaining.

There are two female crushes, two male crushes, and a surprise fifth option I won’t spoil, but players don’t have to worry about locking themselves into limited options when they create their character at the start of the game. No matter what kind of supervillain they craft for themselves, the NPCs aren’t concerned about gender, skin tone, or powers — they just care about the player’s role-played personality.

Whimsical and cute despite the sinister subject matter, Lovingly Evil is a short but endearing experience. A full playthrough of the story will take around an hour and a half (depending on the player’s reading speed) but with five romance options and 12 endings, there are plenty of reasons to return for repeat players. As for me? I finished it twice, and I’m considering going back and finding out what’s up with Satan.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Lizard Hazard and published by Green Man Gaming. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer movdes.

Parents: This game was not rated by the ESRB. It contains suggestive content and mature themes. It’s a dating sim, but it’s not even slightly lewd in either of the storylines I followed. There’s plenty of alcohol use, some murders, and people discussing absurdly villainous plots, but I can’t imagine even younger teens would find anything in it too troubling.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are no audio cues in the game. Everything is presented via text, which cannot be resized. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls cannot be remapped. There is no control diagram. Everything is menu-based, with the player using a mouse to click on preferred options.

Daniel Weissenberger
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