Protothype A Love Story is a love/hate relationship. On the one hand, it’s a story about the one that got away and the ideal of love at first sight. On the other, ambiguous gameplay with experimental mechanics.
From Monkeys Tales, the team behind the excellent A Painter’s Tale: Curon 1950, I’d be a fool if I said I wasn’t expecting something on par with that. As an older game, it shows in some of the visuals, but that’s unimportant. It was the concept that appealed to me and intrigued how it would play out.
It starts with you being a test subject in a series of rooms with the question; have you have been in love? From a first-person perspective, you walk through spaces, interacting with puzzles similar to the game Superliminal. The set design is bare-bones, with a hint of imagery and lighting you’d see in vaporwave playlists.
The first room was child’s play, taking less than a minute to solve. Was this intentionally easy, or should I place my concentrated efforts into some dastardly evil plan for world domination? Clearly, I’m a genius. Nope. The puzzles don’t matter so much, as that was evident in a room full of switches. Growing tired of searching for the correct sequence, I left the room; coincidentally, that was the solution.
But it’s not all fun and games. The timed sections in Protothype A Love Story are quite troublesome such as a door that remains open with just the right amount of time to reach it after activating a button, a ball triggering switch, choosing the correct dialogue with a dragon, and a frustrating maze. For the record, I hate mazes, so perhaps a little biased.
Though a first-person perspective, you don’t have complete freedom of the view as it’s impossible to look directly up or down. Instead, you have to position yourself by stepping back or forwards until lined up. This proved irritating with the ball throwing exercise – one where you have to throw coloured balls at the wall before the time runs out; a similar puzzle has you throw a single ball into the air to activate ceiling switches.
Protothype A Love Story gameplay was quite frustrating then, especially for a game that is advertised as a short experience. I’m not entirely sure how long it took me, but three sections took a good deal of time to decipher. The first was a dialogue tree where you have four responses, and only one is correct. There aren’t any clues about what to choose, and each time you make a mistake, the conversation restarts.
Another section involved a blood pit and took some time to figure out what to do. There are no clues whatsoever. Finally, the maze section was driving me mad to the point of almost quitting, so close to the end. A few angry clicks with the mouse got me through, but if this were a streaming experience, the audience would have bailed.
So that brings us to the story. With A Painter’s Tale, these guys have storytelling talent. From my perspective, Protothype A Love Story was a little too experimental, which I’m open to. Sure, a game gives more creative freedom and interactivity, but the gameplay put me off as the end-user. If this fragment of an idea about love were a short film or novella, it would have worked great. I don’t doubt the team could put together an experience that, while niche, was more enticing to a larger audience.
Protothype A Love Story feels a little more of a lucid David Lynch piece. I love Lynch, and how I’m deciphering semiotics weeks later, or simply accepting that, like a dream, it doesn’t have to make sense. The fundamental idea and recollections of the protagonist are again well written and set the tone, but they were too infrequent. The bit between – the gameplay, was a little weak.
Still, it’s all a matter of opinion and having read the reviews on Steam; some even give it a 10/10. Subjectivity and what-not, and another reason why I don’t like review scores. For me, A Painter’s Tale was more my taste, and even now, I still think of it. Great things will come from these developers given their talent, but I believe Protothype A Love Story was more of a stepping stone. Check it out for yourself on Steam.