Love me madly
My life has been one long journey to find new things to put my mouth on. Food, vampires, werewolves, serial killers, Switch cartridges, Renaissance Era artworks: there are few things I haven’t touched with my lips. However, having spent weeks of reflection and research, I have come across one thing I haven’t smooched: Eldritch, world-ending gods. This changes today with Sucker for Love.
As Destructoid’s foremost expert on dating sims by the authority of “because I said so,” it has fallen to me to try and seduce the unknowable gods of Lovecraftian lore. Thankfully, I’ve prepared for this day. You may recall from long ago that I developed a special system for judging the quality of this branch of visual novel. Now it’s time to whip it out again. Join me in calling forth the five metrics that make up the crucible for dating sims. Prospects, Enjoyability, Novelty, Intensity, and Sexiness: these forces combine to make the mythical P.E.N.I.S. rating system.
Now let’s slap it against some unknowable horrors.
Sucker for Love: First Date (PC)
Publisher: Dread XP
Released: January 20, 2022
As mentioned, Sucker for Love is your opportunity to lay those lips on some Lovecraftian lovelies. From the outset, there is Ln’eta, who is essentially a gender-swapped Cthulhu. Before being introduced to the other interests, you must brave her affections and ride out the end of reality with the lingering sensation of her lips. Lips? Whatever.
Then there is Estir, the gender-swapped Hastur, who gets my thighs rubbing together every time she says “Yhtil” (hnngg). She’s the King in Yellow, the Unspeakable One, She Who is Not to be Named, but you can just call her your majesty.
It’s up to you to choose which of these unknowable terrors from beyond the cosmos you want to pucker up for but be careful. The Elder Gods will not abide by you dipping your tonsils in someone else’s pie.
There is a third horror to sate your thirst for world-ending romance, but I won’t spoil it.
There’s a lot of flavors of Dating Sim. Some of them are essentially just visual novels where you make choices that affect the outcome, others hand you an agenda and make you manage your schedule so you’re worthy enough for love. Sucker for Love is neither of those, and it isn’t like anything else in the genre, either.
Sucker for Love is, boiled down, a series of rituals you must complete as you grow closer to your Lovecraftian lover and gradually unravel the fabric of reality. This isn’t difficult; you make sure the stage is set, then chant the words that will draw you towards your doom. If you do everything correctly, you’re guaranteed to land your nightmarish smooch, but there’s more to the game than that. There are multiple endings to each of the three chapters, and to ensure you get them all, you need to screw the rituals up in just the right way.
Considering my most endearing quality is my pervasive incompetence, this is perfect for me.
In the great sea of dating sims, one themed around the H.P. Lovecraft mythos is honestly not that unique. However, the clever writing, narrative tone, and its eccentric gameplay make it stand way, way out among its peers.
The only place Sucker for Love really loses points is in its approach to dating. The chapters, on their own, aren’t very long, so you don’t get to spend much time with your future master. It’s also just a progression of rituals, so you’re not exactly learning about a world-destroying deities passion for Ikebana. It doesn’t really end up feeling like you’re getting to know a selection of possible partners. It’s more that you’re prodding the margins of reality to find the places it will tear. Eventually, you’ll probably wind up on your knees for each of the impossible horrors, which I find somewhat disappointing for a dating sim.
I prefer to be loyal to my chosen destructor.
Normally, this heading would be used to tell you exactly how many kinks the developer was able to cram into their narrative and whether or not you should make that investment into a vinyl bedcover if you haven’t already. However, the protagonist of Sucker for Love is really just out for smooching. I’m not sure why you’d kill your ambition at first base, but maybe he’s bashful around the prospect of unending torment and madness. I’d say it’s almost wholesome, but then you rip a mask that is affixed to your face to keep your precarious love triangle going.
The game actually starts with a content warning about self-harm and suicide, but really, what video game based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft doesn’t end in suicide. Sucker for Love has one of the most upbeat approaches to violence I have ever witnessed. The mere fact that the protagonist is willing to doom humanity to lock lips with a dreamer from the corpse city of Rl’yeh, just tickles me to the core. The fact that part of romance involves coping with the rending of reality is a bit on the nose, however.
So, you may still need that vinyl bedcover, but it’s to prevent all the gore from staining your sheets.
Now for the question everyone has been asking, “do we get to see an eldritch tit.” No. I’m sorry. The world ends without a flash of unknowable nipple.
The whole thing is actually really PG. There are few jokes that even make reference to anything lewd. All those tentacles and nowhere to put them.
If we take a look at the always hyper-accurate P.E.N.I.S., it appears that Sucker for Love has the right equipment, but fails to perform. Really, it’s a matter of expectations. If you go into Sucker for Love with the expectation that it will end horizontally, then you’re out of luck. However, if you just want to have a good time and see where things go, that’s awfully boring but you’re more likely to enjoy yourself.
One thing that I didn’t enjoy was the thrashing mass of glitches I had to go through to land my lips on target. While there were plenty of minor annoyances, the worst showed its tentacled face during the climactic last chapter. If you follow one ritual, it crashes the game. You have to complete a lot of rituals in sequence at the end, and while they’re mostly random, this one just kept coming up, and it crashed every time. Maybe there’s a possibility to get through all the events without this one being pulled, but in all my attempts it didn’t happen, so I was just stuck, unable to actually complete the game.
I have faith that such a glaring issue will be fixed eventually, but I waited for its day one patch, and it didn’t fix the issue, so there it is. Bit of a mood killer. (Update: This bug has been patched, tested, and confirmed fixed. The finale is worth it.)
If we take our eyes off what the P.E.N.I.S. is suggesting for a minute, Sucker for Love is a wholly enjoyable experience. The writing is hilarious and clever; especially a treat for anyone who has a Necronomicon on their shelf. Its approach to the genre is completely irreverent, and it pulls it off so well it’s flattering. It’s certainly not the longest visual novel you will find, but it’s worth forfeiting your sanity to summon. Just beware of the bugs that crawl beneath its skin.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]