Play It: Love's Cadence

Sometimes, a video game succeeds in spite of its flaws. On this edition of Play It, we'll take look at an art game that works so well thematically that it succeeds in its author's intent. Love's Cadence is an online platformer/art game from Red Harvest. You play as Cadence, a young woman, pursuing Dirk, the man she loves. She'll climb over mountains, jump through pits, and follows any lead she can for her feelings. Her heart is her guide and no amount of logical thinking or warning will stop her.

The first thing that sets Love's Cadence apart from other art games is the platforming element. This isn't a WASD/arrow keys control scheme just thrown in to be called a game. Actually negotiating platforms and puzzles is integral to the story. Life or death is the greatest stake in the game and being able to fail repeatedly to reach that ideal life only helps the narrative of the game. The controls are not as precise as they should be, but neither is any ideal romance. There will be problems and being able to miss something important because of a minor slip-up only enhances that.

The more precise and engaging element of the control scheme is the mouse integration. You use the mouse to interact with specific objects on the screen. You can talk to other people, but you can also evolve or destroy natural elements. A simple rose can grow to be an evergreen tree or a large boulder can be turned to sand to open a secret passage. The game does not penalize you for exploring every combination so long as you're willing to go back and reset the screen by moving on or starting again. It's a dynamic element that verges on foreshadowing when you become confronted with statues of Cadence and Dirk that can be destroyed.

The two major puzzles--a looping screen of three levels of platforms and a maze of sound--are as maddening as any relationship can be. You try and you try to figure out what you're doing wrong until you realize you need to ask or listen. There's no shame in communicating in this game. Talk to everyone you can and go from there.

What makes Love's Cadence work is its flaws. The animation is nicely stylized and the sounds are great, but the way to beat the game--solutions to puzzles, clues, and controls--force you to start relying on more than just your greater goal. You're pursuing Dirk as he flees from you, but you can't lose sight of Cadence to get there.

The Link Rally: 7 December 2011

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Frank Wildhorn?