In Love Life, as in real life, relationships only grow more complicated with time. Conchita is unhappy because her friend Ezekiel moved away from the town after achieving ultimate relationship bliss (thanks to my exceptional matchmaking skills), so now she doesn't have anyone to buy skull jewellery with. My issue is that, what with Ezekiel moving, there aren't any Edgy residents left who like skull jewellery, and if I don't get Conchita's problem sorted before Friday then her girlfriend Marilyn's scheduled proposal could end up going awry. I could move a new, Edgy couple into Ezekiel's old house, but there's no guarantee Conchita would meet either of them in time. Hm.
In the end I wasn't able to find anyone for Conchita to be friends with. The proposal was a bust and my reputation as a love guru took a hit. Kitty Powers' Love Life has a lot more for you to consider than Kitty Powers' Matchmaker. Where you could call the original a kind of dating sim, Love Life is basically a management sim, where what you manage is relationships.
If you're familiar with Matchmaker you'll be at home in Love Life: the art style, dating profiles and many of the assets are the same, and a few of the mini-game puzzles you use to improve a character's mood (or damage it if you screw up) roll over from Matchmaker too. You can even import successfully matched couples from it into Love Life. You may find yourself so at home, in fact, that you find it a bit stale to start with and, like the little lovebirds in your care, yearn to do something a bit fresher – but luckily there's a lot that's new in Love Life as well.
More than just matching likely couples and shepherding them through dates, you now have to deal with the happily ever after by helping couples through engagement, marriage and beyond as they live in a village of other couples under your care, kind of like that episode of Black Mirror but with less technological horror and more double entendre from a drag queen. Keeping a relationship off the rocks entails everything from managing their friendships, getting them a job they like, and making sure they have fun things to do in their down time.
New challenges include successfully helping residents through proposals, vows, job interviews, arguments, remembering pin numbers, finding lost items, rewiring a plug, hypnotherapy, and keeping conversation fresh. How much you enjoy each of them will probably vary. I for one never got tired of Kitty cooing 'It's time to release the love eggs!' when I was choosing conversation topics from a tombola, juggling ingredient ratios when making smoothies, or the logic puzzle of a hypnotherapy session, but remembering vows at weddings was a bit of a chore.
You also have to figure out what's bothering a resident when they have a problem, by going over their behaviour of the last few days, noticing what they've been complaining about, and then booking a solution into their schedule (which they mostly sort out themselves, filling it with things like sleeping, eating, watching saucy movies or, if your town is boring, staring out of the window). The longer a couple is together, the more they start to annoy one another with bad habits or selfish behaviour, so you need to get them on the way to marital bliss and out of the village as quickly as you can. On the other hand, if you rush into marriage or proposal then one of them may not be ready, or the relationship as a whole may suffer. Consequently, when you do finally manage to get a problem couple out of the village after three failed attempts at getting married and barely anything for them to talk about anymore, it's very satisfying.
Once again you can advertise to different stereotypes: Edgy, Geeky, Arty, Sporty, Hippy, Chic, Vintage, Practical, Glam, and Hipster, and they each have different tastes in pastimes, places and people. You'll need to plan your use of space carefully, but the residents' interests can overlap sometimes. Hippies and Edgy types both like the forest, because you can commune with nature or collect animal skulls there, but if you try and push mismatched types together and force them to be friends, they can actually end up as enemies. Which is another problem to deal with! No rest for the wicked.
To start with the game can move a bit slowly, though, as you need to level up your Love Coach license to get a permit for more residents. Until you hit three couples in the town you'll find neither you or they end up having much to do, with fewer locations and characters meaning you end up doing the same mini-games several times. After the half-way mark, though, it becomes a pleasing test of organisation to manage all the couples' needs, wants and schedules, as well as your own income. More couples means more rent and tips, but also more expenditure as you get new locations, houses and utilities; higher reputation means more affluent couples, but also harder challenges as they're more difficult to please. It all gets a bit frantic.
It's certainly more difficult than Matchmaker, but you do start to get attached to the couples as a result. I felt very sorry for Conchita, stuck in a town with no one to be friends with, and when Ashley wanted to propose while Levi was lukewarm about the whole thing at best, I wanted to profusely apologise for my bad management of their relationship. At the end of the week Kitty herself comes by with a clipboard and a stern expression to precisely tally your successes and failures. And you do so want her to be proud of you.
Developer: Magic Notion
Publisher: Magic Notion
Available on: PC [reviewed on], iOS, Android, Amazon App store
Release Date: February 8, 2018