One glance at The Language of Love on Steam should give you a reasonable idea of its intent – tagged with things like “Nudity”, “Sexual Content”, and it comes with a free “adult patch”. No shame here of course, but this probably isn’t a game many people are properly reading into. This is so clear as it has in-depth auto-scroll functions and there isn’t a single choice to be made throughout the entire game. You just sit back and watch. Unfortunately, its story is too bland and also a little too creepy to offer a charming experience.
As far as gameplay is concerned, the most you’ll do throughout your time in Language of Love is tap the A button to continue past a line, and maybe press LB to go back if you’ve missed something. This gives you plenty of time to watch the visuals and listen to the music. Luckily, the visuals are quite good. Characters have bright, expressive anime eyes that admittedly clash a bit with the dreary backgrounds. Things like an overcast day in a park have an almost watercolour style to them as they blend in greys and dark colours, yet a little girl stands bright in the centre of frame. You could almost argue it could be poetic if it leaned into this more and the world started to brighten around her – alas it does not do this and comes off feeling inconsistent instead.
This little girl (Tama) is the catalyst to your story in a sense, but not a bright one. Playing as 23-year-old college student Mitsuki, you are a bit of a social outcast, left alone as you are older than your colleagues. You are unwilling to go out and do sociable things, starting to become a Hikikomori – a shut-in who retreats from society – as a response. You lock yourself away and only go out to retain your job and role at college. This plays into a tragically common trope in Japanese media – if you keep your head down and work yourself to death, your solution will just come along and solve your issues. If you just keep going, one day you might meet a nice lady. This is achieved through said nice lady’s daughter – an admittedly creepy premise.
On your way home, you pass the gates of a small playground. Standing in the middle with tears in her eyes is little Tama. She is frantically searching around in the sand and dirt for a key; she had been left alone at home but managed to lose her key at the park and can’t return without it. After a strange conversation that could be an extended scene from It, she decides to go with you to your house as you are no longer a stranger and are, in fact, friends now.
You dry off her hair with a towel and discuss her home life. Tama tells you about her mum Himuro and how she sometimes leaves her alone till late. It has some quite sweet dialogue talking about her dislike of green peppers, but mostly feels rather flat at both imitating a child and imitating a 23-year-old boy. A lot of the dialogue feels a bit forced and the main character goes off on little tangents in his mind that don’t flourish into anything interesting. The dialogue feels much more like random descriptive sentences than anything fleshed-out.
The mother in question feels very much the same: she fails to feel human. After feeding Tama, Himuro stops by and informs you she was mugged and had to fill out a police report, which kept her waiting so long. This sort of sets up her character lazily. She is docile and has little agency of her own. Himuro feels like just an extension of Tama and Tama becomes an extension of you. After retrieving her child – that you looked after all day – you immediately hit on her (no choice was given of course) and she welcomes it, but this is right off the back of a rather strange dynamic. This way of looking after her child to get close to her is unknowingly creepy. It doesn’t feel premeditated or predatory but sets up a strange dynamic where an older woman is reliant on you to watch her child so she has to keep you in her good books, so to speak.
Himuro is a rather perpetually sad character. Even as she was being mugged, she didn’t want to call out to people around her as she didn’t want to disturb them – another sad trope from Japanese media. This isn’t something that is criticised or talked about; rather something praised by the main character, reinforcing that creepy relationship dynamic. She does develop some sense of agency throughout the story, but honestly it’s not much worth mentioning. The growth of characters feels thoroughly inorganic in having most things just… happen.
Whilst the visuals are nice, some of the writing is okay and the music is palatable, there is little else to like here with The Language of Love on Xbox One. When it isn’t relying on a romance story by numbers, it plays into very creepy tropes and strange dynamics in ways that made me feel rather uncomfortable. This being said, if you go into settings and push the dialogue speed up and set the skip text option, you can get the best part of 1000 Gamerscore in the space of a few minutes. If you’re thinking of playing it, let me pop the question – why bother?