I’ve made my love of otome games rather clear. There’s just something sickeningly sweet about a romance-choose-your-own adventure, especially when they have deep stories, or, at the very least, a fun hook to them. Pixel Puzzle Makeout League unfortunately doesn’t have much of either. While the gameplay is fun, if you enjoy Picross puzzles, the story holds water as well as a sieve. When it comes to otome and dating sims, that’s saying quite a bit.
I enjoy pixel puzzles, so it’s hardly surprising that I loved the puzzle portions of the game. You can customize your puzzle-solving experience as well, such as auto-filling completed rows/columns and turning hints on or off. One thing I did turn off within five puzzles was the timer. If you make a mistake, you lose time. If the timer runs out before completion, you have to start over. Timers ruin most games for me anyway, and I don’t like feeling rushed when solving a puzzle. After my first failure with a 15×15 puzzle, that baby went bye-bye.
There are really no problems with the pixel puzzles themselves. It’s a good thing they take up about 75% of the game, because they’re one of the game’s only saving graces. While I agree it can be challenging connecting a puzzle game with a story, especially a dating sim, I will happily point to Murder by Numb3rs as a game that does it extraordinarily well. Whereas that game’s story fit in with all of the puzzle solving, PPML tries to force the puzzles to fit like the wicked step-sisters trying on Cinderella’s glass slippers.
It features five wannabe superheroes who have the most useless super powers since the Inhuman who had barfing-up-objects powers in Marvel’s Secret Empire. The player character is Pixel Girl, a superhero with the ability to solve pixel puzzles. Then there’s Chess, Sudoku, and Crossword. I’ll let you figure out what their abilities are. Last, but not least, is a literal piece of a jigsaw puzzle, Piecea, who is an alien from the Puzzle Planet. At this point, why not, right?
As they work together in their Puzzle League to sort out how they can be useful, Villain shows up (seriously, his name is Villain) and threatens to destroy the world. He even summons a Puzzle Tower to execute his nefarious schemes. For whatever reason, only the Puzzle League can stop him. But first! Romance awaits!
Yeah, I really have no idea why other than reasons. When not storming the Tower, you can pair Pixel Girl up with another member of the League and watch them fawn all over each other way too fast. However, unlike typical otome, where the story can end with your choice, the story does not end with a culminating romance. In fact, the only way you can see the ending is if you follow through all four routes (which yes, includes the puzzle piece).
Here is where PPML takes its first interesting turn. After completing all of Pixel Girl’s romance routes, the finale begins with everyone, even Pixel Girl, remembering that she dated all of them. For this twist, and the super secret ending that I did not see coming, I give PPML a round of applause.
That said, though, it’s still an incredible reach to try to bind all of this together. I never once thought the puzzle solving meant or amounted to anything. While the story had an interesting conclusion, it still left open so many questions that just do not make sense. I can’t help but think that the developer just really liked this style of puzzle, and so they hammered a story around the puzzles, like hammering in a square peg into a round hole.
If you enjoy these types of puzzles and are curious how you can mack on a jigsaw puzzle piece, then perhaps give Pixel Puzzle Makeout League a try. If you just like these puzzles, have you tried Murder by Numb3rs?