Let me start by saying I’m the biggest sucker for cute visual novel type games especially when there’s romance involved. Arcade Spirits is a favourite of mine, with its gorgeous visuals, engaging story, and beautiful and genuine characters. When Lovingly Evil came our way, created by Lizard Hazard Games and published by Green Man Gaming, I snatched it up readily and excitedly.

Lovingly Evil is a dating simulator, visual novel type game. You’re a villain at a villain conference, and you’ll chat to a number of other bad guys too with a range of possible romantic and friendly endings. There are mini games along the way depending on the characters you chat to, and you’ll get to know them all more and more. You get to choose who you approach the most and, effectively, what you do with your day.

It’s very clearly inspired by Arcade Spirits, and in all honesty I do not blame the developers because Arcade Spirits is fantastic. And honestly, the devs have done a very good job of replicating many of its best qualities. Engaging and gorgeous characters, branching dialogue, sleek, bright and super aesthetically pleasing art style – Lovingly Evil does all of these things well.

This is a really cute dating sim and the idea of having some gorgeous villain characters to flirt with is absolutely wonderful. Everyone loves a cute as hell bad guy, right?! It’s the law. And the characters are all great, and despite the evilness that unites them, you’ll find yourself becoming more and more invested in them, their stories, and in finding out how they became a ‘bad guy’ – and just because they are bad guys, it doesn’t mean they don’t have regrets, fears, etc. The characters are a true highlight of this game.

Reader, I now refuse to believe that Satan is a bad guy – he’s really just a smoking hot (no pun intended) softie at heart. You will fall head over heels for the characters. My only real complaint about them is that I wish there were more of them to get to know! And sometimes they just feel too damn likeable to be real bad guys – for me, though, I think that’s great. Lovable villains are just *chefs kiss*.

Art wise, this game is very pretty. The character designs are super creative, everything is vibrant and enjoyable to look at, and the whole aesthetic of the game is completely perfect. Not only that, but the customisation of your own character is wonderfully diverse and inclusive, with pronoun selection, a range of options, and the ability to date whoever you want. I spent so long just going through character creation, which is so much more exciting when you’re making a villain monster person. Medusa snake hair? Horns? Fangs? Three eyes? One eye? Oh man, that part is exciting. Create-your-own-villain would make great game in itself.

However much I loved the game, there were a few things that bothered me about it. A pretty common complaint, which I agree wholeheartedly with, is that the grill mini game that you’ll play when interacting with Satan is a real pain. It’s a memory-based, multitasking cooking game that feels quite challenging – but that’s not what’s bad about it. It’s the length of time it carries on for that makes it quite painful. Set a timer of maybe 2-3 minutes and it would be much more enjoyable. I don’t think it’s a bad concept in itself – but it’s too long, especially if you have to repeat it multiple times.

Having said that, Felix Von Gloomheart, the vampire, has a really fascinating mini game based around Victorian flower language and creating bouquets to send certain messages. Again, this would make a lovely little game in itself. It’s a fantastically creative concept for a mini game.

I would have liked slightly more structure and guidance to the narrative, like the sort of structure you see in Arcade Spirits, where it’s much easier to know that you’re on a specific path to a specific ending. I felt a bit aimless at times, unsure what was best to do to achieve the best results, and I think a more rigid system in terms of some guidance system would be a good quality of life change and would encourage more replayability. It does seem like guesswork a lot of the time, and whilst I understand why this is done, I personally would have preferred more guidance. If you like that element though, that’s great, and I understand why others would prefer this looser approach.

Yet overall, despite these few elements I would perhaps alter, Lovingly Evil is very much a triumph, and if you’re into sappy stuff and dating sims, you should definitely give it a shot. It’s a creative concept, it’s fun and quirky, and I would love to see it come to Nintendo Switch, where it would be a great fit – it’s currently available for PC and Mac. I would love to see it expanded in the future, with more villains to get to know, other environments, more customisables – the possibilities are endless!

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