First date material

There was a time, many years ago now, when the word “flappy” inspired joy and dread in equal measure. In the battle of who would win: the productivity of the entire phone-owning population VS one flappy boi, Flappy Bird conquered like few mobile games before it. Dong Nguyen went so far as to remove his creation from distribution just to get some control of his life back after its explosion of popularity, which led to a rush of spinoffs and clones in an attempt to fill the massive hunger for flaps. Years have passed, but flappy-games persist to this day. So why not one where you play as a middle aged man propelled exclusively by libido?

Mon Amour is by Onion Games, a tiny Japanese studio that I’ve been fond of for well over a decade. Many of their entries center on themes of love, relationships, and finding some kind of peace in a chaotic world. MA is no different. Well ok, it is different, otherwise I wouldn’t have had that whole flappy preamble above. It’s a mostly dialogue-free game about a man who just wanted to have a normal wedding, and due to some witch-y intervention now needs to smooch literally every one of her friends in order to get her back. If I interpreted the cutscene interludes correctly she’s not…super thrilled about this particular strategy, but such is life and such is love.

So yeah, this is a flappy game. You automatically move forward. You have one button. That button flaps, pushing your character upwards. Go a moment without hitting the button and you’ll fall. When the store page jokes that there’s a 99% chance you die as soon as the game starts, that’s what they mean. MA takes place in a world with particularly strong gravity and you’ll need to do some work on that button if you intend to make Isaac Newton look like a fool.

Your smooch adventure will be challenged by a variety of obstacles, though perhaps not as much of a variety as one would hope. Most hazards are stationary objects: buildings, walls, floaty-things, what have you, presented in various arrangements. Later levels introduce some more interesting hurdles to jump but the majority of the level-to-level spice comes from the presentation more than the actual gameplay. Many of your romantic targets will have a visual gimmick and the obstacles will match, but with rare exception they won’t actually behave differently from one another. Later levels are only a bit better in this regard. Flappy games be flappin’.

The game takes place over 50 levels, each a single screen with a character to smooch on the other side. This takes a matter of seconds per level. Every level # ending in 9 is randomized from a special set of characters, but you’ll need to see all of them in order to get the true ending. This requires a bit of grind via resets, though not an excessive amount thanks to being able to start from any given level you’ve previously cleared. Jump in at #8, see who you get for #9, repeat until all unlocks are had. That said, it’s still kind of silly that this procedure is needed at all. I would have preferred to have the level chain be all 64 possible smooches in a row than force dozens of extra plays at the mercy of RNG just to make tangible progress.

I also find myself a bit torn with regard to the value prop here. We always complete every game we review here, sometimes going further depending on what “complete” actually means for any given game. In MA’s case I beat it so quickly that I felt compelled to 100% the achievement list. That took me 3 hours. Price isn’t normally a focus in our reviews but at the list price of $9 this one feels especially rough. Full disclosure, I snagged this on a significant sale (about $3) and it still felt underwhelming. 

“Underwhelming” is basically the word of the day here, as there really isn’t much to recommend in Mon Amour. I really wanted to see why Onion Games got flappy with it, how they were going to reinterpret that core mechanism into something greater than itself like they usually do, but it just never quite cleared the bar they’ve set for themselves in their prior work. I’m not even talking about their older, “larger” titles like Chulip or Rule of Rose that were made for consoles on larger budgets. Dandy Dungeon turned its simple puzzle concept into a dizzyingly deep dungeon crawler, Black Bird told a simple sad story with incredible panache, and even Million Onion Hotel managed to tell a bizarre experimental tale powered by tapping your phone screen. Mon Amour’s only “joke” is laid bare in the first 10 minutes. Rather than follow up with more zingers or attempt to subvert your expectations, it then proceeds to elbow you in the ribs going “Eh? Ehhhh? It’s funny right?” for the rest of the playthrough. And…no, no it isn’t, not the 5th or 10th or however many-th time. You flap, you smooch, you repeat until you get bored. Sorry mister mustachioed man, I’m swiping left.

A copy of this game was independently purchased for review.