Some games create a genre. Princess Maker is one of those games. It helped found the niche simulation where a player is in charge of raising an orphan as their own. Their future depends on the decisions you make for them. Many games try to offer a similar experience, and one of them is Love Story: You Belong with Me. While this mobile game doesn’t exactly nail it, it tries so hard.
This is a serious “A for effort” situation. Yes, it’s a little money hungry. You need to pay an additional fee at the outset, should you want to raise a son. Only a daughter is available for free. It’s clearly made by developers who had to allow for adjustments to create a Princess Maker-esque experience on an Apple or Android device. It makes you pay real cash for extra gold or premium outfits. All of these things could hamper the experience, but not enough to keep someone from falling into a “one more month” mentality.
The story is barely there in Love Story: You Belong with Me. It alludes to a war between humans and demons, with Lucifer locked away and a tenuous peace in place. Your character, who could be a man or woman, is a former adventurer caring for a child he or she found. This kid has a supernatural nature that’s somehow connected to that past conflict, as you can probably guess. Your goal is to dictate the child’s monthly schedule until the age of 18, at which point the offspring will go off into the world and hopefully find a place for him or herself.
What helps is how well Love Story: You Belong with Me is handled. While it does offer opportunities to sink real cash in, you can do everything without paying. Outfits influence stats, but you don’t have to buy the premium clothing. The standard clothing works fine. Besides, the child grows so quickly that it isn’t even worth investing in outfits until she’s wearing the “large” size. You could create a cash cushion, so the child never has to worry about working and can focus on schooling, but the stat boosts that come from jobs are worth the effort. Ads aren’t invasive, since they appear at the bottom of the screen, so there’s no reason to pay to remove them either.
Love Story: You Belong with Me even does a few things Princess Maker doesn’t. The ability to choose a son instead of a daughter is one, though I doubt many will pay the $9.99 needed to make him available. I’m referring to its free gameplay features. I found the monthly summaries most helpful. At the end of every month, you see her stat gains and losses from the chosen activities. It helps you better chart your progress and understand which classes might or might not be right for her.
It also does a good job of telling you how to unlock new things. Granted, the broken English can make deciphering some of it a little difficult. (You have to meet Leslie multiple times to unlock the Orphanage in-town, then you actually have to visit the Orphanage on a free-time visit to unlock the Orphanage Assistant position.) Still, it’s quite clear. Want to work as a Physician? Take the Medicine class 25 times. Does dealing Blackjack sound appealing? Get the Charisma stat up to 100 and Rebellious past 50. Learning Alchemy means you need to have 100 Intelligence and 50 Rebellious points, then visit Wizard Alley. The requirements make sense, as do the means of unlocking them.
Sending the child off to make friends makes more sense too. While you don’t always get resolution from getting one of the six possible friend/lover candidates up to five hearts, it is still sweet to see the kid getting closer to other people in town over the years. In the case of characters like Leslie and Snow, we get to see them grow alongside our virtual child. It’s all very defined and well organized, with clearer relationship statuses than Princess Maker.
My only complaint is that there isn’t quite the resolution you’d hope for and expect. You don’t get the same payoff from Love Story: You Belong with Me as you do with Princess Maker. It’s more like the satisfaction comes from the actual organization and scheduling, rather than the ending. Still, given what this game is and that someone could be playing for free, it’s a forgivable flaw.
Honestly, forgivably flawed is perhaps the best way to describe Love Story: You Belong with Me. It’s a Princess Maker-like that absolutely has its issues. It isn’t perfect. Yet, it’s thoroughly enjoyable for what it is. There’s still a sense of satisfaction that comes from raising this virtual child, especially if you aren’t paying for it.