Lover Pretend: ain’t no pretending here

Lover Pretend is an Otomate title from Design Factory Co., and was published and localised by Aksys Games on December 1, 2022. As a romantic comedy on the more light-hearted side of things, Lover Pretend offers up something a lot more digestible and easy-going than the harder hitting otomes that are currently available on the Nintendo Switch.

But with the likes of Piofiore: Fated Memories, Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei and even the fantastically delightful Cupid Parasite, is Lover Pretend a noteworthy addition in this ever expanding catalogue on this system?

Thank you to the developer for providing us with a review code. This is a spoiler-free write-up.

Pretend lovers? Only initially

Lover Pretend

Lover Pretend follows its heroine Chiyuki Ueda, an aspiring scriptwriter whose, alongside developing her career, hopes to one day track down her father. Since her mother has already passed on, the only clue Chiyuki has to go by is with the only finalised script her mother ever finished. With that lead to go on, Chiyuki begins working as an assistant whilst still at university. The film she ends up working on brings together the sons of the staff members who were working on her mother’s film.

Depending on who she ultimately becomes involved with, having to pretend to be in a relationship with one of the love interests is how each storyline progresses. Chiyuki gradually gets closer to the truth about her father, learns what it means to fall in love and ends up in a position where she is able to write her own romantic script. She sees the love interests grow and develop thanks to their developing bond, too. It is a shame, then, that the game fails to do anything significant with its plot threads, themes and ideas.

Pretending to find value in Pretend Time

While the entire premise of Lover Pretend is pretending to be lovers, this setup goes out the window quickly once any of its routes actually commence. The Pretend Time minigame therefore feels off in terms of how frequently it occurs; it sometimes even comes across as blatantly lying to characters rather than for the sake of the main scenario.

While these situations vary, such as when Chiyuki has to convince or debate with another character, its implementation is not only tiresome the more times it appears – not helped by the same pop track playing each and every time – but it is poorly utilised in the grand context of things, often hurting the narrative rather than aiding it.

It’s a shame, considering this is a definite element of Lover Pretend — not to mention the fact that it’s an intriguing twist on the usual format of visual novel choices found elsewhere in the genre. If implemented a little better, Pretend Time would have been a massive selling point for Lover Pretend, but its poor implementation just feels out of place.

Playing pretend, the game

Lover Pretend’s key characters are pretending in some way for the majority of their storylines. We have student Harumi, who conceals his nerdy otaku interests; model Yukito, who is literally playing up a persona; apprentice hair and makeup artist Kazuma, who is not only fooling himself but everyone around him about his true feelings; and actor Riku, who is also, of course, acting a part.

Much of the character development comes from the love interests specifically showing who they really are as their bond deepens with Chiyuki. That’s not to say that it is the most rewarding of experiences, however. The love interests of Lover Pretend are not just selfish, but in some cases even cross a line into being outright detestable.

Certain ones are so self-centred that their goals completely oversteps Chiyuki’s, while the other guys’ development for the better often happens when it’s too late. It was nowhere near as effective as Variable Barricade’s writing, for example. In fact, a certain love interest’s true colours being eventually revealed completely obliterates his character, resulting in quite a bitter, downer ending even if it’s the best one achieved. If I am to be brutally honest, this is one of the weakest love interest pools within any localised otome I have ever played.

A hard pill to swallow

Lover Pretend is occasionally funny — thankfully, considering its romcom premise. But the amount of laughs it gets is nowhere near as frequent as something like Cupid Parasite, still a benchmark title for this type of game.

With a prologue chapter and only three more that follow before players get into character routes, many of the most enjoyable aspects of Lover Pretend are quickly lost. The conversations between certain supporting characters are a guaranteed riot, but as one can expect once getting into a route, we don’t see anywhere near as much of these non-critical dynamics, as the spotlight is put firmly on a pairing between Chiyuki and a love interest.

The amount of other major grievances with the game includes Chiyuki’s shockingly lacklustre agency as its heroine. Routes tend to put the emphasis on the love interests, often completely negating her goal of finding her father — which does, of course, only get answered within its true route. The true ending features a suggestive incest coupling as the supposed carrot dangling on the stick throughout the majority of it. It was an uncomfortable storyline, made all the worse when it is more than evident that this doesn’t feature any satisfying payoff.

Other headaches and heartaches with the game

System-wise, Lover Pretend gets the job done. Its options allow for blind playthroughs since the Love Catch can be turned off, the Pretend Time minigame can be skipped entirely and its voice volume controls actually came in handy due to its music tending to be much louder than the voice actors.

The game also features chapter jumping, thankfully, and this even allows you to manually alter the relationship meter to obtain endings more easily. There’s also plenty of bonus content after clearing each route, including Back Stage scenarios and profiles for each love interest, as well as the standard dictionary, ending list, movie and photo gallery and music player. As an aside, I found the music so lacklustre I have to wonder how the game got an online exclusive edition with a Soundtrack CD in the first place.

With four bad endings, one good ending and one best ending across four routes (other than the locked true route, which has only one ending due to its short length), the game has the potential to take up to 40-odd hours to fully complete, with much of that being quite tedious for me. To say that I found playing through Lover Pretend a challenge is an understatement, but it could very well be your cup of tea.


Lover Pretend is exactly as light-hearted and mindless as many have already labelled it as. What might initially appear to be angst or challenges faced by characters are rarely serious, and these matters are often resolved in the span of minutes — another major grievance in my eyes, but your mileage may vary.

At its best, Lover Pretend is downright cosy at times, with plenty of tropes celebrated or played up, and plenty of the fanservice you’d expect from an Otomate IP — including series fanservice as well as the sexy kind.

A memorable example of this is with the many posters adorning the studio hallways in the background art – though it’s a sort of shame that when we spot Piofiore’s poster it acts more as a reminder that we should be replaying that instead of experiencing this.

To put it bluntly, I found Lover Pretend a meandering bore. Considering the many difficulties behind the scenes and the way it changed hands in terms of writers numerous times, it’s perhaps not a surprise that the story turned out as poor as it did, and equally no surprise that the title as a whole is not exactly a resounding success.

It is arguably one of the weakest otomes available in English as of now, but if you have exhausted every other localised title to date then give Lover Pretend a look into. Just make sure to temper those expectations.

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Lilia Hellal
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