Take this title with a grain of salt; depending on who you are and the type of video game player you happen to be, From Madness with Love may drive you well and truly up the wall. This J-indie game is a goofy dating sim after all so imagine that it comes from the same questionable universe of Doki Doki Literature Club (remember that a gender bent version exists) and Billionaire Lovers. But if you’re familiar enough with either one of them, then you will already know that not only do these titles dip their toes into meme culture, but their notoriety comes from how much darker its unassumingly cute romances end up being.
Developed by Jamsanpoid and VampireK.K and published by PLAYISM for Windows and Mac OS in English, From Madness with Love is the latest within this subgenre of dating sims turned horror games. It’s intentionally unconventional so if you are looking for an otome that goes against the grain then you are in the right place. At the same time it’s quite a ruthless experience since its happy endings range from being bittersweet to tragic to downright depressing. The content you will inevitably stumble in the game goes to dark and heavy places, and no amount of its spoiler-free content warning will be enough to provide you with a heads up to its most insane twists and revelations.
But first, let’s meet its pursuable guys. There are four “romanceable” characters in From Madness with Love. Saeki Yuusuke is a friendly and sociable guy who knows the main character from school. He speaks in complete gibberish. Arakawa Shuuji is the seemingly polite and sweet teacher and nurse of the high school. His unintelligible speech manages to unmask subtle clues to his darker side. The all occult knowing young boy prefers to sleep and eat rather than talk to anyone, and when he does it’s only to throw insults or curse out others. Finally, Aorta is a hard-working, senior student who speaks in a foreign language.
Considering just how short the game is, the plot isn’t too deep. Its main character (who you name yourself) is transferred into a private, prestigious high school. From there you will choose how she lives out her first school year and who she cosies up to, both romantically and platonically speaking – but depending on just how much of the game you want to see out, you should be going from friends to lovers in order to fully experience all that the title has to offer. This will include both good and bad endings, with both being present for all four of its character routes.
Do keep in mind that said character routes are the shortest part of the game, taking up to barely 10 minutes to play through for a game that should take no longer than around 8 hours to finish. That is if you are reading at a normal pace and letting all the voice lines get delivered.
You can’t help but Love it
It probably goes without saying but it is best to experience the game blind, so its sudden and surprising route derailing and revelations are not spoiled for you. Just keep in mind that the game is purposely dark and depressing, offering barely any closure, let alone a happy ending to anyone really. Speaking of, said content warning as written on Steam’s store page of the game is as follows: “strong language, sensitive topics, violence, horror, unreasonable scenarios, intelligible nonsense, and very loud noises.”
But on that note, this information is exactly why the game is so delightful to play. Titles like those similar to that of Courtin’ Cowboys are an obscure diamond in the rough for offering content as wild and dark as it is, and a product like From Madness with Love is all the more charming in its unique elements. Namely, its gorgeous pixel art style makes each and every CG a sight to behold, and there’s quite a number of them to collect despite its runtime. There’s 58 in total just by the way.
Additionally, the game’s characters – other than the main character – are fully voiced with the original Japanese voice cast. It’s greatly satisfying and it is made all the better with attention to detail being paid that really seals the deal on the details of its world. Notably, Aorta speaks in an indecipherable foreign language, so his speech is distorted.
Admittedly, starting up the game can be pretty tough when only its main character is relatable, or rather, understandable. But the beauty of the questionable product in question here is how its focal characters gradually reveal their true colours, for better or for worse. Since the majority of its playtime is mostly treating us to an unorthodox comedy, its four main boys’ backstories add some much needed depth to their quite contained storylines and depths. Each guy’s particular communication shtick is to hide quite a shocking secret, but through such exploration of their challenging ordeals and harrowing truths your efforts to communicate and understand them results in their own raised comfortability and reassurance in you seeing who they really are.
It’s kind of wholesome if you look at it a particular way, regardless of how twisted the end results tend to be. Basically, From Madness with Love is a colourful, dark humoured otome that will surprise you as much as it entertains you. It’s surreal, but at the same time, it offers the same amount of fluff and even more smexy moments than one typically gets from the genre – I’m still recovering from the sex bomb that is Arakawa even to this day.
Conclusion and tips
When romance and psychological horror comes together in a perfect match like it does here, with a female main character to boot, From Madness with Love is the kind of dating sim I wish would grace us much more often than it currently does. For £14.29 I cannot recommend this game enough.
But before we close this one out here are a few tips that I hope will help you out before you go into this one blind:
- To successfully confess to the character you are aiming to romance, you would have had to encounter them as often as possible to get their “happy” ending. This can be tracked via the affinity meter visually illustrated in the config tab.
- Save often throughout any playthrough, especially during a selection. This helps to more effectively backtrack to not only pick the better option to max out your affinity meter but apply this same logic to more efficiently unlock the entire CG gallery with no more than two playthroughs of each route.
- If you’re really struggling with Aorta in particular his dialogue actually gets revealed whenever you pull the log up. Find this at the bottom of the text box during the game.
- The noise whenever you pick a selection can be annoying, so you can turn it down from the config tab during the game. It cannot be opened via the main menu screen.