It’s not uncommon to see a game that combines visual novel storytelling with another genre of gameplay. Adventure games and RPGs are especially common visual novel hybrids. Rhythm game visual novels don’t come up often, however, but that’s exactly what the upcoming game Serial Lover is. It’s a visual novel that features gameplay segments in the form of rhythm games that let you seduce and date your chosen love interest—and in this game, they’re all serial killers.
Now, when I read that description of Serial Lover, I assumed that meant the characters were serial killers in the context of the story, and circumstances would put you in a position where you would need to seduce them. I was rather taken by surprise to realize that the love interests are actually gender-swapped versions of real-life serial killers.
There are six possible romance options in the game: five female love interests based on male serial killers and one male love interest based on a female serial killer. To me, this feels somewhat in poor taste, especially due to how recent they are. With the exception of Ben Gunness, whose namesake Belle Gunness lived over 100 years ago, all of these killers are fairly modern. It’s meant to be a parody and use the names for familiarity, but it still left me feeling weird about it throughout the demo. On the other hand, Serial Lover had a successful Kickstarter campaign, so there must be a market for dating gender-swapped famous murderers.
Anyway, the start of the demo sets up the basic premise: you’ve all awoken in a strange house with no knowledge of how you got there. Once you meet your companions—who don’t seem as though they’ll get along very well—you need to pick someone to spend the night with, since there are conveniently not enough rooms for everyone. Only two of the six characters are available in the demo, so you can choose to stay with either Andria Chikatilo or Edwina Gein. Then you seduce your chosen love interest… by playing a rhythm game!
If your health gets too low during the rhythm game, you’ll die and need to start over, presumably because your love interest killed you. Multiple difficulty settings are available for the rhythm games, as well the option to change the speed. This should make the game fairly accessible to players who aren’t good at rhythm games while still providing a good challenge for rhythm game fans. The two songs available in the demo are different enough to suggest there should be a fair amount of variety in the final game.
Story-wise, Serial Lover presents two great mysteries. First, the protagonist’s identity is unknown, as you have no memory of your past. You choose your own name, but your gender and appearance are left unstated. Second, no one knows why they’ve been brought to stay in the house together. In addition to these mysteries in the overarching story, each character route should have its own story as well—although once again, the characters being based on actual people makes me wonder how their backstories will be handled.
There isn’t enough story content in the demo to particularly hook me just yet, and the premise feels a bit weird, but the art has a distinctive style and the rhythm games seem solid. It’s an unusual combination of ideas, and it will be interesting to see where the full game goes.