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05th Jul 2018

The Love Island video game is insane – and also sort of worth playing

Featuring Allegra, a bitchy ‘cocktail entrepreneur’ from Swansea

Wil Jones

Like Final Fantasy, but with more grafting

In between commercials for breast augmentation and endless Keith Lemon shows, there’s one thing that has really caught my eye during the advert breaks of Love Island. Almost every single break features an ad for Love Island The Game – a free-to-play mobile app based in the villa.

You’d expect this to be a cheap, simple Candy Crush knock-off, designed to rake in a few quick bucks off impressionable LI fans. But instead, it seemed to be some sort of story-based game. I was intrigued, so I fired up Google Play.

And, damn, it is wild. I mean, just look at this thing.

So, the thing that hit me first is that it is essentially an example of a ‘visual novel’ or a ‘dating sim’, a genre popular in Japan. If you are a regular Love Island viewer, there’s a good chance you are not familiar with niche video games that don’t get translated and brought to the West (Phoenix Wright on the DS is a notable exception). But essentially, they are text based games accompanied by barely-animated characters, where you try and try woo hunky high school boys or girls in sailor suits. Yes, they are weird.

Which makes this crazy, since they’ve someone managed to pitch obscure Japanese dating video games to the ITV2 crowd (apparently the Kardashian game is similar, but I’ve never played that).

You start out as one of the girls heading into the villa at the start of the summer. You get to pick their look and hair. I decide to make the worst person ever, so I choose a white girl with long cornrows. I also set my occupation as ‘Social Media Influencer’.

Five more girls turn up at the villa, and they all look like typical Love Island cast member. Ditzy blonde Jen, sassy Talia, Erikah, who I become friend with, and finally, Allegra, a bitchy ‘cocktail entrepreneur’ from Swansea who quickly becomes my mortal enemy.

Us girls gossip and bicker while waiting for the boys to arrive. The gameplay mostly consists of picking from the various text responses onscreen when you are asked a question (not unlike a Pokemon or Final Fantasy game, though you have to add your own Scottish accent for the voiceover). When Erikah asks what my type on paper is, I reply “Sun’s out, guns out”, and declare that I don’t care about personality, I just want a lad who’s good in bed.

Then the boys arrive. First up is generic hunky whiteboy Jake, who has nothing about him, so I refuse to make eye contact with him. Next in is Mason, a musician and underwear model from Romford, who looks like Marcel from last year’s show, so I get grafting on him and use all the flirt options. Then comes 22 year old Glasgweigan Miles, who has a giant eagle tattooed across his chest like a UFC fighter and who’s life goal is to “build a house with his bare hands”.

I am literally vomiting on my phone at this point.

Bringing up the rear are joker Levi and Andrea Pirlo-lookalike cityboy Jasper. But I’m so into Mason already, I ignore them.

Before you ask, yes, you do “get a text” in the game, and since there’s six girls and five boys, Jen gets one informing the first coupling is going down tonight. But first, you are free to wonder the villa, and stir shit up. Mason is unpacking in the bedroom, so I sneak in, use some of the gem points (that cost real world money) to flirt with him, and steal a kiss. Yes, I just used actual money to kiss a virtual boy.

Then I go outside, where Miles and Jasper are working out, and Allegra is watching. She passively aggressively suggests we make the boys compete for my attention. I’ve given a list of options for what contest I should make them do, and I pick “Make them wrestle”. I then get one of the most odd captions I’ve ever seen in a game.

“Miles tackles Jasper, and they roll around on the floor, grunting.”

I then make them kiss.

After a game of Never Have I Ever – where I drink for every single round, and claim to have had an orgy – it is time for the first coupling. Jen is first, then Talia, but I’ve got my eye on Mason and they don’t pick him, so it’s all good. But then my mortal enemy Allegra is next, and picks Mason! I hate her so much! I end up being last, and only have Jasper and Miles left. I have some semblence of taste, so I pick Jasper and send Miles home.

Later, I try to kiss Jasper, but he says we should keep our options open, so I storm off and Erikah gives me a hug to calm me down.

And that was the end of the first day. This is a ‘free-to-play’ game designed to get you to make in-app purchases, and in order to progress to Day 2, you need to either wait for a timer to go down, or pay money for ‘passes’. So I’m left on a cliffhanger.

It is actually a far more fun little game than I thought it would be – I completely expected something with the least amount of effort put into it, just designed to separate idiots from their credit card details. But developers Fusebox Games – who have also made similar titles for Baywatch and The X-Factor – have faithfully recreated a Japanese visual novel. And not only that, the script totally gets the tone of the show, and lovingly makes fun of it. There are hundreds of awful cash-in games based on TV shows that have no reason to exist, but Love Island The Game suprisingly isn’t one of them.

And for the record, Mason will be mine, and I will make Allegra pay.