Welcome to suburbia, where nothing exciting ever happens. Even your job as a veterinary intern isn’t thrilling, since all you do is answer phones. But one day, an adorable hamster shows up and you decide to give him a little kiss on the forehead. Except this isn’t your ordinary adorable hamster: it’s a gorgeous, naked man who’s been cursed by a witch! This is the world of Animal Lover.
In this visual novel/dating simulator, you play as an aspiring veterinarian who, after an extraordinary turn of events, is now tasked with finding all of the cursed animal-men and helping them reverse the spell. You have to kiss them to change them back to human, and for some reason, you’re the only one who can do this. (One of the devs posted a long explanation here, but be aware, there are spoilers.) Along the way, you may fall in love with one of these human men. If you’re sitting there thinking, whoa, wait a minute, don’t worry. The developers made it clear on the store’s page that there are “No furries, despite the title!”
While the game has a cliche, princess-kisses-the-frog sort of story, it makes up for this with its humor and unique, gorgeous art. I could not stop laughing throughout the entirety of my playthrough. The game features dialogue options such as this:
The characters dig at each other and argue constantly, but it’s all the banter of a close-knit group. No matter what romantic interest you decide to pursue, you get to know all of the characters equally. You just might love one guy more than the rest.
Starting out, you get to name your character. I gave my character the name, “Lameasse,” (pronounced Lamaze). As for my romantic option, I chose Kyle. Kyle said he loved ducks, and because I am an Oregon Duck, I knew he would run away with my heart. He’s got a rebellious streak and is a bit of a punk, so that goes to show you my taste in men.
While Kyle can be a pain in the ass, he’s also sweet. In the game, you struggle to support these strange men all by yourself. You have to buy them food, clothing, and find ways to shelter them, either by sneaking them into your bedroom at night or cramming into a motel room. Kyle alleviated the team’s stresses by joking around. He also stole supplies from stores, and brought them home to share with the group. Kyle puts on a tough guy front, but he really has a heart of gold. Swoon.
Like most dating sims, Animal Lover drifts into unrealistic romantic cliches that will make you groan. Kyle told me he loved me after knowing me for what, a week? And this confession came a day after he said that he liked me. Of course I didn’t turn him down. I assumed that we would be brutally murdered by a witch later, so I was like #yolo.
This game knows how to make you laugh, but it will also break your heart. Many of these men are grappling with the fact that they’ve been robbed of their entire lives, and their families and friends are dead.
Animal Lover also addresses more serious topics, such as sexism. Frankie, who is from the 50s, has antiquated ideas about how to treat women. Miguel, who is an absolute sweetheart, was brutally bullied in the past for having more “feminine” interests, such as cooking. Additionally, the witch has her reasons for cursing these men, and it all goes back to how they’ve treated her. This is something that you’ll discover at the end of the game. Be warned: the boys might not give you the full truth.