Ever wished you were on one of those dating shows? You’d have beautiful women tripping over themselves to win your affection, get to know them over romantic dates in a tropical paradise, and in the end, ride off into the sunset with your one true love. Sounds like a dream, right? But what if there was one big catch?
That’s the premise of Auden Jin’s Find Love or Die Trying. Date the most beautiful and eligible bachelorettes to find your soulmate! Win the hearts of the girls and audiences at home! But if things don’t work out? Well, then you die. Find Love or Die Trying has been picking up some buzz, and with the killer hook and affordable price of “free”, it’s not hard to see why. Could this be the next visual novel to come out of nowhere and light the world on fire? The reality show premise hits close to home. We might not have killed anyone yet, but watch enough truTV and it feels like it’s only a matter of time.
Love at the Speed of Light
There’s precedent for free visual novels achieving a great deal of success. Love them or hate them, Katawa Shoujo and Doki Doki Literature Club! are among the most significant original English language visual novels to date, and neither costs anything. Find Love or Die Trying doesn’t boast the subversion of DDLC or the character depth of Katawa Shoujo, but it has a lot going for it. The look is immediately sleek and stylish, from the TV themed menu and interlude screens to highly polished sprites, CGs, and environments. The shiny new car feel and a premise that’s to die for are right there ready to pull you.
Once you’ve named your character and met the lovely host, Kat, you’ll spend your time going on dates with a cast ranging from a wealthy heiress to the down to earth girl next door. The girls lean into their stereotypes, but it’s an effective way to fit a sizable selection of love interests into the whirlwind format of a dating show packed into a 4 or so hour read. It’s also played for amusing jokes that avid gamers and visual novel enthusiasts in particular will likely appreciate. The dates themselves start out fun and cute, helping you get to know the girls and showing their lovable sides, and build to some sweet romantic moments. Many even come with unique CGs to accentuate the occasion. The dates are fun, but they’re over in a flash, and you go through different girls in quick succession. You could argue that’s how dating shows go, but they didn’t always succeed at getting me invested in the girl. There’s also too much telling rather than showing, with transitions along the lines of “and then we talked for hours and got to know each other” being quite common. In between dates Kat interviews you confessional style. How did that date go? Who’s ahead in the race to win your heart? Kat’s mercurial nature makes her hard to read. Does she want to help you, or is she playing with her food?
Now you might ask, what kind of psychopath would run a life and death dating show? That’s your first hint that there’s more to Find Love or Die Trying than first meets the eye. Sure, it’s full of cute girls and zany jokes, but it’s immediately apparent something is very messed up behind the scenes. Find Love or Die Trying is content to feed you a slow drip at first. A nagging question goes unanswered, or a character says something a bit out of place. I don’t want to spoil anything, but what a ride Find Love or Die Trying is! It’s not just another game about dating cute girls and doesn’t disappoint.
The writing in Find Love or Die Trying is brisk and straightforward rather than nuanced. It focuses on hitting the events at hand and moving on to the next stop in the story. The upshot is that you get a fast-paced experience that never wants for action. There’s no hours-long slice of life interlude to bog things down here. On the other hand, Find Love or Die Trying never builds the kind of atmosphere you can get with a slower burn. The idyllic yet sinister dating show setting had a lot of potential to be creepy and unsettling, but it’s largely unmined. It limits the character depth too. Everyone is constantly doing or telling, and scenes can feel like isolated affairs. There’s little time for reflection or the subtle moments that provide insights into characters and build longer arcs. Sometimes the story glosses over important details or drops minor points when they’re no longer convenient. Find Love or Die Trying focusing on pace and action is a valid choice given its length and goals, but the tradeoff is big moments that can only hit as hard as the buildup invested in them. That said, in the few cases where Find Love or Die Trying does invest, the payoff shows the dividends.
Speaking of character depth, the protagonist is a bit of an empty space. You pick your name and gender, which is nice, and get a number of choices throughout, mostly about how to react to the various girls. You actually know how to flirt, which is welcome change from the usual harem loser, but you also have the overdone amnesia background and tend to respond to everything in generic fashion. There’s a little character growth later in the story that helps with things. However, Find Love or Die Trying also leaves the romance so open that you have limited opportunity to focus in and bond with any single girl. A lot of your choices seem like they don’t matter as a result. Choices can also work as a way to roleplay your protagonist, but sometimes they’re too similar to do that effectively either.
Find Love or Die Trying does have a few minor bugs and is light on features. Using the mouse wheel to scroll through the text log moves the text box slightly up for the rest of the scene. There are also only three save slots and no extras. You can find the occasional typo, although overall the writing is quite polished. In addition, Auden Jin has been very quick in fixing bugs and typos, and looks to have plans to add more convenience features. Find Love or Die Trying might be free, but it doesn’t feel cheap. Auden Jin clearly takes pride in putting out a quality product and is willing to invest the time keep improving things post-release.
Find Love or Die Trying boast sleek looks, a killer hook, and most importantly a fun ride packed with cute, likable girls and all kinds of excitement. It’s not always the deepest or most polished experience, but you can’t argue with the price. Find Love or Die Trying would be worth it as a paid game, so the fact that it’s free is icing on top and means there’s really no reason not to give a shot. Might this even be the next surprise hit? It’s too early to say, but it is the kind of game you want to tell your friends about. Don’t miss out on the fun!
Find Find Love or Die Trying on: Steam