You need to feel Loved
"Are you a man, or a woman?", the game asks you as soon as loading is done. I clicked, innocently, on 'man', assuming a 'create your avatar' screen would follow.
"No, you are a girl", it replied.
This is a game where your decisions and opinions are constantly questioned.
"Will I teach you how to play, or not?" I said yes, but:
"You do not deserve it". And so the game begins. And though your avatar is genderless, it reminds me of Totoro, which makes it even more disturbing.
Initially the game looks like a plain-old side-scroller: run to the right, jump over the spikes, touch the checkpoints...in a pure black and white setting. But from time to time, a command appears written on the screen, asking you to kill yourself (you have 'infinite lives'; do something wrong and you'll reappear at the nearest respawn point) or to avoid touching specific elements. This is where the gameplay explodes: obey, and you'll be rewarded with some condescending comment, and a clearer view of the scenery. Disobey the 'voice', and you'll be insulted, and blocks of color will appear around you, making the environment more cheerful, but also more difficult to advance.
So: obey your master, and it will be easier to navigate its terrible world, as dangers become sharper and easier to avoid. Disobey, and the world looks better, but the game gets more difficult and the environment more confusing.
Depending on your reaction to the commands (always obey/always disobey) you'll get two different endings; I won't spoil them, and the game is short enough to be played four o five times and try all the possibilities. The important thing here is that it is worth playing it four or five times.
Having played some days ago a demo of Heavy Rain, I know it is not fair to compare a multi-million dollar production with a 5-minute-gameplay Flash game...because Loved would win. Heavy Rain has great production values, and was crafted with lots of love and passion and talent. But Loved tickled parts of my gamer brain which were virgin before (the same parts that Frugal Games is struggling to reach): I felt scared, defiant, proud, happy, hopeless... and asked myself a lot of personal questions, while recalled several relationships in my life. All these in a clean, simple, familiar-yet-so-innovative way that I can only ask for a big ovation.
You can feel Loved here.