Welcome to Match 10 of the Boyfriend Bracket. Will you select a boyfriend good enough to take home to mama? Or one bad enough to rescue the president? Either way, you’re driving off the lot today in a new boyfriend, so brace yourself.
If you’re just joining us, all of our boyfriends are from the free-to-play mobile game Love Tangle because its absurd number of love interests (26!) and “love triangle” setup was calling out for a March-Madness-style tournament, complete with a bracket I made in Excel yall. Love Tangle features two available women, which is pretty darn rare for Japanese games; Match 3 saw the triumphant introduction of Beautiful Pianist Celina Winter, who we’ll see return next time in Match 11.
Today, I’m happy to present to you a match featuring our second lady boyfriend, Ravishing Businesswoman Ivy Attwood, who is going up against fellow redhead Perfervid Firefighter Lex Caraballo.
Ivy’s a newspaper editor who wants to interview my character. Unfortunately, as soon as I meet her, I totally can’t handle her hotness. See, the thing is, Ivy exists in a solid, corporeal form instead of, say, just a loose jelly made of undifferentiated cells or (# 1 fave) a crystalline cloud of nanobots. I am, like, really distracted by this.
And right there, in the center of her face, is every woman’s crowning glory:
That’s right: the teeths.
Could it be that because I’m a zoologist, I’ve noticed that Ivy has manifested all of the characteristics I know indicate good fertility in a mate? By which I mean healthy coloring around the lips, bright eyes, and, of course, big chompy teeth that can bite through all of your defenses and consume your very soul.
Could be. But I think it’s just that it’s really hard to impart how attractive Ivy is, so for ease of description, I’ll just gaze at her piece-by-piece, and then describe the most important bits in the appropriate order, so you can kind of focus on what I think and feel when I look at her and…
Yeah, just like that!!! Cool! Chopping her body up into little squares using Albrecht Durer’s Patented Lookin’ Grid should minimize the problems I am having and…
Yeah, I know, we’re having Male Gaze problems. Look, if you need to know more about what I’m talking about, we’ll go gentle at first. I think one good, kind-of-enjoyable entry point here would be to watch Ways of Seeing, particularly episodes two & three. All the episodes are available on YouTube and–
oh god MY BLOG NEEDS A SYLLABUS this is really starting to go downhill
I have basically lost control of my body at this point, hair going all crazy, gushing sweat like some kind of stinky Medusa.
I mean, all my character has to talk about is the majestic Kaleido leopard and, to a significantly lesser degree, the music of coolest band Scadoxus.
You also have to add to this the fact that I’m obviously written by a very stupid man or a 13-year-old-boy, neither of whom has no idea what is going through the head of a lady who likes another lady. Sadly, he hasn’t been able to come up with anything better than “she looks so good in her body parts that i have lost control of my glands.”
Oh, she likes leopards! She’s here to interview me about them! That is one of the two things I can talk about. Maybe she will want to come over to my house. I will show her pictures of leopards, and try real hard not to stress fart. That’s how girls do when they meet up with other girls, right? Maybe I’ll put on some sexy music…
Wait, guys, maybe we got this one! Our character is the protagonist, after all! We didn’t puke on her, she didn’t bite us with her sharp, erotic incisors (yet), and writing got better because I assume they took someone off the project for being a complete numbskull.
So even though it was gonna be assigned on the syllabus, nobody has to try to read this! (Note: my husband’s reaction to that link was to chortle ruefully and say, “Oh, god, MULVEY,” so I know this joke is going to land with at least two more people. What up, cultural studies crewww)
But just when our work life and our personal life start to come together despite the best efforts of our shitty writer, the worst/best possible thing imaginable in the Love Tangle universe happens. Yeah, that’s right:
OH NOOOOOOOOOO A LEOPARD IS SICK and something something a king whatever
Of course, this is great news for us, the players. When bad shit happens to a Love Tangle Kaleido leopard, you know the plot is about to go all the way from “I might as well turn off this random Netflix movie” to “Oh…Woody Harrelson is in it? Eh, why not.”
OH NO YOU DID NOT
I mean honestly, the driving force of this game is the Kaleido leopard. The leopards give the main character’s life meaning: we aren’t just any ol’ dating sim character! We have a PhD and have probably published papers in some fuckin peer-reviewed journals and shit! And we study Kaleido leopards, the most rock ‘n’ roll of all leopards, and the only reason for living that’s worth a damn (and also the only thing distinguishing our character from a sentient sack of potatoes, but at least it means we don’t have amnesia).
Not only do these majestic beasts provide the (admittedly noodly and pliant) backbone of our character, they also furnish almost all of the semi-bearable plot hooks in Love Tangle. So far in this game, these noble creatures have:
- Helped cure an immunodeficiency disease called
AIDSEYES (that is definitely not AIDS because it does all the things AIDS does but it also makes you blind)
- Chosen the ruler of an entire kingdom of indeterminate size
- Provided talk therapy to its their handlers as well as several world-class athletes, scientists, and artists
- Inspired the costumes and choreography for the best figure skating routine ever
- Gotten your character laid
innumerableat least 26 times
Sadly, Kaleido leopards are now really rare in the wilds of Kaleido; for unknown reasons, they have terrible immune systems and problems breeding. Possibly this is because they spend all their time doing good deeds and do not spend sufficient time on self-care. This is why you have to spend time staring at their sperm.
Their small numbers might also be attributed to the fact that they are so cool that jealous baddies keep trying to kidnap, poison, and light them on fire. And also this one time they attacked me because my salad dressing had kiwi in it, but we don’t talk about that.
Luckily, Ivy really appreciates how cool the leopards are.
The plot of our romance involves us figuring out who poisoned the kingmaker leopard in an effort to clear the main character’s name. Solving mysteries while falling in love? I ain’t too fancy to admit I’m into that.
But the forces of evil are lying in wait–right where they usually do.
oh come ON, DO NOT GO IN THE WEED ALLEY
If you’re just tuning in, the weed alley is the background screen where all the trouble in Kaleido city happens. Dudes who are up to no good, like Oliver and Andrea, also sometimes hang out there and talk shit.
Of course you get jumped. It’s the weed alley, people. Later,
Waste of Carbon Molecules Perfectionist Butler Carter Harris suggests you meet up in the weed alley to talk strategy, and Ivy says something that totally endears her to me.
Finally, a person with some sense.
One interesting thing that happens in this route appears as your character begins to respect Ivy more as a person of the aforementioned sense and intellect and not just a collection of body parts. When this happens you transition from a state of desire for Ivy into a state of desiring to become Ivy.
Your character begins comparing herself to Ivy, talking and thinking constantly about how Ivy is a perfect woman. She’s got a good job, a great personality, she flosses regularly, etc.
One day, you come home tired from work, and start extolling her virtues again. Ivy, who I guess is tired of your bullshit, promptly serves you some burnt eggs and then drags you into her princessy-ass bedroom. Your mind boggles at her clean room, but then she shows you her closet. It’s stuffed to the brim with crap, because, like any normal human would do when their crush is coming over, she shoved all her mess in there and threw a candelabra on the dresser to distract you.
I do appreciate the fact that Ivy is confident enough to show you that she’s not perfect, but she proves her supposed imperfection to you by revealing, specifically, her inability to cook or clean. I mean, nobody’s perfect, but the woman’s got nothing to apologize for. Other than, you know, not being good at two most traditional indicators of femininity.
Like, why treat those things like enormous flaws she must reveal to you? Why should she have time to cook or clean when she’s running a business, writing for a magazine, helping you solve the crime of the century, and flossing after every meal?
Towards the end of the game, your character’s desire for and to become Ivy takes an interesting turn: you and Ivy go to a big gala. Your character says she feels super beautiful because Ivy does your makeup and lends you her clothing. Check out how you look:
See how your facial features have changed to match hers? You get the same sultry eyes, a small little bow of a mouth, and for some reason, you just look…so sad. Compare this to your everyday at-work-leopard-jizz-analysis face, and you’ll see the difference.
Here, check out how big your eyes normally are, and the normal-ish size of your mouth. Even the angle of your eyebrows is different.
This was kind of creepy, but I dig it: our desire to become as perfect as Ivy, as well as her desire to “imprison” us in the mirror, feels so familiar and human to me. It’s the beginning of a relationship: on your end, there’s the joy of meeting someone so wonderful you are suffused with the desire to blur–or even erase–the boundaries between Self and the perfect Other. On Ivy’s end, it’s yearning to hold on to that one bright moment of perfection, shutting out the inevitable change and separation that comes from time, familiarity, and the part where you both give up and just start farting around each other.
I mean, Ivy isn’t perfect. For one thing, she’s stupidly jealous, but then again, so is everyone else you get involved with romantically in almost all of these games.
Here she is gettin’ all steamed up because Sir-Not-Appearing-in-this-Bracket saved you in the weed alley.
I know, Ivy. I wish you got a chance to save the girl, too.
Ivy, I also wish this game didn’t cut you into little pieces for easier consumption, using the shittiest, most reductive version of male desire. I’m a lady player–I don’t want to be forced look at another lady the way a man supposedly does if I don’t want to!
Still, that’s the way a lot of videogames treat women and female desire. It’s such a normal practice that it shows up even in games like this, ones that are supposed to be written for women to empathize with and enjoy.
In other words: forget it, Ivy. It’s Kaleido City.
But hey, let’s talk about her clothes!
Ivy’s got a wonderful, real-world look–I’d let her creepily dress me up in either of these outfits. I really dig her business wear: a classic black suit, paired up with what is probably a pencil skirt or sheath dress. The black-on-black thing is broken up with the little buttons at her waist, which emphasize the nice hourglass she has going on. You make those shoulder pads like, 100% bigger, and this is basically the powerful business lady I wanted to be when I grew up in the 80’s.
I also love, love, love her blue polka dot and skirt combo. It really makes her red hair pop and has a bit of a vintage thing going on. The skirt is draped nicely and broken up with the belt. The top is low-cut, but since Ivy’s illustration doesn’t portray her cleavage as two levitating sacs, it comes across as more of a casual outfit rather than one that screams “this is for lookin at titties y’all.”
She’s got a lovely, classic thing going on, wearing clothes that would look nice on any body type–my only objection is that she is in a videogame. I would have liked to at least see some pointless belts or, like, some kind of skirt spliced together out of three other skirts, a curtain tie, and the flag of Norway. Even just a chunky necklace that goes along with the geometric, color-blocked aesthetic that a lot of the other characters have, like International Top Model Oliver Cowell or International Figure Skater Yangzi Sun.
Overall, Ivy’s cute, and I like her okay; I just wish she got off to a better start and was allowed to be a bit more daring as a character. In the end, I assume having only two ladies (three, if you count Very Tanned Roommate Joy) in the game doesn’t leave space for a female character with a bit more personality.
The main character’s extreme thirstiness at the beginning is really off-putting, too. It makes it seem like the desire of a lady for another lady is an incomprehensible thing, when in fact it’s just as natural as anything else. And definitely more natural than all of the leopard insemination you are doing on the reg, for that matter.
The first time he appeared in the Boyfriend Bracket, I learned some lessons from Perfervid Firefighter Lex Caraballo. Lessons like…my vocabulary is not as good as I assume it is, because “perfervid” is an actual word (!). I also made fun of his opponent, Indomitable Vocalist Valentin Blum, for the name of coolest band Scadoxus, which was obviously a really stupid, and also made-up, band name. I was wrong about the made-up part.
Well, we’ve all made mistakes, right, Lex? Anyway, Lex won his first round and he’s back, going red-head-to-head with Ivy. I’m ready for whatever!
Yeesh! Not on the second date, Lex! We’ll come back and unpack that later. Let’s talk about the plot instead…it’s got leopards!
The setup: someone tries to do an arson on the Kaleido leopards’ zoo enclosure because of coolest band Scadoxus (not making this up sorry) and your character has to go back into the flaming zoo to save the baby leopard!!!
Wait, you’re probably asking yourself, so although they are awesome, what is it about coolest band Scadoxus that would make someone want to do something as stupid as lighting a zoo on fire?
If there’s one lesson to learn from this route, it’s that love+stupidity=fire.
See the problem is that you’ve been hanging out with both Lex and Indomitable Vocalist, Valentin Blom, and one of his crazy fans witnesses this hilariously awkward exchange with Indomitable Vocalist Valentin Blom, aka He of the Sexily Partial Glove, aka lead singer of coolest band Scadoxus.
So of course Lex claps back with an equally snappy reply, that really epitomizes everything I love and hate about this game:
Uh, if this was actually how men talked to each other, I would die. I mean, I don’t dig violence or saying hurtful words at others, but if fighting over my affections meant throwing odd, half-baked metaphors at each other, I’d instigate it for the good of society.
Man 1: Hello girl, I see you enjoy tea. Come over to my home, and I’ll put your bags in a mug of boiling water all night.
Man 2: Don’t go with him. That is not the proper way to infuse tea.
It’s like someone tried to train a neural network to write a fight between two guys in a primetime soap opera.
Either that, or it’s every conversation two Ken dolls have with each other when they’re arguing about who gets to be with Barbie. Also one of them is in a tuxedo jacket with no pants because the dog ate those, and because nobody ever had more than, like, one-and-a-half Ken outfits.
So the crazed Scadoxus fan starts off trying to light Valentin’s house on fire, then she sees you talking to him a couple of times, including the really stupid conversation at the show, and decides you must be stopped. Then she tries to burn down the place you work, along with the leopards that live there.
So Lex comes and saves the baby leopard from a fiery death (also your character)!
All right, so Lex is a big hero, and maybe he’s a leeeetle dumb, but that’s okay! What I’m concerned with now is “this pitiful past” he mentioned earlier.
As you might have been able to tell from that “pitiful” comment above, Lex has some…issues. Why does Lex have such cripplingly low self-esteem? He likes you, he’s a friend to all leopards, he is into coolest band Scadoxus…what’s the problem?
Lex’s Big Hangup is that he has a dangerous job, and because of that, he doesn’t want to fall in love or be in a relationship. His dad, who was also a firefighter, died in the line of duty when Lex was a kid, and grown-up Lex doesn’t want to put someone he loves through the same suffering.
Okay, so Lex is dealing with the childhood trauma of losing a parent, and now he’s worried about hurting someone else in exactly the same way he was hurt? That’s…okay, yeah, that’s pretty valid.
But, like, before you go about making those types of decisions, Mr. Dude, why not consult with your loved one(s) first to see how they feel about this sacrifice you’re making on their behalf? And while you’re at it, ongoing chats with a qualified therapist would probably help a lot, too, because describing yourself with the words “pitiful” and “pathetic” indicates you might be feeling a lot of guilt or self-loathing. As opposed to the word “perfervid,” which indicates very little because nobody knows what it actually means.
I gotta say, as a trope in stories, I really dislike it when when people decide unilaterally to break their loved one’s heart to spare them some kind of inevitable suffering, rather than talking it out.
Dude: I love you, but we can’t be together
(Dude thinks: “Everyone I’ve ever loved has left me/I’m a secret prince/You wouldn’t love me if you knew my dark secret”)
Dude: Does it even matter? Go on, get out of here! Can’t you see I don’t want you anymore???
Lady: Was that a Harry and the Hendersons joke? Yeah, you’re right, I’m out of here.
Dude: (single tear)
Luckily, Lex gets over it real fast
after because he saves the baby leopard.
Overall, I like Lex. Once he puts his mind to it, not only does he work through his own trauma, he’s all about helping you cure the leopards’ PTSD from the fire.
Lex is also nice because he’s willing to put himself out there. He goes with you to the concert of coolest band Scadoxus show, defends your honor when famous rockstar and intellectual giant Valentin weirdly threatens to light you on fire, and then dances with you even though his enormous sexy body makes him really bad at it:
Side note: I alluded to this a bit with some other entries, but in between each chapter is a little interstitial where your other boyfriends comment on your current relationship, generally by talking trash about your current boyfriend.
Obviously, I love these little sections. The blurry-apartment-front background gives it a bit of a King of the Hill vibe, like they’re standing inside the game killing time since you’re not playing their route, drinking beer, maybe debating the true meaning of justice, and just generally criticizing whomever you’re currently dating.
And man, do these guys totally get salty about Lex and his crappy dancing:
I like that Lex doesn’t spend half the route waffling about his problems. He starts developing feelings for you and begins to re-evaluate his whole “forever alone” stance, and after he saves the leopard, he takes a look at what he really wants, and goes for it.
And also practices his ass off, takes you dancing again, and doesn’t suck!
Lex mostly wears his saggy-casual look in his route. I mean, he’s got a little bit of a Richard Simmons vibe with his patriotic tank top, but when I joked in his original match about how he never seems to manage to get his shoulders into any of his clothing, I never dreamed I’d be dealing with a bunch of men who can’t put their arms into the sleeves of anything that isn’t a cardigan.
His outfit’s bright, primary colors really help to reflect his enthusiastic and optimistic nature. I mean, a guy wearing that much yellow on purpose is probably not going to stay sad for very long, right? Check out this picture and tell me it doesn’t make you cheerful.
So you might be wondering how the game treats descriptions of Lex’s appearance, since I tore the writers a new one about how they wrote about Ivy. I went and looked, because I was curious if I was simply more touchy about the female character. There just isn’t as much of that kind of description for Lex, and it doesn’t appear as the classic ogle-evaluation session that happens the first time a female character appears (think the pan-up of the mysterious dame who walks into the private eye’s office, legs for miles, teeth sparkling like blood diamonds, etc).
Probably the most notable moment of description about Lex is this saucy number, which shows up at the very end of the route and features some language that is positively…glowing.
Now it’s time to decide: do you want Ivy or Lex to be your boyfriend? They meet all two precepts of my Boyfriend Code that I just made up and will probably forget about immediately: they both like leopards and coolest band Scadoxus, so everything else really just comes down to personal preference. I like ’em both.
I hope we’ve all learned something today about what’s important: resilience, sympathy, and openness to change without resorting to arson or poison…