Love Flute is a visual novel created by Korean developer, Talesshop. It was simultaneously released in both Korean and English back in 2021 on PC, iOS, and Android.
Personally, I got the Steam copy, so keep that in mind for my review!
NOTE: This review will be avoiding all but minimal spoilers, and those that I do include don't reveal any crucial plot elements or twists within the game. However, a general outline of the plot will be included, along with my thoughts on the many different elements that make up the game itself. This includes production value, story, characters, etc.
Now that we’ve got the intro out of the way, let’s get started!
Hanseol is a struggling college student who just so happens to also be incredibly interested in making it big as a musician. Unfortunately, his skills leave a lot to be desired, but he does have a decent amount of passion for the craft and oftentimes performs music on the streets as a busker. This part-time job isn’t nearly as lucrative as Hanseol originally hoped, however, and his money dwindles away to nothing.
All of a sudden, Hanseol finds himself at a crossroads—either he must sell his soul (i.e., his piano) and become a productive member of society, or choose to continue to chase his musical dream at the risk of starving death.
Deflated, Hanseol chooses the former option. But just as he’s on the verge of selling his piano, he suddenly hears a voice.
“Don’t.. sell… it…”
Now, in most cases, this would be concerning. This time, however, we’re reading a generic music-themed visual novel rather than a denpa work, so we’re A-OK. Regardless, the question still remains: Where is this mysterious voice coming from?
Turns out it’s none other than a really cute anime girl in the form of a ghost.
Upon revealing herself, the ghost girl walks up to the main character, flute in hand, and basically tells him that he’s the only one that can fulfill her han. If you’re curious what that means, the game basically tells the reader that it’s essentially their biggest regret. As such, when the ghost girl tells you that doing so is pretty much the only way she’ll be able to move on, it makes a good amount of sense.
Although…there does seem to be a bit of a conflict of interest here. I mean, with a name like Love Flute, this game’s setting you up for trouble. Let’s just hope this whole fulfilling her han thing doesn’t lead to Hanseol and Ghost Girl falling in love. It’d be quite sad if they fell in love with each other when she needs to move on to the afterlife…
Potential emotional damage aside, our main character does ultimately agree to our bratty, smug ghost girl’s request after a few moments of banter. Only then does she tell Hanseol that the thing that will free her from her han is to complete a musical performance with him, a task we can only hope will help Hanseol build upon his newfound drive to improve himself and allow him to grow both as a person and as a musician. If you’re curious, the whole han thing does get a little more complicated than Ghost Girl’s initial request as the plot progresses. After all, the game does need a conflict—otherwise, it would be over within the first 10 minutes.
Now, the biggest question we should tackle coming out of this basic plot synopsis of Love Flute’s first fifteen minutes is: Is this game worth your time? If you want something substantial from a plot or character standpoint, I’d advise you to stop reading this review and move on to something else. If you’re looking for a visual novel that’s considered one of the best of the best, VNDB can help you find what you’re looking for. Love Flute is more of a comfy read on a Sunday afternoon than it is “special,” with a bigger focus on interactions between characters than the story itself.
Granted, even if you were already looking for a visual novel of that sort, I wouldn’t give Love Flute the highest marks. The story is average, plain, and simple. There’s nothing that really stands out about it at all—even the few twists the game throws at you land flat on their face, and don’t dig deeper than things you can glean from the most surface-level observations. Ultimately, this seems to be because the game is more interested in creating a certain overall vibe and atmosphere, with the stupid, goofy plot stuff coming second. Frankly, I could’ve done with more of the silly stuff, especially since Love Flute doesn’t make the effort to go above and beyond with the weirder and more entertaining elements of its story.
That said, I’d still say the game is definitely worth the five hours I invested into it to 100% everything. It didn’t leave me annoyed or disappointed, which is more than I can say for a lot of works within the same genre.
In any case, I definitely think that this work would have greatly benefited if it had a less generic resolution to its story. That’s honestly the biggest issue with the game’s plot—it lacks a distinctive identity. It’s also very segmented, and that structure results in most of the scenes not being relevant to the main storyline. There’s a lot of meandering around and not a lot of exploration of internal conflict, which is kind of a huge shame. On top of that, while the author could have gone all-out and done some really crazy stuff with the story here based on the quirky premise, they made it into just another generic love story.
Looking at the plot synopsis on Love Flute’s Steam page (or just glancing back over my synopsis at the start of this review), there’s really very little that you can’t predict about the plot from the very beginning. The writers do try introducing other characters and complicating the plot a little more as it goes on, but at the end of the day, they’re just a sugary coating a nothingburger of a story. It makes the game really difficult to recommend from a plot standpoint.
If you go into a playthrough knowing all this, however, there are aspects of this game that are fun and enjoyable.
For example, one of the most enjoyable elements of Love Flute’s story for me is the YouTube subplot with the ghost girl. It’s juvenile, sure, but I do like seeing their transition from college dorks to YouTube overlords. I also found the interactions they’d have with their fans in the comment section, especially amusing.
It’s moments like this that give Love Flute charm and personality, and some of it does radiate through the otherwise basic plot. Even if these moments are the farthest thing from the focus of this work…
Love Flute pretty much has three characters outside of our MC, Hanseol. We have Yae-eun, the ghost lady who wants to fulfill her han, and who destroys every electronic she touches, Yeonwoo, a mysterious girl who stalks Hanseol around his college campus since she senses something weird about him, and a third character, whose identity is a bit of a spoiler, and I’ve hidden below.
It’s an all-star cast, I can assure you.
As far as the character writing goes, Love Flute isn’t winning any awards. Yae-eun is kind of pathetic and useless, but can also be really smug when she has the upper hand. She also has some semblance of emotional depth, considering how we learn that she often hides her true feelings and is more insecure than she lets on. All-in-all she’s nice, albeit lacking in any real substance due to the game’s weak plot.
Yeonwoo, on the other hand, is a shy pun-loving girl with zero social skills outside of talking about her fascination with shamans (okay, that might be a slight exaggeration). I enjoyed how randomly antagonistic she can be towards Yae-eun at the beginning of the story as well, as it added some much-needed conflict. I’m also a bit weak to the whole shy girl routine (this perhaps could lay at the feet of my crippling loneliness). Honestly…Yeonwoo might just be our best girl, even if the game doesn’t treat her as such. If only she had her own dedicated ending…
Again, I don’t have a big list of positive things to say here. Love Flute is a music-themed visual novel where the least interesting element of its story is the music—it’s no Musicus or Symphonic Rain, where the writing captures the essence of art creation and demonstrates a perfect understanding of music. This is a cute ghost girl dating sim accompanied by a musical coat of paint.
That said, I enjoyed the girls’ respective archetypes, and I found both of them very pretty and easy on the eyes. Love Flute isn’t a game that’s designed in a way that you can really relate to the characters, especially when you compare it to other works in the genre (moege/charage). It does manage to get the job done when it comes to character interactions, at least—I liked listening to the girls chat with one another, and the cute-girls-doing-cute-things formula always works, even if most of the content doesn’t go anywhere by the end of the game’s runtime. Listening to the girls tease each other and talk about YouTube as they grow into better musicians/people is definitely not the worst way to spend an afternoon, and it gave the game a warm, comfy feel.
I do have one major issue with Love Flute, however—Hanseol, the game’s main character.
You see, Hanseol is a self-insert character. The game even lets you pick his name, a (generally) late 90’s and early 00’s eroge convention that I never want to see again. Maybe I could see the angle for needing this if the game was pure wish fulfillment, but it isn’t. I certainly don’t want to play a stupid keyboard and be forced into taking responsibility for a lazy bum of a ghost girl while I’m trying to attend university. Who wants to be a caretaker? I’m a busy man; all I want to do is stack paper and get LAID!
Joking aside, Hanseol really has nothing distinctive about him, beyond how the girls inspire him to make music, and his occasional inclusion in the banter between the game’s heroines. Perhaps it might be more correct to just call him incredibly bland and boring—regardless, he does absolutely nothing for me. His interactions with the girls fall flat, and he spends the majority of the game being carried on the backs of girls far cuter than he could ever be.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t necessarily believe Hanseol needed some eccentric personality or 30+ layers of complexity. I just want the bare minimum—i.e. him being able to hold conversations with the rest of the cast in an interesting manner. Instead, we get an incredibly boring, charisma-less man who usually just gives exposition or makes the most milquetoast observations about his environment.
Coming out of Love Flute, I know barely more about Hanseol than I did at the beginning. His sole defining characteristic is wanting to help a ghost girl fulfill her han so he can get some gussy (ghost pussy). He really left next to no impression on me at all, which was a huge factor for me when it came time to decide whether or not I liked the game’s overall character writing. The main character should be the character that gets the most development and should determine the upward trajectory of the heroines around him through his interactions with them. And Hanseol? He’s just not that guy.
Sadly, Hanseol’s blandness drags Love Flute’s character writing down to just plain average for me. It’s a huge shame, especially considering how much I liked both of the main heroines.
Love Flute’s gameplay is what I picture in my mind when I think of the average Facebook game. I don’t know why, but it just looks like Farmville to me. There are multiple things that lead me to that conclusion—the simple UI, the item management/grinding gameplay elements, and the miniature “chibi” sprites that do stuff around the environment. Having looked into Talesshop‘s previous works, this makes perfect sense since the company focuses primarily on the mobile game market. I found the simple and easy-to-understand gameplay an asset if anything, since at the very least it adds some character to what would otherwise simply be a very mediocre story.
Nonetheless, the game just amounts to playing music and buying various types of cute furniture in the most mindless way possible. There’s zero thought put into the system from a gameplay perspective, even if it does add some nice variety. Like, no joke—the gameplay legitimately just amounts to unlocking songs and playing them to unlock extra scenes. One of my favorite parts would have to be the comment section that fills up with every song you record yourself playing, though it definitely lacks some of the spiciness a real comment section would have. Beyond that, there’s a limit to how much you’ll be able to grind, but honestly, if you just play the game enough to unlock what you need to unlock and buy upgrades for your gear every once in a while, you’ll be able to 100% it.
I do appreciate some of the attempts to add substance to the game here, even if it probably won’t add much for the average reader. The developers took the time to give each of the songs and pieces of furniture very elaborate descriptions to go along with their sprites. Some even add to the world of the game, such as figurines that depict popular celebrities or characters of Love Flute’s universe. I also think the idea of unlocking more music after certain events in the story is a great way to reward players. I find the implementation very weak, however—most of the time, the songs are barely relevant to the scenes at hand.
Overall, I’d say the gameplay has some nice moments but doesn’t really amount to much. It’s visually appealing, has some surprises, and manages to provide variety in a game with a very short runtime. But outside of those charming elements, it fails to elevate Love Flute to any kind of a higher level.
When it comes to the production value of the game, I’d say it’s good. I love the amount of detail that was put into the sprite work, particularly the speech bubbles that pop up beside the heroine’s sprites that show off different moods and expressions. It’s a very simple way in which the game managed to save money, but still effectively give it a definitive style.
As for the songs themselves, none ended up becoming very special to me, but there were a few that were at least nice to jam out to. Love Flute is a very short game as a whole, so my lack of emotional connection here isn’t surprising considering its length. The voicework isn’t anything special, but the actresses do their job and that’s all you can hope for. It’s not a portion of the game I’m really interested in harping over, as the material they were given wasn’t very plentiful.
When it comes to Love Flute’s artwork, I have to say it’s very pretty, and I think the developers utilized what they had budget-wise quite efficiently. This means that while CG’s are few and far between, what we do get is incredible and vibrant. There’s enough effort here that the game didn’t at all come off as a low-effort release—I especially loved the use of lighting within some of the CGs, which gave certain moments a very ethereal feeling. It’s also a nice touch that the title screen changes after you finish the game, which I find to be a simple but always welcome addition to any visual novel. Beyond that, I liked how the game had a dedicated gallery for every scene, making it easy to replay the most enjoyable ones if you ever had the desire to go back.
I think my overall conclusion here is that while you won’t be getting mindblowing characters or stories out of Love Flute, it’s certainly a game that’ll be easy on the eyes. At the very least, you’ll be able to sit back and relax and enjoy a release with next to no ambition, but a lot of earnest charm. And if that isn’t enough for you, they talk about mukbangs too!
Love Flute isn’t a visual novel that will set the world on fire, but I had fun reading it, even if it is shallow and vapid as a whole. There’s nothing to be found here that you won’t be able to find in other releases, but if you’re looking for something low effort to read compared to the renowned classics of the genre, it’s a decent choice. It’s a buffer visual novel, the type you read as a break from the more intense and slower releases in the medium. Knowing this makes the experience far more enjoyable, as this isn’t the kind of work that you want to take seriously. If you choose to dive in, it’s because you want the simple enjoyment of human interaction in the form of a cute anime girl. Nothing more, nothing less.
Interested in checking Love Flute out? You can find the game on Steam for $9.99!