The breakup: an event so uncomfortable that I can name five different ways people gin up to avoid the emotional anguish. Even the prospect of ending a relationship can lead me to sleepless nights, so the idea of trying to call things off with as many people as I could is not one I’d ever entertained. But Heartbreak High: A Break-Up Simulator defied my expectations with its sharp art, charm, and a few surprises along the way. While the experience ends up a little short-lived, I enjoyed my time with the faculty and staff of this unusual high school.
Created by Alec Robbins, the game plays out in a visual novel style, where you character is in a first person view moving through various hallways and classrooms. There are branching paths as you choose in what order to confront your partners, though you encounter them in the same batches of 2-3 on each playthrough. The characters all have their own look and run the gamut of race, gender, and identify along the LGBTQ spectrum, though your character’s preferences are never identified in game. Dialogue is well written and gives you a window in the personality of each person at the school.
Each breakup is begun with a conversation where you sweet talk, persuade, or even threaten the other person into ending things. Not every breakup is easy or comfortable, and you may be surprised by what you’re forced to say to get out of a relationship. Different characters require different approaches, and sometimes you may be surprised at what will and won’t work; luckily, you get a few retries, or you can even switch to a free play mode that let’s you see most of the game without consequence. While I was sometimes confused as to why I failed, I was never too far from another attempt.
You may also encounter one of a few different mini-games, which helps to keep things fresh. When verbal diplomacy fails, a game of Pong might break out, or an RPG-style battle, or even a makeout session. The pong game unfortunately was a little wonky with its collision detection, but otherwise these moments served as a nice change of pace. If anything, I wish there had been more unique moments to discover along the way.
I think you can see most of what Heartbreak High has to offer after a couple runs, which probably will last you an hour to an hour and a half. There a couple different endings to see, but unless you go out of your way to try different dialogue options repetition will set in pretty quickly. Still, there’s plenty of entertainment to be had for $5 and I would gladly recommend you give this game a look. It’s probably the only game you’ll ever play where you worry about finding love around every corner.