Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a game about love, about cooperation, and possibly about what it means to save a relationship that's falling apart.
It opens with what sounds like the first half of a parable: The scientists of the future have found a way to harness the greatest power in the universe—yup, love—uniting all living beings in the universe in a joyous union of little tiny pink hearts. But thanks to an "error in the XOXO matrix," the forces of anti-love are seeping back into the world and tearing holes in the fabric of space-time. The honeymoon of the love universe is over, and everything is going to hell.
It's your job to save the world by piloting a tiny, round ship through space, fending off the enemies that are creeping through the tear, and rescuing the tiny bunny-people trapped in cages on various asteroids so that they can blast through the locks on the heart portals that give you access to the next stage.
But you can't do it alone. You're going to need a crewmate, and you can either play Lovers solo and recruit an AI dog or cat who will instantly work at any station you assign, or you can choose co-op mode and put a real-life friend (or lover) in the cockpit with you. And that's where things get interesting.
Your adorable little dollhouse of a ship has a lot of different sections to power: the engines, the small but moveable shields, the limited gun turrets planted every 90 degrees around the spherical hull, or the constantly rotating blaster that releases devastating bursts of energy but has to be timed just right. The challenge, and the crux of the game, is that there's just the two of you to handle it all.
That means that you'll constantly be multitasking, and that it's going to get tense, especially when there's a crisis. And trust me, there's going to be a crisis. The question is how well you'll handle it when you're playing with another person, and whether you can communicate effectively and really depend on each other. When malevolent space fish swarm the ship from every direction, should you one of you fend them off with shields while another rockets the ship to a safer location? Should you hold your ground while one of takes offense and the other takes defense? Or should you ignore the shields altogether and just shoot them out of the sky as fast as you can?
Only the two of you can decide together—and it has to be together. Stop communicating, stop working together, and you'll quickly find yourself blasted into space debris. (While using controllers is recommended, you can also crowd two people around the same keyboard at a computer, though be warned that the close quarters may only intensify the pressure.)
It's not always easy to discern the smartest strategy, especially when you encounter a strange new enemy in the game's fog of war or you're suddenly surrounded by foes. It's very easy to panic and freeze in those situations, especially the first few times you play the game. But I found that I panicked far more when I was flying solo, with only my AI cat for company. When I had a real human by my side, it was certainly more complicated, but I didn't feel alone; I was part of a team, and I had someone to work with, something to work for that felt a little bit bigger than myself.
Although the conceit of the game deals with love in what seems like a cutesy, superficial way, the experience of playing it that digs into something genuine about relationships and how complicated it can be to make them work after the honeymoon period is over and the dreaded forces of anti-love start to invade your idyllic little universe of cartoon hearts.
When the real shit starts to hit the fan, do you know how to come together and get things done, or do you fall apart? Does your rapport with each other transform you into a slick, well-oiled machine obliterating your foes as you rocket through space in your relation-ship, or do you end up bickering and fingerpointing while your enemies blast you out of the sky? Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime may help you find out. (There is an easy setting as well that you can switch to at the beginning of any level, just in case the game starts to ruin your actual relationships.)
Some people may indeed find it easier to play the game solo, to have an AI partner who will instantly follow their instructions rather than a complicated human who might actually try to give instructions to them instead. In a sense, it's always easier to be alone, to have no one else to worry about besides yourself, to orchestrate every aspect of your game to play out exactly the way you want. But it's not more interesting or fun, especially compared to the glorious feeling of gestalt you experience when you and another human being come together and start to work in a complicated, intuitive unison that no AI could simulate. That's probably a metaphor too.