Review by Matt C.
When she ran away from home, Regina just wanted a chance to prove her independence—to her overbearing father, to her strict older brother, and, most of all, to herself. She gets more than she bargained for, though, when she finds herself mysteriously transported to a strange forest. In a chance encounter with a trio of soldiers on a mission, Regina finds out that she’s in a completely different country: Eroolia, an isolated continent known in her homeland as the “cursed island”.
Due to her cat-eared headband, the men mistake Regina for a “luccretia”, one of a race of cat-like beings who also live on the island. Tensions between humans and luccretias run high, so the latter have taken to living in a secret community deep within the forest, which few humans have ever seen. The soldiers’ mission is one of diplomacy and they decide that Regina could be a great help, so they strike a deal: they’ll help her find her way home if she helps them in their quest.
Thus begins How to Fool a Liar King, a fantasy romance visual novel from indie outfit roseVeRte. This is actually a sequel to one of their previous games, How to Take Off Your Mask, though there’s no need to have played that first. Some characters from the first game show up in Liar King, but it’s a self-contained story that stands well enough alone. I haven’t played Mask, but I never felt lost in Liar King; I never felt like I was missing important details, or even unimportant ones.
Unlike your typical dating sim, How to Fool a Liar King has only one suitor: the titular Liar King, a handsome, purple-haired man by the name of Juli. Compared to his jovial companions, Mars and Ronan, Juli is a cold and distant, and his position isn’t immediately apparent to Regina—she’s told he’s a civilian, not a king. Nonetheless, she finds herself oddly drawn to him.
For his part, Juli is somewhat taken aback by Regina. She’s an energetic, free-thinking girl who always speaks her mind and packs a mean punch (she comes from a nation of martial artists). She’s also particularly adept at reading people, and is even able to see through Juli’s lies most of the time. Neither of them fully understands what the feeling is, but they have a strange fascination with one another.
That comes to a head when they do finally reach Laarz, the home of the luccretias. As you’d expect, there’s more to both Juli and Regina than meets the eye, and the group’s mission isn’t the simple diplomatic posting that they claimed. Regina finds herself roped into a conflict between Laarz and Eroolia that’s bordering on war, and as an outsider, she’s caught right in the middle.
It’s here that the story splits into two routes, depending on your choices earlier in the game—ultimately, depending on how much faith you put into Juli during the journey through the forest. Regina will either continue to follow Juli and the others, discovering the truth of their mission in the process, or she’ll opt to hear out Myana, the charismatic princess of Laarz. Whatever the choice, she’s thrust into playing a mediator of sorts amid talks that could spell war if they go south.
That might make How to Fool a Liar King sound like a dark game full of heavy political machinations. It does have its moments—especially if you stop and think too much on some of the implications of what’s going on—but for the most part, it’s a light, cute romance story. Regina and Juli’s early bond has a sort of fantasy meet-cute charm, and Ronan and Mars bring their own frivolity to the table. Myana begins stealing the show the moment she’s introduced, with a happy-go-lucky, almost goofy attitude that belies a tragic past. If I could, I’d have forgotten about Juli in a heartbeat and romanced Myana, but alas, that’s not an option.
True to visual novel norms, the game is full of cute, sometimes comical moments, accompanied by cute, sometimes comical CGs—Regina’s shock at catching a half-naked Juli fishing is a particularly memorable moment. In short, it’s standard dating sim stuff, only with one romantic interest instead of a harem.
How to Fool a Liar King isn’t as game-y as a lot of other dating sims, with a very straightforward narrative structure. There are no bad endings to deal with, and each choice is pretty clear about whether it’s pushing you towards the “Juli route” or “Regina route”. Make of that what you will; I personally loved being able to just read the story without having to worry about a complicated network of “right” decisions to get the route I wanted.
Nor is it particularly groundbreaking game. The story, cute as it is, is a very familiar one full of archetypal anime characters. The writing is clunky at times, and the overall presentation lacks polish. Not every game needs to push the boundaries of innovation or style, though, and for what it is, How to Fool a Liar King is a cute, charming romance that’s easy to just relax with and enjoy.
– Matt C.
Find me on Twitter: @MC_Odd