Leo & Leah: A Love Story is a freeware RPG made by Strangeluv in RPG Maker 2003, and released in 2011. It tells the tale of the eponymous couple, two lion cubs. One day, however, while venturing out into the wilderness, Leah is captured by a psychopathic hunteress who intends to sell her to the highest bidder — or worse. Leo takes it upon himself to rescue his Love Interest, though the journey takes longer than expected and soon grows in proportion beyond his wildest dreams.
The story starts off very lighthearted, hardly taking anything serious at all, with humour reminiscent of EarthBound and Super Mario RPG. Eventually, however, a deeper narrative emerges that deconstructs the genre — Leo must confront his doubts and ask himself how far he is really willing to go for Leah's sake.
Download the game here for a bizarre and thought-provoking tale.
An article by Strangeluv on a very important section of the game detailing his thoughts and inspirations for making it can be found here. Spoilers abound, of course.
General tropes used in Leo And Leah:
- Absurdly High Level Cap: The level cap is 99. Most players will end the game around level 20.
- Action Girl: Brandy.
- Arc Words: "Leo & Leah, forever."
- Battle Theme Music: Justified in the case of the Final Boss, as before you fight him, a huge orchestra suddenly appears and starts playing.
- Boss Banter: Illusion Leah, Brandy, and Charlie Quinn. Done in a rather disturbing fashion for the first, whose "banter" consists of screams for mercy that get more and more desperate as the battle goes on.
- Breather Episode: After the horror and Mind Screw of chapter 4, chapter 5 switches back to a more lighthearted mood. At least until the end...
- But Thou Must!: Lampshaded and justified at the end of one quest. When the character asks you if you want the key item you need to proceed with the game, the options are "Yes" and "Why would there be a no option?"
- Chekhov's Gun: Minor example, but used for gut-wrenching effect; when you first get the Bug Suit, the description tells you that every time you use it, a Belgian widow cries. Most players will probably chalk this up to the game's tongue-in-cheek over-the-top silliness. However, in The Void, you can meet that very same Beligan widow, who curses you for making her cry so many times.
- Crosshair Aware: Shows up whenever Brandy's about to shoot something. Surprisingly, it doesn't happen when you actually fight her.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: Charlie Darwin, apparently.
- Continuity Nod: Lots, to A Home Far Away.
- Damsel in Distress: Leah.
- Deconstruction: Of the typical Damsel in Distress and Rescue Romance plot.
- Duel Boss: Illusion Leah in chapter 4.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys
- Fantastic Racism: Plants, bugs, frogs, and mammals all hate each other.
- Guilt-Based Gaming: Trying to quit from the menu will prompt the game to ask "Isn't Leah important to you anymore?"
- Hyperactive Metabolism: HP/SP healing points are even food! Adorable, live food called "Yummyhops" who beg you not to eat them before you mercilessly devour them, Played for Laughs.
- ...And then played with no laughs at all in chapter 4.
- Interspecies Romance: Zara and Zinn, which causes problems due to the Fantastic Racism mentioned above. Subverted/deconstructed; it ends with Zinn abandoning Zara for the Queen Bee, and Zara being brutally murdered.
- One-Hit Kill: The Final Boss' "Spotlight of Death" spell.
- Party in My Pocket: Daisy doesn't even appear during cutscenes, most of the time.
- Permanently Missable Content: Everything, potentially, since you can't return to previous areas after the end of a chapter. However, most of it is just common items and seashells — the only really important things are balloons and skill bells, which are rather hard to miss.
- Rare Candy: Red and green balloons, which increase HP and SP, respectively.
- Save Point: Black cats! They're part of an international corporation that wants to remove the stereotype of black cats bringing bad luck, so they became save points so that people would be happy when a black cat crossed their path.
- Sheathe Your Sword: Strangely enough, inverted with Illusion Leah.
- Shout-Out: One of the methods to escape from your prison cell in Chrono Trigger is to repeatedly bang on the cage bars until the guards come in to shut you up. When Leo is captured by the frogs and thrown in prison, you can try this method again, but the frogs eventually wise up and tell you that it might have worked in some other prison, but not this one.
- The Silent Bob / Heroic Mime: Leo. This would be justified due to the fact that he's a lion, but every other animal in the game can also speak, and he can understand human speech... (Also subverted, since he often speaks through his actions and one can learn a lot about his character that way.)
- Theme Naming: Brandy and Whiskey.
- Unexpected Shmup Level: Chapter 5 has Leo riding a bird to chase after Brandy and Whiskey (who are hanging from a bunch of balloons) and dodging gunfire.
- Abusive Parent: Brandy's father. It was so bad that she killed him.
- Accidental Murder: Brandy, to Whiskey. She does not take it well
- Battle in the Center of the Mind: Illusion Leah, possibly.
- Driven to Suicide: Brandy after she kills Whiskey.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Deconstructed, and the central point of the narrative.
- Emotion Eater: Harlie and Charlie Quinn. According to Word of God, they recognized the extreme amount of love Leo possessed, and wanted to have a feast of it by capturing him and his Love Interest
- Family-Unfriendly Death: After Brandy's Villainous Breakdown, Leo kills her by mauling her repeatedly and bloodily until the "end of chapter" screen suddenly pops up.
- Freudian Excuse: Brandy had Abusive Parents who traumatized her by constantly talking about how they'd treat her like an animal (i.e. kill her) if she disobeyed them; this caused her to become psychopathic and hate animals.
- Interface Screw: Kind of; though it isn't direct, in chapter 4, many elements of the game normally taken for granted start acting weirdly and creepily; black cats start talking about how they hate the haunted ship and how they're frightened instead of saying silly things; Yummyhops attack you and tell you that by eating them you're "eating your own soul"; and the previously-helpful signposts start saying disturbing things: "Give up", "You've failed, [player name]", "Leah is dead", etc. It only gets trippier when you go into The Void itself.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog:
- Chapter 2 is this for Zara. It seems like its plot is about overcoming the Fantastic Racism present among the animals, probably due to The Power of Love. But nope. Turns out Zinn never intended to marry her, and abandons her for the Queen B as soon as he can. A heartbroken wreck, Zara decides to just go home...and then Brandy shoots her.
- Although it's hard to tell what Leo's thinking, he seems to feel guilty for what happened, since Zara's ghost haunts him in chapter 4.
- Surprise Creepy: The tone usually darkens considerably and abruptly whenever Brandy is around.
- Unstoppable Rage: Leo, to Brandy, by the end of the game.
- You Bastard!: Didn't feel bad about devouring all those Yummyhops? You will in chapter 4. Oddly enough, it seems to make Leo feel bad - before The Void, once you talk to a Yummyhop, you automatically eat it. After The Void, you are prompted each time as to whether you want to eat it. Whether you choose Yes or No ultimately makes no difference, but it does suggest that the whole experience gave Leo second thoughts about chomping down sentient creatures on a whim.