If you enjoyed the 2020 interactive rom-com Five Dates this new release could be just what you have been waiting for. A follow-up set in a post-pandemic Millennial-centric landscape delivers double the number of potential suitors, extends the gameplay time significantly and allows players to play as both the male and female protagonists. Having never needed to use a dating app this will be a new experience for me as I get glammed up and head out to connect with strangers in the XboxEra review of Ten Dates.
Mischa is looking for that special someone but is too scared to attend a speed dating evening on her own. At first glance, the compere for the evening looks more sinister than a villain in a ‘Dark Pictures Anthology game’ so I could see why she was nervous. Luckily, Mischa was able to trick her slightly irritating friend Ryan into going with her and joining in. Both of them then set out to impress each person they meet in a short time to gain a second date and then a third which if successful will lead to a relationship. I came to think of it as a three-stage boss battle over ten rounds if that helps.
Beginning with a ‘Daters’ dating app interface, players choose a photograph that best conveys Mischa or Ryan’s personality then select a profession, three areas of interest and a Star Sign. While the job and areas of interest could be of use when matched to specific characters, I am unsure whether the picture or Star Sign made any difference whatsoever. Players then choose some dates to interact with. A range of wildly different personalities is represented such as a Goth at table 666, the glamour puss at table 069 (sorry, 999), the free-loving bad boy who walks in holding his helmet and then regards any mention of it as inappropriate and the nerd who works in IT but can barely converse with another human being unless it is via text.
What A Time To Be Alive!
The main characters discuss how they got on via video chat on a stylised phone-shaped interface while the dates themselves are shown in full screen and give proceedings the look of a high-quality production. Loading screens between dates are short, slick, and mainly comprised of drone footage of the central London skyline and drinks being poured. It is easy to feel like you are watching an episode of ‘First Dates’ or the opening sequence to ‘Hotel Babylon’ so I guess they may have been an inspiration.
During each date, questions are asked and deep dives can sometimes be undertaken. Games (Never Have I Ever etc.) can be played as an ice breaker and to mix up the gameplay. Players are presented with time-limited choice selections about how they want to answer a question or what they want to ask next. This action is virtually seamless with no hint of loading screens, only on one occasion did it glitch and play both potential answers back to back. This was on a third date but mercifully did not mess things up with the relationship and make me start again from scratch.
The main objective of the game is to gain enough information about each potential partner to select the correct answers to make them more attracted to you. Yes, that’s right, just like in ‘Life is Strange’ the gameplay is based on gaining enough knowledge of the other characters to be able to manipulate them into doing what you want. For example, my favourite date likes to play a card game with potential suitors. I set out to win the game (I am a gamer after all) only for her to dump me straight afterward. Talking to her on a retry I discovered that she hates losing and was able to use this knowledge to let her win the game and snag the ultimate prize, her love. Is that morally wrong or clever? I am not sure but you have to do it to be successful in this game.
Discussion between the characters is fairly extensive and covers lots of different subjects relevant to young people today such as opposing views on Brexit, Covid, lockdowns, refugees, toxic relationships, life-work balance, and wealth. It is refreshing to read that LGBTQ+ and disability consultants worked closely with the writing team in order to present a dating experience that is inclusive and allows players to experience dates with a varied selection of individuals.
Relationship status tracking influences the story and different storylines can be discovered through repeat playthroughs. Certain actions are listed by each character for completion in the relationship tracker menu but I experienced some that after completion did not update. These do not seem to have any impact on the game itself and are not achievement related so can only be there to entice players to try different answers to see what happens.
Let’s Not Talk About Sex
It is slightly strange that sexual matters are referred to by some of the dates, such as when I selected a Pineapple juice and my date asked me ‘if I had something on my mind’ but if I selected any questions regarding sex during the dates, I was generally punished for doing so and met with nothing but disapproval. Mixed messages are certainly going on here, although I suppose that some of the characters may have reacted differently, particularly the one who accused me of being too vanilla as she preferred her sex ‘Kinky’. I tended to shy away from any sexual discussion after two questions that went down like a French kiss at a family reunion.
Although this is a mostly chilled experience, it is worth noting that two of the dates are far harder as the individuals cannot be read easily. Failure with these two is achievable by making just one wrong choice at the climax of the third date. Failed dates mean trying again from the beginning which does get a bit tiresome as does the game itself after a while.
The RB button is a godsend as it allows you to skip previously watched footage. This makes date retries far more palatable as it would be like torture watching whole sections again and again. Luckily, It is possible to answer in all of the correct ways to get back to the second and third dates fairly quickly (if you remember the correct choices that is.)
I think Seven Dates would have been enough for me. I played for just under seven hours to complete the game and by then even the ‘Coffee Talk’ style chilled theme music that I originally noted as a positive part of the game had started to grate on me.
Body Count In The House?
I was perplexed by two things that occurred while I played though. One was the beer being served in plastic pint glasses. This is bad enough in itself but these ones looked brand new and not anything like the ones you see in the real world which have gone grey due to numerous washes in a dishwasher. The other was a question regarding whether I ‘considered body count to be important.’ I may belong to Gen X but I consider Body Count to have been a very important part of Heavy Metal and Ice-T’s career in the early nineties so I answered Yes. My date thought otherwise and binned me off so I can only assume she is more of an Ed Sheeran fan.
Ten Dates does many things well. For a reasonably cheap title, it has a high-quality look to it, the acting is at the same level as I would expect from a television drama and the gameplay is very inclusive. Interactive movie games have come a long way in the last couple of years and this one is no exception. Of course, it is no ‘Immortality’ but that game has to be considered the zenith of this genre. It may overstay its welcome in the end, but fans of the first game will have a lot of fun playing this. Are Twenty Dates on the horizon? Only time will tell.
Xbox Series X
- LGBTQ+ and Disability inclusivity.
- Improves on the game length of it's predecessor.
- Has quality acting and visual presentation.
- Relatively cheap to purchase.
- One for the fans.
- Slightly over stays it's welcome.
- Ryan is a bit irritating.
- A One-Trick Pony