Friday, December 2, 2016

Hot Date

Hot Date is an indie game developed by George Batchelor (with music by Levi Pack). It falls into category of dating simulators, however it plays differently than other games from this genre. This game category is bloated with hundreds of new games coming out rapidly due to their low difficulty to develop. This brings many bad games into this genre and pulls its overall appeal down.

Hot Date’s main goal, unlike other dating simulators, is not to “win” by making the other person falling in love with you, but… well on first glance it really isn’t clear what the goal is, and that may be the main appeal of it.

Upon starting it up, you are greeted with short credits and a nice minimalistic splash screen. Whole game follows this clean look, not focusing on colourful and detailed visuals, but on the conversations, you are having with various pugs you meet on a speed dating night. Game follows a simple loop of meeting a new pug, introducing yourselves to one another, asking some questions before time runs out and then meeting another pug. Every date you start with introducing yourself, then a set of greetings you can choose from, followed up with one awkward question to start the conversation up (only if there was a weather-related question, the “lame starter question” set would be complete). After this short introduction, you get a set of questions split into “Are”, “Do”, “Would”, “Have” and “What” categories to choose from and the remaining time of date with this random pug to choose whatever you want to ask. Questions range from “What is your favourite animal?” to “Are you familiar with the economic implications of the Bitcoin? “. It is notable that topics to choose from are highly constrained by developer’s interests, touching only narrow range topics (which most of aren’t that close to mine), but still the selection is sufficient. In total, there are more than 20 questions, of which some have multiple variants and all have multiple responses. During one speed date, you have nowhere near enough time to ask even half of them, but that’s what the author intended. You must choose what you ask and how you lead the conversation with you speed date. After time runs out, you can invite the other pug to another date, say a friendly goodbye or choose to be negative. Depending on response, it’s all up to you to deduce if that speed date was successful, failed horribly or whatever else, game doesn’t comment on it at all, only puts another pug in front of you to start yet another speed date.

Visuals of this game are simple yet effective. Whole game world consists of single room, with bunch of props and animated pug as the main focus. Author used nice subtle colour scheme, with low-poly, flat-shaded models giving the whole game clean look. Lit candle with dancing flames, casting dim shadows on whole room with music playing in background creates a fitting atmosphere.

My main complaint about this game would be that all you do, feels insignificant and mainly random to the outcome of every date. At first, seeing each new pug with a different introduction, one complimenting your name, other being shy or even some being depressive or aggressive, I thought this gives them some personality which affects their responses to your questions. After completing bunch of quick dates, I realized that there are no personalities, just good old RNG which determines the responses. You even get various answers from one pug on same question if asked multiple times, and that was the most immersion breaking thing. Sometimes the author put a kind of guard to situations like this, for example when you ask for third or fourth advice in a row, pug will respond with another sentence, but that’s as far as it gets.

Overall the game is enjoyable to play with and experiment, although experimenting too much breaks the immersion. The writing is hilarious (not always in bright way) and filled with references to current pop culture. Visuals are simple, but still achieving what they are supposed to, and music fits nicely with the whole theme of this game. Although I’m not fan of this type of games at all, I’ve had fun time with this little indie game. Still I wasn’t convinced to buy it, because of it’s extremely short playtime. Maybe if some aspects I felt were missing or underdeveloped were to be added this would be a much longer lasting experience.

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