Love In The Time Of Corona

HIGH Callum.

LOW One mind-boggling technical issue.

WTF I will never have a friend as cool or supportive as Callum in real life.

It might be cliche to say at this point, but the COVID-19 pandemic has really changed things in our day-to-day lives, and it’s truly been one of the most trying times in memory. As days spent with this virus ravaging the world continue, it’s only natural to see the art we love tackling the issue.

Five Dates is a full-motion video (FMV) game from Wales Interactive (Late Shift, The Complex) that stars Vinny, a young London man who decides to try a dating app in the middle of lockdown. In what is surely one of the most relevant and timely titles released this year, I was happy to see it address living life remotely.

This being FMV, players watch scenes played out by real actors and make choices in both dialogue and minor actions. Using a dating app as a framing device, most of the important decisions are at the beginning when setting up protagonist Vinny’s dating profile. FYI, Vinny is a hetero male character and there are no options to change genders or to select a sexual preference.

Moving ahead with these parameters, I appreciated the options available and found a way to make him match my own interests and aspirations, and I even picked the same astrological sign. The dates themselves happen remotely with everyone located in their own home and chatting via the in-game dating app.

These choices influence how the scenes in Vinny’s story play out, and dialogue changes depending on what players chose as Vinny’s career and interests — my first playthrough saw him as a creative type who loves fine arts and live music.

These choices also help in determining who to date out of five potential matches. For example, Shaina is a frontline worker who loves to drink cocktails and play videogames to unwind, while Saffron is a vegan who reads poetry and self-help books.

My two playthroughs were done earnestly, as I tried to select genuine choices that I would actually make in real life. Sure, I might have failed a few dates by questioning why someone talked about her ex too much, and I may have pissed off a social media influencer with my poor diet, but I genuinely enjoyed how each scene played out.

Between dates, Vinny debriefs what happens with his best friend Callum. These scenes were my favorite thanks to Callum being the absolute greatest hype man ever. There’s a genuine love between the two friends, and the aftermath of every date brings a hilarious interaction between the two.

My first playthrough took me a little over two hours. After the credits roll, players are given stats on their overall progress, including how many dates were failed and how many scenes were watched. Subsequent playthroughs are encouraged, as there are over 700 live-action scenes in total, and players won’t see them all during one go-round.

Even though Five Dates is definitely a lighthearted affair, I appreciated how real it all felt. The game tackles issues like isolation, anxiety and every young person’s hope of eventual home ownership.

I also appreciated how well it covered what it’s been like to maintain a social life during the pandemic. I’ve spent the last few months having virtual dates with my partner over Skype, as well as setting aside time every week to play videogames online with friends and family as a means of catching up. Five Dates captures how hard it is to adjust to this new normal perfectly.

While Five Dates gets a lot right, one issue that soured certain points were its technical issues. Most notably, there’s a weird glitch that halted the game entirely whenever I paused before a choice came up. These freezes left me with no option other than to quit the main menu and restart at the beginning of the date. It’s annoying, and often triggered when I’d accidentally pause by clicking the button by mistake.

Overall, Five Dates was a joy to experience. It’s a solid rom-com with strong writing and characters that accurately captures the trials and tribulations of living and dating during the COVID-19 era.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by and published by Wales Interactive. It is currently available on PC, PS4, XBO, and Switch.  This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed twice. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Drug References, Use of Alcohol, Language, and Sexual Themes. This is an dating sim-style game created with FMV in which players make choices over an in-game video chat. Characters frequently swear, drink liquor, talk about sex and even show bags of weed on screen. While the game is suitable for teens and feels like a PG-13 film, those who are older might be able to handle themes of dating, anxiety and isolation a bit better.   

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the entire game on mute with no issues. Subtitles are available and can be resized, with no audio cues required for gameplay as all the choices are clearly labeled for the player. This game is perfectly accessible. (See examples above.)

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable and there is no control diagram. Players use the D-Pad or control sticks to make choices and the X-button to confirm. The R1 button is used to skip through previously seen cutscenes.

Cj Salcedo
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