Date Night

May. 30th, 2016 12:52 am
[personal profile] got_quiet posting in [community profile] playingstory
Name: Hot Date
Status: Complete
Rating: PG
Pairing: ?/Dog
Description: Speed dating with pugs

I am way behind on these! If you knew me you'd be shocked, shocked!

The net is flooded with VNs, adventure stories, and CYOA type fare these days. It's an embarrassment of riches for those who enjoy this sort of thing, but when you set off to to review it all it can suddenly become daunting.

But nevermind. On to the review!

This time we're stepping away from the Renpy format into something a little different. Hot Date is a procedurally generated speed dating game, similar in premise to 6.8x10^14 First Dates, but, well... complete, and with graphics. In it you sit down for an thrilling speed dating event, where all of your partners happen to be pink pugs.

The novelty is probably what the developer is hoping will bring people in, but the game itself does turn out to be relatively robust. You're given a large set of discussion options, which are generated in a sort of tree structure, and then the response is generated very smoothly. It's much more difficult to find the seams than it was in First Dates, and you can play for some time without finding repetition. This is done by having a time limit mechanic a la real life speed dating (probably turn based, with each question counting as a turn) and the large option set. It seems like you need such a large bank of stuff to put into your procgen machine, or else things start getting tedious quickly.
Art: It's a limited, animated vector like scene, cleanly done, but somehow it seems to eat up a lot of resources even though there isn't much going on. You do have graphics options at the beginning, but I wonder what's going on that that is even needed when the only thing being animated is a little pug and a bunch of letters.

Writing: Humorous. There's no plot or gameplay so the writing relies on wit. And most of it is funny, in a cringy sort of way. My major gripe is that pugs appear to be assholes. It's hard, maybe impossible, to have a nice speed date, because these damn pugs hardly like anything, act like complete shits towards you, and actually succeeded in making me feel a little despondent about my dating life. Thanks, you little pink assholes.

Even when the date starts off good, you'll inevitably pick a bad choice and the dog you're currently wooing will become super passive aggressive at you. There's no selection tracking to speak of, so you can choose the same questions and get different answers each time from the same pug. At the end you say your goodbyes, and sometimes a pug that insulted you multiple times will think you had a great time.
I suspect the problem is again in the procedural nature of the game. Procgen is great at creating breadth, but suffers when trying to build depth. In a natural conversation, positive responses result in a continuation of the conversation along the same lines. When someone says, "How about stamps," and their partner says, "Stamps suck," that branch is cut off in a simple fashion and you change subjects. Considering that, it was smart to make this a speed dating game, because the non-starters felt relatively natural, up until one realizes that they're all non-starters, and there's simply no content beyond that.

That's not to say that there's no depth at all. Each pug seems to come with its own random set of likes and dislikes, and if you do miraculously manage to hit on a like, you can go a little bit deeper, but not much. Maybe if each generation also had a tone setting the dogs would have felt both more internally consistent and diverse, but this likely would have increased the writing demand exponentially (yet another pitfall of procgen).

Choice: There's a ton, since the whole game is about choosing conversation threads and seeing where they lead. The game also includes a nice branch process, so you can start with Are, Do, Would, Have, What, and then you build the sentence with 1 or 2 more additions.  

Overall: An amusing novelty that makes good use of procgen, but nothing more. Worth a handful of playthroughs, but quit while you're ahead.


Reviewing games with an emphasis on story or chara

July 2016


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