The names ‘Good Gate Media’ and ‘Paul Raschid’ have become synonymous with the continued resurgence of the FMV genre. When paired together, the company and director have created interactive movie magic with the likes of ‘The Complex‘ and ‘Five Dates‘. Gone is the B-Movie cheese and cringeworthy acting this genre was previously infamous for, replaced with complex characters, intricate branching stories and convincing dialogue. Their next project ‘Ten Dates’, a pseudo-sequel to Five Dates, continues that trend.
Like its predecessor, Ten Dates is all about finding love. It’s an unusual topic for an FMV game; this genre is so overwrought with battling through action scenes and surviving chilling horrors that a game where you’re simply sitting down to chat to a potential love interest feels like a genuine curio. Imagine a half-way point between an interactive rom-com and a dating simulator game and you’ll have the gist of Ten Dates in your mind.
A Quick Start
While its predecessor was based on online dating during the pandemic, Ten Dates takes that experience face to face. You’ll still be chatting through a phone screen on occasion to set up a scene, the vast majority of the game is shot with its actors in the same room as one another.
Despite this change, the structure of Ten Dates remains relatively similar to that of Five Dates. After a little bit of a set up, you’ll be attending a speed dating event. Here, you’ll meet with 5 potential suitors, attempting to impress them while delving a little into their personality within a restricted 5 minute conversation. Choices are presented onscreen and you’re given a short window in which to make your decision. What options you take determine how the conversations flow down a branching narrative path and how well your date progresses. The impact of your choices can be tracked in a handy tool found in the options menu.
After getting a first impression of your potential love interests and hopefully making a good account of yourself, you can then ask 2 of the 5 prospects on a further date. The culmination of each run at the game hopefully involves a third and final date with 1 of the 2 you selected for a second date. Of course, if you’ve really fluffed it and the dates go poorly, a run at Ten Dates can end in disaster (and a bit of loneliness) at any stage.
Double The Fun
So, why is ‘Ten Dates’ called ‘Ten Dates’, rather than Five Dates 2? Well, in this pseudo-sequel, there are two playable characters. You can choose to play as either Misha or Ryan, a pair of friends that haven’t had much luck on dating apps and are looking for an in-person connection. Both characters have their own path through the game, and meet 5 unique dates, taking it to 10 in total. See what they did there?
As you’re choosing your character, you also get to define their dating profile. You get to select their profile picture, occupational sector, interests and star sign. These choices won’t influence the wider game play, but they do open up specific sections of footage. For example, if you select healthcare as an occupation, you’ll unlock specific interactions about the importance of the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you select a creative career as Ryan, the more driven, motivated suitors might call into question his financial stability. It’s a little touch, but these moments really highlight the level of detail that Good Gate Media and Raschid have considered during development.
The in-person structure, especially starting with a speed dating event, makes a lot more sense in the games structure than its predecessor. The first 5 dates are intentionally limited, as is the case with speed dating, with each subsequent date with each character delving a little deeper into their personality.
Much like its predecessor, Ten Dates does an excellent job of presenting a cast of characters for you to get to know while regularly trying to wrong foot you. At least at first glance, the suitors often come across as caricaturistic tropes. There’s the motorcycle riding bad lad, the reclusive tech genius, the party loving city boy, the career driven independent woman, the book worm, the sporty woman who strives for success, and many more besides. Honestly, if they were in a detention hall, you’d have a decent set up to recreate The Breakfast Club.
Much like the characters in John Hughes’ classic, there’s more than meets the eye to this cast. As you progress through dates with each character, you get to know these deeper, three dimension people that all have something going on in their life. The cast transform from shallow tropes into believable love interests as you unveil more about their life, like peeling back the layers of an onion with each subsequent date.
The formats of the ten dates feel natural too. They often start with a little nervous banter before using a tried and tested ice breaker to keep the conversation flowing. You’ll play ‘Never Have I Ever’ on one date, and a ‘Price is Right’ styled higher or lower game with a pack of cards in another. There’s even ‘Truth or Dare’, which can result in some truly funny moments. Do well in these games and you’ll likely impress your date. Perform badly and you’ll often get the adverse reaction.
Some of the funnier moments of Ten Dates are hidden away in abject failure. Royally mess up a date and there’s some decent schadenfreude to be found in the moments of awkward since that follow. If you come at the game like a traditional video game to win, trying to say what you think the character would like to hear, you’ll likely experience this more often. The game does try to trip you up, and does so admirably at times.
Ten Dates Worth Having?
None of this would work if it wasn’t for an excellent script and a cast to deliver it. Both of those can be found here. Some of the conversations sparkle with wit while others deliver little nuggets of foreshadowing or misdirection that drive the player on to uncover more. Both Rosie Day (Outlander, Living The Dream) and Charlie Maher (Blue Lights, Animals) deliver a charming, convincing performance as lead characters in their own right. While the rest of the cast step into some pretty incredible chemistry with the leads, a few stand out from the crowd. Sam Buchanan’s portrayal of lad’s lad ‘Bash’ is incredibly convincing, as is Ellie James’ sporting performance as a footballing family woman. Meaghan Martin, Rhiannon Clements, Buket Komur and Sagar Radia give incredibly ‘lived in’ performances also, confidently delivering roles they seem comfortable in. All in all, the casting, script and acting are of a really high quality. None of the dates, acting or dialogue stands out as a particular low point.
If I am to critique Ten Dates (I mean, that is my job here after all), it would be to say that the music used during some of the dates oversteps the scene. There are times when you’ll be having a good time and there’s a bit of ambient music going on – but then you put your foot in it and say something which upsets the other character, or gets them to open up emotionally. These moments sometimes come with a maudlin piano track which I imagine was supposed to underpin the change in tone. Instead, this feels quite jarring. The music can flit between upbeat ambient tracks to sad ‘walking in the rain’ music a number of times in some dates and it does little to complement the scene. Instead, it might have been better to make the music silent for just a moment when those lines are delivered, as if to suggest the background noise just fades away.
Late For The Dates
My other comment would be that Ten Dates feels mildly dated already. Five Dates was a cultural objet d’art, filmed and created during the high of COVID-19 lock downs. It felt important, like a time capsule that future gamers would be able to use to experience ‘love in the time of Corona’. At times, it feels like Ten Dates is trying to recapture part of that importance by regularly mentioning the pandemic, or Brexit. If this game had arrived 6 months ago, asking people how they got through the lock downs, or commenting on elbow bumping instead of hand shakes, would have been common place. As the COVID-19 pandemic has slowly fallen out of the public/news papers’ subconscious however, and as the world tries to move on, being reminded of that peculiar time in British modern history feels odd. It’s still an important view into post-pandemic dating, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a little too late to the party with some of its subject matter.
Those quirks aside, Ten Dates is a thoroughly enjoyable FMV game. That’s made possible in part by how accessible it is. As is the standard for modern day FMV games, this title allows you to skip through content you’ve seen before. This means you can zip through scenes you’ve already played so that you can see the narrative branches you’ve yet to experience quickly. The game holds you up for decision making but even so, it’s a very slick experience. Even my non-game-playing wife enjoyed an evening with Ten Dates, which is a testament to the content and how easy this game is to play.
I also have to commend Ten Dates on the increased representation over its predecessor. Both characters are given the opportunity to woo a member of the same gender. This plays out as naturally as any of the other cast members.
If you’re a fan of FMV games and dating simulators, Ten Dates is yet another easy recommendation from Wales Interactive’s ever-growing portfolio of published interactive movies. The acting and script are excellent and aside from a few odd musical transitions and dated references, there’s a lot of accessible fun to be had here.
Ten Dates is launching on the PS5 (review platform), PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series consoles and PC via Steam.
Developer: Good Gate Media
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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