An FMV romantic-comedy can’t possibly go wrong can it, Ten Dates?
I do love an FMV game. Have I made that clear before? There’s something really fun about playing what is essentially a choose your own adventure book but with live action actors that have to follow your commands. Some are simpler, having you make simple choices that direct the plot, like Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? Others are a bit more freeform, allowing you to direct the action and make decisions based on your discoveries, such as The Shapeshifting Detective. Ten Dates certainly falls into the former category, but it’s no worse for it. Playing as something of a dating game, your choices will determine who you click with and who stands you up in your pursuit of a smooch.
Now, I didn’t play Five Dates, and as I understand it this sequel doesn’t directly connect to its predecessor. You play either Ryan or Misha, who you select at the beginning along with their interests, career, and star sign. The character you choose will determine your dates, whilst your other choices change how your dates interact with you in minor ways. Anyway, Misha has signed the two of you up for speed dating, and you’ll set off and have five minute dates with five potential partners. You’ll ask and answer questions during this time, which will change how much each person likes you before asking them out for a second or even a third date, culminating in a burgeoning relationship or being sent back to square one on your own.
The choices of date are quite diverse, representing people from many walks of life, including LGBT, those with disabilities, and neurodivergent individuals. It’s nice to have all different types of people here, with many characters showing different personalities based on their previous life experience, and you’ll need to determine how, or even if you want to, pursue a relationship with them.
The mechanics here are very simple. At various points in your conversation you’ll need to make quick decisions about what to say next based on one or two options. You’d best pay attention to what is being said of course, but you’ll also need to figure out what your response might mean. Your choices are often limited to a single word or, at most, a very short sentence.
Often they’re clear enough, but sometimes how your character reacts might not be what you expect at all. You might choose to challenge someone’s stance on something, which I might take as having a debate or discussion about it, but my character decided it meant I wanted to call my partner childish and start mildly insulting them. Think LA Noire, but with less yelling in someone’s face and you’re in the right ballpark.
That complaint aside, the acting in Ten Dates is pretty on point. Conversations often feel natural, and the actors are putting in a really solid effort. Ryan and Misha are particularly well done, as you’d hope with them being the main characters, but all the dates are great as well. Whilst I haven’t played through all ten of them and seen every possible clip, I’ve yet to come across something that feels incongruous. The likes of footballer Toni and code wizard Lucas feel like actual people with their own quirks. There’s been some great effort with the writing and direction that you don’t always see in multi-path FMV games.
The locations aren’t quite as solid, sadly. All the dates, from the initial speed dates to the third date with your preferred character take place in the same few venues. This in itself isn’t too bad, but apart from the first bar, all the other places feel quite lifeless and as though they only exist for the purposes of this date. Even when other additional characters crop up during the dates, they feel as though they’re only there for the purposes of the scene. It’s a shame as the other acting and direction are so strong. Music is stronger, but subtle, keeping to the background for the most part and never really intruding. This is pretty much what I would hope for in a game like this, but when it did crop up it was playful and light-hearted, and very much in keeping with the game’s tone.
A playthrough here will take you around an hour if you manage to make it to three dates with a partner. The time very much flew by, especially in the early goings, but I did worry about subsequent playthroughs requiring me to sit through scenes I’d already experienced. Thankfully this is very much accounted for. Not only can you press tab to skip something you’ve already seen, but you can also select exactly which speed dates you want. If you’ve already seen everything you want to from a certain character, you can choose not to have them in the speed dating pool at all. This really speeds up repeat plays, and I’d love to see more FMV games make use of ways like this to allow you to play again without wasting your time.
Whilst an FMV dating game isn’t something I’d actively seek out personally, I fully recognise Ten Dates as a really solid game. It’s very well put together, with a great cast and solid writing. If you’re a fan of FMV games and haven’t dipped your toe into this pool, I’d say this game is a solid and fun entry into the genre.