Since Black Mirror dropped their interactive episode on Netflix, a few companies have tried to create something similar that has their own twist on the idea. One of the ones that got sent my way was Five Dates by Welsh developers Good Gate Media and Wales Interactive. It sells itself as a romantic comedy set during the corona-times of today, where you play as a chap named Vinny embarking on his first ever online dates.
At the start, you get to choose your profile, which girls you like the look of and then away you go into the weird world of video call dating. Every aspect you choose has different consequences for the game, which means there are hours of FMVs to enjoy. In fact, Five Dates boasts the longest amount of FMV footage of any game, coming in at seven hours with some fairly established actors that provide a really engaging experience for the viewer. On average, I think the player views around 130 scenes per playthrough, and there are close to 800 of them in the game, so players that are that smitten with the characters will have a significant amount of interactive-movie-game to watch and play through.
When I first started Five Dates, I’ll admit, I wasn’t sold. The writing and acting felt very stilted and awkward, but after a little while it dawned on me that it was actually incredible writing and acting. It’s a scenario that people have only recently had to actually enter into in real life, and I would bet that the majority of people in this situation would behave exactly like the characters in the game. The characters portrayed do feel realistic and deep, despite not really ever getting too deep into their personalities – but you do get a window and that is enough to see what they’re like. There are a few sections that feel mildly out of place or a bit forced in, but that was definitely more of an editing together part rather than an issue with the writing.
It has to be said that Wales Interactive have managed to secure themselves some solid acting talent in Five Dates. Everyone in the game has a solid CV of acting jobs – and it is really evident in the performance that each and everyone puts in. I did think the actor who portrayed Callum was a bit hammy but Vinny and his five dates were all charming, enjoyable and portrayed every aspect of their characters impeccably. The game really drew me in and had me extremely curious to see every scene – which I’ve almost managed but there are still a couple that elude me. Every one is a treat though and you really can learn a lot about everyone in the game with just the small interactions you have with them over Zoom.
Overall, I’d have to say that Five Dates is a pretty solid, enjoyable game. Sure, if you’re not a romcom fan you might not immediately grab it off the shelf, but it’s a game that perhaps you should give more of a chance to. The writing is engaging, the acting is believable and I think it has a lot more appeal than just to fans of romcoms. With the 800 or so scenes in the game, you’ll take around eight hours just trying to see everything, so it’s definitely one to consider giving a try if you’re at a loose end – you might end up with a new favourite.