App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Five Dates is a straightforward FMV game about navigating the dating world during the COVID-19 pandemic. You go on virtual dates, learn about potential partners, do some self-reflection, and share your thoughts with your best friend as you hope to wind up finding a solid partner. It's a fun little adventure that doesn't overstep its small scope, and it's all the better for it.
Five Dates opens with Vinny calling his best friend Callum to let him know he just finished setting up an online dating profile. The app sets users up with five potential partners, of which they choose three to have a video date with based on their initial profiles. In terms of online dating and FMV game setups, it's a natural starting point to kick off a choose-your-own adventure experience.
The entirety of Five Dates takes place through video calls with actors playing out the events of each conversation, all of which you have some influence over via dialog choices. You decide whether Vinny drinks on his dates, what questions he asks, and how he responds when his dates want to learn more about him.
After the three initial dates, Vinny debriefs with Callum and then can choose two of the three women to have a second date with. Depending on how those dates go, Vinny can then winnow his choice down to one and take a chance on committing to a relationship. All of this isn't just up to you, though. The women you go on dates with definitely have their own opinions and feelings about Vinny based on how he acts on his dates, meaning your choices have consequences.
Unlike many FMV games, though, these consequences aren't about life and death or what the future of the world ends up looking like. There's no agenda or overarching story at play in Five Dates beyond Vinny's desire to find a relationship during lockdown, which makes your decisions for him feel authentic. This is to say that mid-way through my first date in the game, I felt less like I was pulling on the strings of a puppet and more like I was stepping into the role of a real person.
Are you the one?
I'm sure a big part of the reason I could fall into Five Dates so easily is the fact that Vinny is a cisgender, straight, white male. Developer Wales Interactive made a very heteronormative game here that only acknowledges other relationship possibilities as fun revelations to divulge during rounds of truth or dare or other dating games. At least that's how my playthrough went.
That said, Wales Interactive manages to present this limited scope of the dating spectrum in a multi-faceted way that gives dimension to the women Vinny dates. Everyone has a distinct personality, likes, dislikes, and relationship philosophies. Even the most cartoonish characterizations set up in the initial dates have an emotional payoff that makes sense, provided you take the time to get to know them. In this way, Five Dates is actually successful at making its dates feel like dates.
The bottom line
Five Dates does a good job of capturing the excitement and uncertainty of going out on dates, which is exactly what it set out to do. It could do more to expand what relationship exploration looks like, but what it chooses to focus on it excels at. Like other FMV games, Five Dates feels awkward, stilted, and a little hokey at times, but all of that feels at home in a game about trying to form a deep connection with someone over a video call.