by James Toal
*Just a heads-up, there will be SPOILERS within this review. There is a lot in the game that’s worth being surprised by and better without prior knowledge. You’ve been warned.*
All of the games you would have expected me to be to play, the last thing that people would’ve seen coming would be a dating simulator. From the outside, they all seem to look and act the same way. You play as some blank character and interact with multiple anime women in order to win their heart (and maybe more if you’re playing some more from the explicit examples of the genre).
But, there seems to have been a shift in style when it comes to this style of gameplay. We’re seeing developers take the format of the dating sim and evolve it to take the genre in a new direction. Basically, the dating sim community is now self-aware. They know the tropes and cliches from their favourite games, so now we’ve reached a point where developers subvert expectations and satirize the genre. This has lead to great ideas such as Hatoful Boyfriend, Dream Daddy, and the game we’ll be taking a look at today; Purrfect Date.
In the game, your character visits a secluded island inhabited by cats in which you must help the head scientist study the behaviour of the environment and its residents. Your story kicks off when you’re scratched by an elder cat and thus begin transforming into a cat yourself. You are then tasked with preventing this metamorphosis by finding the antidote, a task which is easier said than done. Along the way, you’ll be given opportunities to carry on your prior scientific research, engage in reconnaissance which can aid your knowledge of the island, and of course, you can develop relationships with the cats you come across. Plus, completing certain goals can unlock EXTRAS which let you find other characters on the island and how they managed to end up in this scenario.
What’s truly notable about this game is that fact that it can keep on surprising you. Once you think you’ve got the narrative all figured out, there’ll be an incredible and unexpected new thing that catches you off guard. It starts as early as the first chapter. You choose a character and pick a random name, assuming that you’ll be following their journey throughout the story. However, it turns out that character is dispensed of by the end of the chapter, and by chapter two you’ll have picked another character and selected another name. You’ll follow their story while also picking up where the last researcher had left off. Not only are you trying to save yourself, you’re also attempting to rescue your past characters from their fate which makes the gameplay and narrative enjoyably engaging.
The writing itself works very well and creates its own tone perfectly. This is aided by making each character unique with their mannerisms and, with some depth, they manage to be quite memorable. Heck, even some of the dialogue exchanges can be quite relatable. What adds to the enjoyment of interacting with each dateable character and going on missions throughout the chapter, is that each choice can lead you down a path towards a different ending… 18 different endings to be exact. With the replayability, you’ll be intrigued as to what choices could lead you to different conclusions. Say you didn’t confess your love to McMurphy, how would that change up the narrative? You’ll just have to play again to find out.
Needless to say, the aesthetic and style are just plain adorable. Thankfully, nothing quite so overbearing such as Kirby’s Epic Yarn that it makes you want to stamp on anything bright pink. But it balances the cuteness, the well-timed humour, and the dark undertones so extraordinarily well that you never feel like you’re left in one emotional state for too long. This is assisted by the fitting soundtrack that accompanies the game. From melancholic beach themes to the foreboding mysterious ambience, each track feels distinct and manages to make each level feel alive. Add in a few vocal Cappella “Meows” sprinkled throughout, make this one of the most charming music compositions that I’ve heard in a long while.
Overall, Purrfect Date is not your typical Dating Sim. It’s a compliment to the genre and makes a lovely addition to your Steam library if you’re interested in something unique. The developers took their small idea of a feline dating sim and expanded it to a fascinating and funny experience. If you’re done with dating Dads, Birds, or even World War 2 tanks (Google it). Then be sure to schedule a date with Bae Teams’ Purrfect Date.