Thirsty Suitors Review – Speed Dating

Thirsty Suitors Review - Speed Dating

PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PC

The game development scene has been showing continued improvement in representing people of a range of different regions of our world in recent years, with Outerloop Games, headed by Chandana Ekanayake, being at the tip of the spear in this realm. With the team previously launching the VR title Falcon Age, we’ve seen more teams, empowered by the success and response to Falcon Age, step up to the plate, and serve their best efforts up for the devouring masses. As such, the industry has been better for the representation of these various locations around the globe. Now Outerloop returns with new stories to tell of Jala and her various exes in Thirsty Suitors, but can this South Asian cultural infused title, leaving players thirsting for more?

Jala left her home town of Timber Hills on relatively bad terms, with both her family, as well as her various exes being left with some axes to grind over the way she had carried herself over the journey. Now Jala returns home following yet another break-up and must navigate the mess that she has left for herself, as her sister’s wedding approaches, and a quirky skate cult takes over the minds of a subset of the youth in town. Thirsty Suitors is an extremely dialogue heavy game, with exchanges between the myriad of key figures in Jala’s life taking up the majority of your playing time. Dialogue options present themselves fairly regularly, allowing the player to take the conversation in a way of their choosing, but ultimately the end-point remains the same, diffusing the impact of much of these. Where the decisions in conversation do have an impact however, is in their outcomes for Jala’s leveling. Responses are classified in three different ways (referred to as Thirstsona Points), each of which contributes to Jala’s levelling up differently, perhaps providing extra attack, defence, HP, or WP (willpower) dependent upon your choice. 

These light leveling systems do then feed into what is also a fairly light turn-based RPG combat system and incorporates elements of timing-based QTE prompts for additional damage output or defensive boosts. Jala can attack normally, or use a range of taunts to disarm opponents which can then provide further opportunities to attack in heavier ways. These taunts also match with the types of attacks that are especially effective against the target, so a Thirsty taunt, followed by a series of Thirsty attacks will prove to be incredibly devastating to some opponents and not others. More often than not, especially when you’re in “random” encounters, it’s nothing more than guesswork to find the opponent’s weakness which can be frustrating as Jala’s HP depletes while you guess-and-check your way to an opening. Items are available to top up depleted HP/WP, and more, but the balancing of combat heavily favours the player, and so you’ll rarely find yourself needing them, unless your plan is to critical path the game.

Skating mechanics are available, giving Jala the opportunity to wall-run/jump and grind her away across town in creative ways, but for the various skating challenges that are available, the tuning of the skating mechanics simply aren’t good enough. You will often get stuck to certain grindable surfaces because the game deems you to have attempted to jump a moment too late (it absolutely was not), or if you’re a split second too early you shoot off in a direction that also doesn’t equate to anything remotely near where you wanted to end up. Jala is also learning her way in the kitchen with both her mum and dad “assisting” her to up her culinary game, a recipe book being located in the kitchen for players to QTE their way through as they concoct meals that make your parents, and those thirsty exes, weak at the knees. Mechanically the cooking elements are fine, if not a bit too repetitive.

The lifeblood of Thirsty Suitors is the pairing of writing and the delivery of dialogue by the acting team. While Outerloop have certainly invested heavily in the quality of both of these aspects, the enjoyment players get from the game will certainly hinge on their stylistic tastes. Thirsty Suitors certainly has some quirky ways to deliver it’s messages and there will be a very clear split between those who love and appreciate the way characters behave, but there could well be a group just as large who feels pushed away by the game’s tone. Thematically, the game touches on extremely relevant topics of sexuality, challenges of being an immigrant, but also battles that we’ve all faced at times of rebounding from failed relationships, family and societal expectations, and much more. Each of these topics are handled with extreme respect, despite the game’s external quirky flavour, though as the game approaches it’s climax, it does feel like the foot is placed on the accelerator, with the narrative threads being tied up a bit too quickly in ways. 

While certainly not a game for everyone, Thirsty Suitors tackles challenging subject matter and does it with equal parts of respect, flair, humour, and sincerity. Mechanically the game is a little lacking in depth, but it also doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, clocking in at approximately 7-9 hours to complete, hopefully ensuring that player frustration towards these systems is kept to a minimum. Some will find the game hard to love, others hard to put it down, but Thirsty Suitors is loud, proud, and going to draw a crowd.

Thirsty Suitors was reviewed on PS5 using a code kindly provided by the developer.

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