Writer/Director: Paul Raschid
Producer: Good Gate Media/Wales Interactive
Lockdown has affected everybody’s lives in varying ways. This is particularly true for the dating scene, with single folk unable to meet in person and instead attempting to date online over video chat.
This is the scenario behind interactive fiction game Five Dates, which sees twentysomething Vinny (Taheen Modak) sign up to an online dating agency. Spurred on by his wingman Callum (a hilarious Demmy Ladipo), Vinny must – with the help of the player – select three women’s profiles from a list of five, and embark upon a series of conversations over Zoom.
The course of each conversation is guided by a series of multiple choice options, guiding the relationship Vinny develops with each date down a number of possible routes in Paul Raschid’s script.
The choices determine not only how favourably his dates feel towards Vinny – with compatibility scores for each woman updating in real time as the conversation progresses – but also dictate Vinny’s personality. At times this becomes a frustration, where having to choose between two single-word options takes the story, and the characters, down routes those stark options only hint at.
After subsequent rounds of dates (after the first three dates, the player can nominate two women they’d like to have second dates with, and a third and final round sees a date with just one) Vinny’s love life comes to an end after round about an hour of continuous play. At that point the game reveals just how many of the 266 recorded video pathways the player has interacted with, spurring on the player to start the process over again.
But while some players may crave the completeness of viewing all the possible permutations of videos, for many it will be a desire to match Vinny up with a suitable partner. Modak’s engaging personality is a huge part of this, even as his banter with Ladipo allows the latter’s energy to dominate.
As for the five women he has the options of dating, Mandip Gill as Shaina, an NHS nurse who lives with her parents and who describes herself as a “cougar” by being all of three years older than Vinny, is as charming and engaging as her character is difficult to please. Marisa Abela as livewire party girl Maya, and Sinéad Harnett’s social media influencer Paige, also impress.
Devised and put together to capitalise on the unique situations that life in 2020 has thrown up, this is an interactive game that’s of its time. Indeed, references to the weekly NHS doorstep applause already gives the piece an ever so slightly dated air.
But Raschid does well to create an environment that, for the most part, rises above its contrivance and provides a diverting slice of romantic storytelling.
Available on Steam (Mac/PC), Nintendo Switch, PS4 and XBox One