Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Dating Sim + Horror

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 30, 2014

I can’t say I’m a connoisseur of Dating Sims, but the ones I have played felt like a very interesting and different subspecies of RPG. If you haven’t played one – it’s a specially focused implementation of a “Life Sim.” If you haven’t played one of those … well, you know what “The Sims” is? Scale that down to indie size and provide more of a storyline. Long Live the Queen by Hanako Games is an excellent example. Also, pretty much any of the Visual Novels and RPGs by Winter Wolves games include some romance elements that borrow from dating sims.

While I really enjoyed some of the few dating sims I played, there was something that felt kind of creepy about many of them. Basically, you level up your protagonist and perform day-to-day activities earning skills / cash / gifts / whatever to keep going and to impress other characters in the game so that you can date them. Really popular in Japan, they’ve picked up a bit of a casual following in the west as well. But at least for many I have played, there’s something kind of creepy about the mechanical / strategic way in which you play the romance game. Fulfill the correct parameters, answer the questions correctly, and your standing moves up with the character. That’s nothing unusual for romance elements in an RPG, but where it’s the focus of the game…

Like I said, I enjoy it, but there’s something a tad creepy about it.

Mixing this with horror elements isn’t new. I’m not well-versed in the genre, but Winter Wolves’ Nicole is an example of a full-blown indie dating sim with a horror / thriller angle.

ButILoveYouThere’s a kickstarter campaign currently going on that takes it to a whole new level – as far as I can tell, really taking advantage of the absurdity of some of the plots and mechanics of many of the lower-end dating sims to turn what sounds like a young man’s dream scenario – getting stranded in a community of beautiful young women all interested in you – into a nightmare.

Kickstarter: “But I Love You” – a Horrific Take on Dating Sims

As described in the campaign, “Once you get in town, the occupants all flock to you, intrigued by the stranded newcomer. At first, they try to help in their own little ways, but as they grow attached, they try to convince you to stay with them. Forever. That’s when you notice things are very, very wrong in this town, from the datable characters to the setting. Once the player starts to notice a trend of the girls starting to be slightly, well, nuts, it becomes a puzzle horror game. The game still features multiple endings like a dating sim, some of them romantic, some where nothing happens, and a few where the player is…dead. You also have the option of ignoring all of the bad stuff and pretending everything is a-ok to keep scoring with the ladies.

This is not a recommendation. In fact, I have serious concerns about this game ever making it to release (which means I estimate its chances below 80%). It’s being made by an inexperienced developer, which flashes all kinds of warning signs in my head. But I’ve blown $15 in worse ways before, and I love the core idea. It sounds like a great way to make the creepiness work for the game. Perhaps this isn’t the first time this idea has been explored, but it’s new to me.

What I like most of all is the fact that indies are continuing to push genre boundaries – to do unlikely mixing-and-matching and subverting of tropes, and really play with audience expectations to make new experiences. These experiments aren’t always successful (IMO, they fail more often than they succeed), but it needs to happen.

Filed Under: Casual Games, Indie Horror Games - Comments: Comments are off for this article

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