Ten Dates review - One-night stand

Ryan in Ten Dates

Ryan in Ten Dates

First dates have this particular type of awkwardness to them. Never quite knowing how much of yourself to share can lead to a lull but, if you know how to navigate it, that pause can be energising - a break to really see into your date's eyes and their little idiosyncrasies. Ten Dates manages to capture this well but, like meeting someone for the first time, there's a little too much dead air.

It is occasionally impressively realised, with tonnes of dates to go on, people to learn, and conversations to get through. Though the FMV game can be limited by the very thing that makes it so charming, Ten Dates commits to every facet of the experience - even if some tired tropes and stiff acting may have started me off on the bad foot.

This all being said, I sat down with my partner, booted the game up, and got lost for a couple of hours. There are flaws, but it manages to push past them in surprisingly grounded ways.

The first date

Ten Dates is bigger than its predecessor, Five Dates, going for an in-person speed dating event centred around two characters: Ryan and Misha. Being best friends for a long time, Misha brings Ryan to a speed dating event for backup and signs him up without him knowing. You have to make their dating profile, pick interests, and date five people each.

Misha and her date in Ten Dates
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As a duo, they are fun and awkward - the kind of friendship that works well in this setting. They are a platonic rock for each other, catching up at the end of a date night to gossip a little. Not everyone you can meet is dateable and this is great. The pool of candidates changes based on who you are playing as - meaning you have to play through the game multiple times with both characters to get the most out of it.

In the speed dating experience, men have to move from table to table and, starting as Ryan, this allowed me to find a little bit of fun environmental storytelling. Each girl has a number, signposting their major trope. 442 is a professional footballer - signifying the setup of a football field. 666 is an alt girl with her own gothic fashion line.

More than a caricature

Though this overreliance could have led to the game feeling shallow - it doesn't. They are written that way to set up your expectations, which they then try to step out of as you get further. Characters feel fleshed out and real, with goals, fears, and a history. They may have benefited from leaving these tropes behind but they feel justified by the end.

A date in Ten Dates
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This allows the game to talk about real things that affect modern-day relationships. Characters talk about dating under Covid, polyamorous relationships, the trauma of a bad ex - They feel explored organically in the way you would with a friend. It also helps that both leads are likeable and charming. Even when picking the ‘bad option’, Misha and Ryan manage to play it off without sounding like a villain.

This being said, some of the acting can feel quite stiff. Some performances feel inorganic and rushed. Brandy, our rise-and-grind "crypto bro" takes two dates to feel like a real human being. They look both uncomfortable in the role and unsure of their characterisation. Their story is well thought out and surprisingly human but you really have to fight through the first date or so.

Pushing Through

These aren't the only things you may have to push through to get to the game's best parts. Transitions from one choice to the next are often jarring, a few glitches led to a restart of a run and the lack of an option to take off from save points left me skipping through the same dialogue a handful of times to get the good ending.

Brandy in Ten Dates
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Once you’re past the first date with everyone, it would be nice to just start from the second date, rather than going through it all again. It does do some things to alleviate this like a skip button but a glitch near the end of a playthrough of dates can leave you frustrated, and unwilling to finish that storyline.

This all being said, I was always rewarded for pushing through. Some of the characters are well put together, with nice stories and you get a short description of the future if you are successful on your third date. This is a lovely reward that lets you know how each partner accommodates the other. Fundamentally, dating someone changes you and Ten Dates captures the joys of this experience.

Ten Dates
Ten Dates is a lovely but flawed experience that points to a solid future for the series. I got ten dates but wanted even more
7 out of 10

A copy of Ten Dates was provided by the publisher.

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