Being single over the past few years must have been a rollercoaster. Finding love in the era of bubbles, social distancing and constant handwashing must have been a trip. And we can’t think of a better document of that time than Five Dates, an FMV dating sim from Wales Interactive. It captured all of the remote-dating awkwardness of the time, yet managed to remain endearing. 

That rollercoaster hasn’t stopped. Dating is now emerging from its remote period, the singletons bleary eyed as they see each other in person and try to recapture any social skills they might have once had. It’s a time of transition and – you betcha – Wales Interactive are here to observe and capture the moment with Ten Dates.

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The title gives away how Ten Dates takes a big step forward from Five Dates. Ten Dates has been given room to breathe, with ten potential suitors rather than the first game’s five. Which is brill, as one of the biggest flaws of Five Dates was how backward and narrow it was. Gone is a single, male protagonist hunting for love among five female candidates. Instead, in come two protagonists – Ryan and Misha – male and female, with four opposite-sex partners, and one same-sex partner each. 

Boom. By broadening the scope, Ten Dates sweeps away the leading issues. There are still valid questions around who is or isn’t included (there is a distinct lack of people of colour, and there is an argument that the relationships still skew to the heteronormative), but – for our money – effort has truly been made to embrace inclusivity. There are a wide variety of relationships on offer here, and the cosmopolitan nature of London is represented.

Including ten dates also means that, thanks to the law of averages, there’s got to be someone here that you connect with. We loved spending time with Azalea and Kathleen, but you will have your own favourites. We found thinner pickings on Misha’s roster of men, which might be a gender bias on our part, but everyone’s bio has been carefully sculpted to offer at least a glimmer of endearment. 

That said, if you’ve played Five Dates, we would say that fewer characters hit the heights of Shaina and Maya. Toni, played by Ellie James, seems like she wants to be anywhere other than where she is (which can confuse, when you are looking to her body language for clues), while Ty, played by Callum McGowan, strays into the irredeemably unlikable. It’s nothing to do with the actors: they’re just written to be detached.

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We’ve managed to avoid describing what Ten Dates is like to play. It’s probably best seen as a dating version of a choose your own adventure book, where the romantic choices lead to positive or negative reactions. 

The first choice is picking between Ryan and Misha. They have five different romantic options each, so pick carefully. Following that, you are constructing their bio. This is a few questions about their career, hobbies and star signs that give the script some details to hang on.

Then you’re into a spot of speed dating. This is different from Five Dates, which chucked you immediately into the dating deep end. Think of it as a ‘try before you buy’ scenario. You can spend three minutes with each man or woman and get a sense of whether they juice your lemon. It’s a fantastic and perfect way to begin the game, completely in keeping with the post-lockdown setting, and allowing you to make decisions without regret.

In those three minutes, you are watching Misha or Ryan charming their opposite number in FMV sequences. It’s easy to forget you’re playing a game, as you can often get swept away on the currents of the conversation. In many ways it’s a rom-com with you as the peeping tom. But occasionally the conversation turns to a question and you have to answer, picking from up to three options. The person on the other side of the table responds positively or negatively, depending on their character and what you said to them (making sexual innuendo to a more prudish person will get you nowhere). Finally, the positive and negative points are tallied and the game invisibly decides whether that person fancies you or doesn’t.

As long as someone has shown enough interest in you, having blurted some nonsense at them over a glass of wine, then you can choose between them for another set of dates. A maximum of two people can be chosen for the next round, and then only one for the final, third date. Pass that last test, and you can step into the sunset, arm in arm with them. 

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Ten Dates continues the trend that Five Dates started, by structuring the dates around games. I Have Never, Two Lies and a Truth, and Higher or Lower all get wheeled out, among others, and your choices (and reactions) to those games will contribute to the compatibility with your potential partner.

We kind of hoped that Wales Interactive would have dropped the games, if we are honest. They are one of the few negative reactions that we have to Ten Dates, mostly because they never manage to feel believable. When a character suggests them, we sense the game intruding and ripping us out of our immersion. Maybe we’re no fun, but precious few of our dates have resorted to a deck of cards or some riddles, but when all of them do in Ten Dates, we can’t help feel that something’s up. It may have been necessary to ensure Ten Dates felt interactive, but did they have to stick out like such sore thumbs?

If you view them as endearing oddnesses, and necessary for the game, then you can just about get past it. Because what Ten Dates really does get right is its script. Snaking from topic to topic, it manages to thread the needle of difficult subjects like personal boundaries, abuse, immigration and Brexit, while also giving windows for the actors’ personalities and the character’s flaws to shine through. 

When Ten Dates is at its best is when you are mentally constructing a character bio of your partner, making connections between their body language, offhand comments and dropped hints that might be useful later. It’s a deduction game, dressed up as a dating sim, and psychologists should probably treat it as an opportunity to brush up their skills.

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It’s also navigating some choppy waters. It’s very easy to see Ten Dates as a tad exploitative, as you can easily play the game by saying what you think people want to hear, rather than something honest. There really was no other way for Wales Interactive to make that aspect of the game work, however. All we can do is recommend that you play through once as both Ryan and Misha, and play as yourself. That way, you can have the honest, non-manipulative playthrough, and then play ‘hunt the achievement’ later.

We fully acknowledge that Ten Dates won’t be for everyone. Cynicism is its enemy, so if you feel an arched eyebrow rising at the prospect of wooing randoms within a video game, then you should probably get your kicks elsewhere. 

View it as a high concept rom-com, or buy into the earnest and endearing attempts to bring modern dating to your living room, and Ten Dates might become more than your new best friend. We fell in and out of love with its scrappy cast, and would happily live in a world where we get these once every couple of years. 50 First Dates, Wales Interactive?

You can buy Ten Dates from the Xbox Store

TXH Score

4/5

Pros:

  • Completely authentic dates
  • Lovingly written
  • Goes for the jugular on some topics
  • Some great performances

Cons:

  • Party games feel inauthentic
  • A couple of flat characters

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to – Wales Interactive
  • Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Mobile
  • Version reviewed – Xbox Series X
  • Release date – 14 February 2023
  • Launch price from – £13.74

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Source: https://www.thexboxhub.com/ten-dates-review/