Oh, dating simulators. Your existence has long been one that confused many people. The simple concept of placing someone in a virtual world where you are forced to socially interact in a romantic way is an idea that many people mock daily. For good reason, a majority of the games within the genre turn into silly pieces of software. But how can you make a dating simulator that is not silly? Do you just embrace the hilarity of the whole situation known as “making a dating simulator?” Enter Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker, a game that changes things up a bit by putting you at the head of a matchmaking agency that simply wants to spread love across the world.
If you are unfamiliar, Kitty Powers is a self-described “drag-queen diva.” Behind the Kitty Powers persona is Rich Franke, a video game developer and the lead designer of Kitty Powers’ Matchmaking Simulator. The player is introduced to Kitty Powers within seconds of launching the game as she welcomes you to her matchmaking office/home. Within this office, you will make some of the more integral decisions that will lead you to a booming business. This is also where you make the decision of who you want to begin the matchmaking process with.
Just before you do this, you must make the choice of what demographic you want to advertise toward. There are ten demographics to choose from including sporty, hipster, and disco which prefers shiny stuff and celebrities. These types of people tend to not affect how compatible they are with other groups. Certain folks will be more attracted to others, due to having things in common, such as the “hipsters” to the “hippies.” In the end, it’s easy to match up someone that likes celebrity gossips to a hipster only interested in “zorbing.”
Before you can actually begin matching up folks, you are required to answer a host of questions about yourself. These questions will mostly revolve around “are you more social or more of a loner?” The actual result of this flurry of questions is unknown and does not seem to affect anything in particular throughout the game. The characters you do end up matching are all procedurally generated. This fact is pretty clear by some of the horrifying matchups of facial hair and hair color that you run into. Despite the oddity, this adds a bit of character.
After the initial surprise of horrifying mustaches, you begin trying to match your client with someone in Kitty Powers’ “black book.” When you meet the client, he/she will inform you if she prefers male/female and what their profession is. After that, you can look further into their interests, which you can also do with the people in the black book. You then use the attributes to find the “perfect match.” Similar to the aforementioned zorbing comment, these interests never seem to mean a whole lot. The only time they really come in handy is when you begin discussing interests during a date.
Speaking of which, this is when the crux of the video game begins to manifest itself. Once you launch into a date, you follow your client and do your best to make decisions, which will lead them into a healthy relationship with their mate. In order to do this, you must be successful at a handful of mini-games that will come your way. Every date begins with your waiter/waitress approaching you and asking for your order. You then ask your date what they like, which they respond to in a vague sort of manner such as “something hot but no vegetables.” From those context clues, you must choose a menu option from whatever eatery you have attended. Choose something they like, their happiness increases. But choose something they don’t, and you get an X. As you might be able to guess, three X’s on a date means there is no shot at your creepy characters making a love connection.
After the meal is chosen, you spin a slot machine that will result in you choosing from whatever topics appear on screen. These topics can range from the weather, interests, and even specific personality traits such as characters’ “spiciness.” These topic selections will result in the not yet lovers having a quick conversation that will either go perfectly, okay, or bad. After these conversations is when the player will see some of the other mini-games. For example, the waiter will pay you a visit and you must memorize a series of flashing words in order to make your date think you know what you are talking about. Or, of course, a mini-game that sees the date realizing he/she has to let out a little excess gas. In order to avoid this embarrassing situation, the player plays over/under with cards. If the card is an eight, you pick above, and the next card is a six, a fart is the only option. I can’t say I have been in this situation frequently, but I do not think this is the proper way to handle it.
The mini-games such as the fluctuating challenge (TM) are just stupid enough to make you laugh and and not so vapid so that you hate everything happening on-screen. On the flip side, you will run into more than a few memorization mini-games that will just make you tune out entirely. On top of that, as your date concludes, you will occasionally ask your date what the tip should be. More often than not, they will say twenty percent, and you must figure out what twenty percent of your final bill price is on the fly. Pulling out a calculator in the middle of the game is not something many people would be interested in doing.
Possibly the most painful thing about the whole game is reading the copious amounts of conversational text. While there is a lot of it, many of it is plagued with horrid phrases that no one with half a pulse would utter. You will see more than a few uses of words like “totes” and “foodie.” Thankfully, you can scroll through these lines of text pretty quickly, only picking up on a few of the more important parts that you will need to remember later on in the date. I suppose Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker is quite realistic, in that respect.
If you manage to successfully hook whoever your client’s date is, you will get the choice to either ask them to “go out with you” or possibly wait a day or so and go on another date. If they agree to go out with your client, you get your payday and the two spend their lives happily ever after nude in a hot tub. I assume this is an allegory for the declining importance of marriage and how technology is slowly tearing apart so many families across the world. Seems like a one-to-one correspondence. Your payday will then result in you being able to purchase more restaurants to attend, or a full salon to fix up your clients to their partners liking before sending them out. You also get a bump in reputation, which acts as a leveling up system. Once you get higher in reputation, you can begin advertising to different kinds of people.
Kitty Powers' Matchmaker
Believe it or not, dating simulators are not the highest forms of entertainment. Despite this, they do have their place as those weird ass games that some people get way too invested in. They are similar to sports games, in that respect. Those sorts of people will find some enjoyment in Kitty Powers' Matchmaker, as it is a perfectly acceptable one of those games. That being said, if you want a dating sim to get a lot of traction, you need to go full on with the silly features. More ridiculous farting mini-games, less "trendy" dialogue... these are the recipes for success. While you get glimpses of the intentional stupidity this kind of game needs in order to succeed, you do not see it often enough for it to work.
- Some ridiculousness is charming
- Surprising mechanics such as leveling system
- Procedurally generated characters can cause a chuckle
- Simply becomes boring after an hour or so
- Dialogue is painful
- Occasionally falls into just playing the repetitive mini-games
- Not enough zorbing