Review: Ten Dates Is a Fun, Stress-Free Way to Enjoy Valentine’s Day from Your Couch
It’s Valentine’s Day and no matter where you fall on the spectrum from “absolutely against” to “bring on the glittery hearts,” it’s unavoidable. All around us strawberries are being dipped, flowers sold, and people anxiously awaiting the closing bell at the office so they can jump into their cars for some prix-fixe dinners in their date night finery.
And honestly? Every love story begins with an awkward first date, so on our end we say “Love is love! Go get all glittery and goofy!” And if you didn’t want to do that in person, or on a “manufactured holiday” you can always do that from the comfort of your home with a controller in your hand and your partner or friend or even kitty cat beside you.
Ten Dates is an “interactive rom-com” (read: Full Motion Video adventure) and follow up to Wales Interactive’s Five Dates, which followed a similar format but took place during the COVID lockdown and only included virtual dates. In Ten Dates, predictably, you’ll be going on a few dates. You play as either Misha, portrayed by Outlander star Rosie Day, or her best mate Ryan, played by Charlie Maher, as they attend a speed dating event, in person for the first time since the lockdown. Ryan, bamboozled by Misha, is more resistant to the idea, while Misha’s in it for fun and adventure.
Whomever you choose to play as will fill out their dating profile in an app for some reason (though the speed dating event is in person) and then begin the round robin of speed dating. If you’re playing as Misha, you’ll go on about five mini-dates with a lineup of people who represent a few different larger archetypes—jocks, nerds, intellectuals, etc. Though at the top of the game it seems like you’re pigeonholed into straight dating, there are some opportunities to divert from that presented to you as you continue to play. We’d have loved for a game touting its diversity and inclusion to have included an option to have all five first round dates be of the preferred orientation for LGBTQIA+ folks as well, but could appreciate that every playthrough at least made it accessible.
As dates progress, you’ll get asked questions about a variety of things, from who your character is as a person to what they believe. This brings in the interactive part of Ten Dates. A timer pops up, and you as the player can select one (and only one) option. The choices you make affect the rest of the date and in fact, the rest of the playthrough, and, in an interesting add by Wales Interactive, can be viewed as you go. Questions range from the mundane to the big questions—like whether you approve of one night stands or want someone to stay at home with potential kids. Your answers dictate how the rest of the date and the game goes. One big compliment we’d give Ten Dates is that the acting is genuine, not only for the main characters, but for the supporting cast. Very few if any characters are actually totally unlikeable.
In addition, transitions based on your answers are remarkably smooth and don’t seem awkward overall, as they do in some FMV titles, so conversation flows more naturally and this makes the game more believable overall. One of the only things that Ten Dates does suffer from that’s common amongst both FMV games and video games in general is that the answers you select may have context you didn’t intend—and sometimes that can cause a disconnect between you and the dater you’re playing. For example, you might choose to answer that you prefer a good book to a movie only to find this means your character starts saying something negative about film in general that you didn’t intend. Luckily this didn’t happen often and didn’t cause too much strife in the dating scene, though we were also glad to see the chance to challenge your dates and even make innocent jabs at them, which led to a flirtier atmosphere that makes dating more fun in games and IRL.
Once the speed dating night has wrapped up and you’ve exchanged socials with those you are interested in who were also interested in you, you go back to your flat and eventually, have a chat about it with your best friend. At this point in the game, you can pick people to go on second dates with, and you’ll be presented with their social media accounts, which you can scroll for further insight. You can also like their pictures, which can come up in conversation later.
You’ll then move to your second date round, where the questions become higher stakes, and the opportunity to make your moves arrives. If that goes well, after another download with your bestie, you can choose to try to hook that third and final date, after which you’ll reach some sort of conclusion, good or bad.
We had a lot of fun with Ten Dates. Well casted and acted parts meant that even those people who really didn’t match our type could be surprising, and characters were set apart from their defined archetypes. For example, the “lad” who’d just come from a stag-do (jock, bachelor party for the non English among us) did have stories about calculated vomiting and drunken escapades, but also had a surprising amount of depth, character and charm. Likewise, Ryan’s hairdresser date, though aggressive, had a softer side and was also an investor and artist.
It’s also a lot more fun than we’d realized to play Ten Dates with a partner or spouse, and laugh together over dates gone wrong and awkward moments. Overall, our time with Ten Dates both reminded us why dating could be fun, but also why it could be terrible, and thus ended up being pretty realistic, but very low stakes. If you think you’d have fun with a fictional foray into flirtation, pick it up and take the plunge!