Lockdown in 2020 has undoubtedly forced us – as a society – to rethink a few things. Gone are the simple pleasures of attending a concert or a sports game, and even the anxiety-inducing dating scene has largely migrated to the online world. With this in mind, Wales Interactive has concocted a surprisingly funny, authentic dating sim with Five Dates, an interactive live-action comedy that rewards multiple playthroughs, but ultimately leaves us wondering who its intended audience is.
Five Dates follows Vinny, a London-based millennial who jumps headfirst into the world of online dating in the midst of the COVID-19 UK lockdown. With the support of his friend Callum, he meets a handful of women over video chat, and over the course of the game must whittle these down to just one (provided he doesn’t completely mess it up, of course).
The ‘gameplay’, if we can really call it that, is limited to making decisions via dialogue options, some of which simply move the conversation along, and others having a genuine impact on the overall outcome of Vinny’s dates. You have roughly 5-10 seconds to make your dialogue choices, though you can choose to have the game pause during these sections via the options. We didn’t find this particularly necessary, as the game cleverly fills these moments with back-and-forth dialogue while you make your choice.
A single run through the story takes roughly 1 hour, but with a total of 766 possible scenes to view, there’s more than enough incentive to go back and start again. The good news is that when you do start from scratch, you can easily skip through any scenes you’ve already viewed; the only downside to this is you can easily skip right into a dialogue choice without knowing exactly what it is you’re responding to.
The acting from the assembled cast is more or less spot-on; they do their best with what they’re given, though there are certainly a few cringe-inducing moments here and there. Vinny himself is a decent character to follow, whose apprehension at joining the online dating world is endearing. The five women available for dates all display very distinct personalities, and – much like the real world – it’s almost impossible to determine how they might react to your dialogue choices. The star of the show, though, has to be Callum. As Vinny’s best friend, his brutal takedowns of Vinny are often hilarious, and he’s a genuine scene-stealer throughout.
Considering how quickly Five Dates was conceptualised and developed, the overall execution of the story is commendable. Having said that, it’s a shame there’s no option here to flip things around and have a woman protagonist join the app to date five men in addition to Vinny. We appreciate this would effectively double the amount of work required, but we have to wonder who exactly Five Dates is aimed at. As it is, the entire premise feels like a throwaway side-story shoved into a Richard Curtis rom-com to simply appease the men in the audience. It’s a fun little distraction, but ultimately not an experience that’s going to stick with you for long.