The original Half Past Fate has been out on Switch for almost a year now, and our review praised it for its striking pixelated visuals and engaging dialogue, albeit with a few too many mini fetch quests. The same can be said for its follow-up, Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing, a short (really short) story in which two strangers meet at the start of a global pandemic, forced to communicate via phone calls and video chats. It’s a cute, somewhat uplifting tale, but is really only recommended for those who enjoyed the main game and are absolutely itching for more of the same.
You play as two characters throughout the story: Stephen, a jacked-up lover of music, and Robin, a sales associate at the local tech store. The two meet and arrange to accompany one another at a local gig, before being plunged into lockdown by the government to contain the spreading virus. Suddenly stuck in their respective homes, the two proceed to chat over video on their laptops, giving virtual tours of their homes and listening to music, building a deep affection for one another over the course of roughly 60 days.
All of this is condensed into an incredibly short experience: we’re talking 1 hour at the most, but your playtime will more likely come out at around 30-40 minutes. In all fairness, the developer has made it crystal clear that this is a short game, and its price reflects the run-time. Nevertheless, there’s an unmistakable feeling of disappointment when you’re really starting to get to know the protagonists, and it just… ends. It’s frustrating, to say the least, as it felt like there was a lot more potential with the story being told.
The gameplay remains the same as its predecessor: the majority of the tale consists of dialogue boxes as the two characters interact with one another. For brief periods, you can also wander around and take in the sights (which still look gorgeous, by the way), although quite a few of the locations from the main game are reused here. There are a few instances where you’re presented with dialogue options, but these had minimal impact on the story as a whole (like choosing which burrito to order for Stephen).
Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves one crucial question when it comes to Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing: do we really need yet another reminder of the truly awful situation we’re all still in? The story being told here is an uplifting one, but it’s also stuffed with terms we’ve become all too familiar with over the course of the past year: social distancing, flattening the curve, remote meetings… we could go on. Games are – perhaps more than ever – a means of escapism, and Serenity Forge’s new title strays a bit too close to reality for our liking. We’d probably recommend other developers try again in a few years time when the dust has settled.