I am feeling a bit metrosexual right now after playing Gameloft’s Date or Ditch. Essentially, Date or Ditch uses the same gaming engine as Gameloft’s popular Nights franchise (Miami Nights, Paris Nights, etc.) but turns it into a scripted tale of two loves with all the trappings of your modern soap opera and sitcom rolled into one. You start off the game creating a character, which is about as simple as choosing a name and a gender. Then you’re whisked off to a singles dating event where you’re waiting for your roommate to show up. Like any sitcom moment, your roommate doesn’t show up and you end up getting into a string of conversations that lead to first dates and what could be a whole lot more.
Unlike the Nights franchise, Date or Ditch isn’t a free form sandbox kind of game. The game’s storyline is divided into linear stages that progress one after another. You have to win each stage to continue moving forward. The game features a lot of conversations, and it’s through these conversation trees where you get most of the gameplay. I know most of you are thinking – great, it’s a failed movie script turned into a game. The writing, however, is exceedingly witty and made me relish plowing forward with the game like I would a television series on DVD. I remember Tom Hanks’ character writing in the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail when he says it’s a real talent to say something perfectly at the perfect time so that the opposite partner is “zinged” or basically helpless to respond. Date or Ditch splits the screen into two people, complete with facial gestures and body language so that you can zing, compliment and flirt with another character until you take it to the next level. One thing to note is you cannot play the game as a brash introverted anti-social person as you have to score a minimum number of points or you’ll see a game over screen that will force you to replay the stage over. Although, I have to admit, from time to time, I purposely burnt bridges just to see what the other character would say.
You don’t get a lot of freedom to move your character around in the game. The most movement you will undertake is moving your character from one conversation hotspot to another. Many times, the game will simply move the character for you and once you get into the last half of the game, I couldn’t recall whether there was any character movement at all besides dialogue. The visuals, therefore, are pretty detailed and I would say more detailed than some of the environments in the Nights franchise. The cartoon characters on screen are well animated with big expressive eyes and the interiors are decorated in a colorful and charming fashion. During the dialogue parts of the game, I really liked how the designers were able to capture the nuances of human faces when they are shy, arrogant, lying or nonchalant. They really have a lot of the emotions spot on.
Without ruining the storyline, there will be a love triangle, an inopportune return of the dreaded ex, some changes in the living situation with your roommate and a bunch of dating locales to go to. Date or Ditch is wonderfully well scripted game that lasts approximately forty minutes. It’s clear the target audience is women. After certain stages, you can answer personality and relationship trivia questions that will rate what kind of person you are. If you even have a fleeting interest in things like astrological signs, you will love this game. As for the metrosexual writing this article, I love sharp, witty and sarcastic dialogue and this game is representative of all that par excellence. My only concern is the length of the game. Even if you take it slowly or replay certain parts, I would expect you’d see everything in an hour or so. What would be really amazing for a sequel is if Gameloft made this game episodic like a sitcom or soap opera and additional content is released on a weekly basis. Then it should really have people on the hook.