8
Our overall verdict "silver"

Most of us have dated, some of us have used a dating service, but how many of us have run our own dating agency? Well now is your chance to do just that. Guided by the perfectly manicured hands of Drag Queen Kitty Powers, build up a new branch of her successful dating agency and find true love for all who walk through your door.

Now, to be straight for a moment (insert sexuality joke here), this is no otome, Japanese, boy love game. There’s nothing serious going on here. There’s nothing heartbreaking or melodramatic and it’s not just for girls. You’re about to experience a joyful game that’s spit-your-tea-across-the-room funny and so addictive that you’ll be pairing-up ghost-hunting Edgy headbangers with sudoku-obsessed Hipsters until the early hours.

The idea is to take on a client and assess his or her personality and lifestyle, match them to someone in Kitty’s little black book and then send them out on a date. It all seems quite simple at first, but actually there’s a lot of information to take in. You’ll need to look at their occupation, star sign, interests, qualities they are attracted to and what personality type they are. For example, a Fantasy Author who likes open world video games is a Geeky Type and will fit best with another Geek. Scroll through the pages of Kitty’s book to see if you can identify someone of the same Type and then look to see what interests they share.

That’s the core beginning of the game and it’s easy to pick up, but don’t get cocky. A date can go tits-up very quickly of you don’t help your client out a little. You must observe the meeting and guide your client through the perils of a first date. You do this by inserting something into him – a small earpiece so you can talk him through the more dangerous faux pas of the evening.

You begin with a small selection of restaurants you can choose from. Once you’re at the table, you’ll need to help your client select the right food from the guidance your date gives you, and then hold down a decent conversation. A fruit machine will appear and prompt you to pull the Love Handle. This decides which conversation topics will be available to you. You can discuss your appearances, interests, the weather, horoscopes or – once you’ve unlocked them – personality traits. For example, after you’ve levelled up enough you’re allowed to know if your client is an extrovert or an introvert. Ask your date about this and they’ll also reveal what they are. Clearly you want that to match. If you already know a date’s personality trait doesn’t match your client’s but it was slim pickins at the hunk counter, just don’t pick that as a conversation topic.

As you earn money and expand your agency, new and more difficult restaurants will open up to you as you unlock them, and new variations to the evening’s events will be available. Rock, paper, scissors flirting; higher or lower hold the fart; pick a pair to share a yarn; and spot the difference when your date returns from the loo are just a few examples of what to expect on different dates.

As you build your reputation and earn money you can spend it on upgrading different areas of the agency. You can buy more pages of Kitty’s book, buy access to more restaurants or open salons and gift shops for your clients to change their appearance and buy their date’s gifts. Perhaps the last Geeky Type in the book stormed out after you insulted his job, his hair and let one rip in the middle of a fancy restaurant. You can change your client to look more like a Chic type and give him a fighting chance to hobnob with the rich and stuck up.

While the basics of the game do not change as your progress, more options open up, and it’s this that keeps the game feeling fresh again and again each time you level up. There are more games to play, more things that can go wrong, more perspective dates to woo and more complex matches to make. Prepare to get dumped rather a lot.

As I said at the beginning of the review, Kitty Powers Matchmaker is a joyful experience. It never takes itself seriously and has the best kind of humour – odd, weird and beautifully bizarre. No special attention is given to a client’s sexuality. Some are gay, some are bi, some are straight, but all are equal. The bold and bright cartoon graphics are perfectly fitting for the game’s almost luminous personality. If Kitty Powers herself is half as awesome as her game, then she’s my number one Drag Queen.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a game that is about picking up boys and getting smushy, you’re in the wrong place. Kitty Powers Matchmaker is a game of observation, analysis and nose-picking. It laughs at the awkwardness of the dating scene rather than trying to recreate a romanticised version of it. Video games can make us feel all sorts of things from profound sadness, the deepest empathy to borderline psychotic frustration. Kitty Powers Matchmaker evokes Happy Happy Happy. A great game for a rainy day.

S J Hollis Rating – 8/10

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S J Hollis

S J Hollis has been a keen gamer since the Atari 2600. She freely admits she thought E.T. was a good game but would like to stress her tastes have since dramatically improved. She is also an author, a morning person and thinks Elf ears are sexy. Follow her on twitter @SJHollis_