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Thirsty Suitors Summer Game Fest Impressions

Thirsty Suitors Artwork of two sisters dressed in punkish clothing over a two-toned heart backdrop with the game logo.

I have never laughed so hard playing a video game as I did during my 30-minute demo of Thirsty Suitors. Picture Scott Pilgrim, but based on healthy emotional growth instead of video games. The opening scene combines a skateboarding game and a personality quiz. The quiz matters, too, as the results contribute to one of three stats. Conversations also raise your stats depending on your conversational choices. You grow based on how you act and what you say. Wild, right?

Thirsty Suitors‘ protagonist, Jala, returns to her hometown after a heartbreak leaves her with no better options. Almost immediately upon arrival, she must confront the many broken hearts she left behind over the years. The first heart Jala ever broke confronts her in the form of her overcompensating, toxically masculine third grade boyfriend. Yes, you read that right. He fell in love with her in the third grade and is beyond thirsty for her well into their adult years. He comes on strong from the moment he sets eyes on Jala, and the first combat of the game begins.

It feels like the start of normal RPG combat for half a second, but then the conversation begins. After attacking your opponent each turn, he alternates between very uncomfortable come-ons, confessing his feelings, and explaining how Jala’s friendship helped him survive a hard time. In response, you can flirt with or insult him, adding to your end of the conversation and either doing damage or making him more thirsty and lowering his defense. All the dialog is deeply personal and speaks to both characters’ feelings towards each other. By the end of combat, their differences are resolved, and they start down the road toward a healthy friendship and much-needed personal growth.

Don’t get me wrong: Thirsty Suitors does feature actual combat in these fights around the conversation. There are physical attacks, taunts, and special attacks. Timed button presses and control stick motions strengthen your attacks and dodges. You can make your opponent extra thirsty or angry to change their stats and open them up to other attack types, including calling in a disapproving mother to smack them down (quite literally). Effective use of stat changes can make combat a breeze, while misusing it can cause a lot of damage to Jala before getting things back on track. The part of the game that had me in stitches was when combat entered the mind space of Jala’s ex, and he went from his real, goofy self to his mental image of himself. The whole setting changed to the fantasy world of a man overcompensating for his lack of real personal connections. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I must give a shout-out to the skill of the game’s writers in making him both relatable and the epitome of the toxic man-child who isn’t getting what he wants.

If you’re into personal growth, making up for past mistakes, finding forgiveness, and laughing yourself silly in the process, you must get your hands on Thirsty Suitors. It is an astounding mix of self-reflection and personal growth with a level of humor that keeps it captivating and fun. The art is beautiful, and the writing is heartbreaking, relatable, and hysterical all at once. I cannot wait to meet more of the people in Jala’s life and watch them grow into more accepting people together.

Thirsty Suitors doesn’t yet have a release date, but is planned for a Windows release via Steam, plus Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation platforms. There is a playable demo available now on Steam.

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Monica Rose

Monica Rose

Monica grew up with three older brothers in the days where games only had 3 save slots. She always loved games, but didn't really get into them until Zelda: Twilight Princess came out on the Wii. Since then she has been making up for lost time by playing any game shiny enough to draw her eye, and reading about the ones that failed to catch her magpie gaze. Now she combines her love of reading and writing with her love of games by proofreading for RPGFan.

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