So between my love for dating sims and visual novels as well as my love for odd games, something titled “Speeding Dating for Ghosts” seemed like my jam. I expected something relatively light-hearted and probably leaning towards amusing. However, upon playing this game, I was rather surprised. It is a rather compelling little indie game with great character development and backstory for the ghosts. The stories also range in the type of emotional impact they go for.
So the gameplay is pretty simple. It is a visual novel, so you click through and give answers to various things put forth. You start with basic instructions on how it works. You pick a room, Palms, Lyre, or Room of Black. Once in there, you meet three different ghosts in turn and have a first “speed date” with them. After that, you get a second round. Then you get to pick a ghost to go on a date with, that is, if the ghost you pick wants to date you. Once you’ve played a room, you can go back through and pick a different date and experience it again. – There are also a few bonus things to do after you get through the main dates –
The ghosts range in personality and are honestly surprising in their complexity from what I expected to be a mostly funny game. It is not to say there aren’t funny moments, there are, I was just pleasantly surprised by how much more the game had to offer.
For instance, my first ghost was Riley, a clear jock based on the art design. However, as I talked to Riley, I realized while he was a jock, he was driven to be a better player for a true passion for the sport. Not only that, but he wishes in death to not be seen as only who he was in life.
On the other end, I met Spooky Peter, who died during the 1600s and takes great joy in scaring and tormenting people and wants to teach your character the art of doing so. Or so it seems…
These different backstories and developed characters go throughout. From shy Steph, who doesn’t even know she is a ghost at first – and boy did I hate the game making me break that to her. – To Hattie, who died in an overworked nursing home and wishes to make it a little better in her afterlife. Each of the ghosts have their own unique personality and backstory. It is not a chore at all to go through the game to meet and experience them all because they are all so well written.
What I also found interesting was my various reactions to the ghosts and how they shifted… or didn’t. I thought Riley would be boring and a jock; he wasn’t boring, but the jock theme stuck. I thought Peter would be interesting, he then scared me, then… Gary jump scared me, but then his story is sad and hard. All of them hit me emotionally in some way. There is also more than a little existential dread, confrontation, meditation, and thought as you work through this game.
You are also given a decent amount of freedom and control in how you respond to the characters, and they do respond to these options. Peter was less than impressed by my being less than impressed by him, case in point.
This game is delightfully odd and genuinely compelling. I found myself almost instantly finding more in it than I expected and truly enjoying the chance to know all the ghosts, even if some of them I, frankly, did not like their personality type. They are still interesting to get to know.
The art style is a little odd, but it quickly shows itself as fitting for the experience, and after a while, what I thought might start to be grating really fit. The music is great, and even though it faded in the background, it keeps you just in tune enough that it starts to impact your connection to things. It also has a few dramatic moments that will stick. Also, the ghosts have different sounds for “speaking” as you click through, and they are well done and match what they present as. Not every sound the ghost makes do this, but they are well-timed, placed, and used.
I honestly have little to say in the negative for this game. I supposed if you aren’t the type that likes visual novels, you will find this less of a “game,” but I feel like that is an old complaint that has gone by the wayside over the years. I suppose given the limited amount of time you spend with each of the characters, they really fill one or two archetypes and don’t develop much further, but honestly, given the length of the game, I find they are actually perfectly well fleshed out. It manages to take a short pocket of time, roughly 20 minutes or so, and develops a character in it, and does so much more than you might expect.
I would probably say my only hitch is this really isn’t a dating sim. I mean, it is, in the sense that you are going on dates. However, if you are looking for well-written romance, you aren’t going to find it here. The dates are more “get to know more of a character” rather than “experience a true romance.” This is not a knock, by the way, just a realistic statement, so people aren’t disappointed because of their expectations.
So bottom line? If you like visual novels and character-driven games, I recommend this. If you are flirting with the idea of a visual novel but aren’t sure where to start, I think this is a great one. One pass at the game will only take about 20 minutes, so it’s easy enough to pick up and go on a date then come back later. If you are looking for a pure dating sim, you might be a bit disappointed. Honestly, though, I loved this game, and other than for people who hate visual novels or don’t have much love for the odd, I would probably recommend it to everybody. It was a charming, unusual, interesting, fun, well-written experience.
*Note: This will be an odd one. If you are made uncomfortable by casual references to hell, even one that is described differently than what we are used to, there are parts of this game you might not enjoy. It made me a little ehhhh because that is not one of my favorite subject matters, but it’s not anything overly bothersome, I believe. I just felt I might want to slip this note in for those that can be sensitive to it like me.