Bright and colourful, Thirsty Suitors is everything a game about skating, fighting your exes and cooking with your parents should be. Admittedly, developer Outerloop Games gets to define what that niche should entail – because Thirsty Suitors invents it.
To showcase this colourful hodge-podge of ingredients, Outerloop Games recently held a hands-off preview that takes place during the game’s first half hour. Right off the bat, Thirsty Suitors‘ introduction to protagonist Jala is stylish, vivid, and deeply personal. Picking herself up from a sensitive break-up with her girlfriend and riding a bus back home, Jala falls into ‘What’s Your Thirstsona’ – a quiz-platformer that determines her dating personality with questions that range from being amusingly shallow ‘what ifs’ about a partner’s date outfit to Jala’s definition of freedom.
And so, this is how we’re introduced to Jala: skating through an online quiz metaverse, to the beat of an infectious pop song created exclusively for the game. It’s an irresistibly charming way of helping players get to know Jala, but it’s also a creative sequence that gets players on board with skating. While Outerloop Games says the preview includes a “very basic” version of Thirsty Suitors‘ skating features, it already looks incredibly exciting, and the fantastic animation work belies Outerloop Games’ single animator.
By the time Jala snaps out of the quiz, it feels like you’ve known her for years. This means that as she’s stepping off the bus and back into her hometown, you’re familiar with all of her fears: parental expectations, awkward encounters with exes, and questions about Jala’s love life that she doesn’t know the answers to. It doesn’t help that Thirsty Suitors‘ narrator – Jala’s critical, sassy subconscious – is always there to voice these worries and question everything Jala does, but it turns out that at least one of those fears is grounded: while debating who to call for a ride home, Jala meets one Sergio – one of her first boyfriends from way, way back.
What happens next is your typical run-in with an ex: awkward small talk and a pitched spirit-battle with your third-grade boyfriend. As soon as Sergio realises Jala is single, Thirsty Suitors drops players into a turn-based battle where the aim is to fend off Sergio’s advances and – ideally – address some unresolved issues on his end. Combat is a blend of Persona-style JRPG battles, quick-time events, and choosing the right response to Sergio’s sometimes flirtatious, sometimes interrogative remarks. As the battle becomes more personal for both parties, the background falls away from an unassuming diner to Sergio’s inner world, a revealing look into his psyche that displays his ideal self: “impeccably waxed” and winning the approval of his dad.
Eventually, Jala manages to triumph with a series of amusing skills. Every opponent in Thirsty Suitors has a weakness and Sergio’s is being very, very thirsty. By exploiting this (and summoning her mum to give Sergio a whack with her chappal), Jala is able to bring the fight to an end – but as the narrator quips, “there are no winners in a psychodrama battle with your third-grade boyfriend.”
Once Sergio is defeated, he realises that he’s been unfairly basing his image of Jala on what he wanted, rather than who she was. He’s then able to (finally) move on, and the pair repair their friendship – though the option to pursue “something more” is there for any thirsty players who couldn’t resist Sergio’s charm. While Outerloop Games says Thirsty Suitors isn’t necessarily a dating game – it’s more about repairing relationships – it does reveal that there will be splashes of romance.
Impressively, there isn’t a single beat that Thirsty Suitors‘ writing doesn’t knock out of the park. The combat mechanics are creative and entertaining, Jala’s back-and-forth with Sergio is hilarious, and the narrator’s dry jibes land like pokes to the rib. Outerloop Games explains that Thirsty Suitors is an extension of the development team’s own experiences and backgrounds, with dashes of their influences – Paper Mario, Persona, Yakuza and Final Fantasy – mixed in for good measure.
The result is a game that feels like it has something for everyone and as Outerloop Games notes, even though Jala “might be unlike someone you’ve played before,” it hopes to teach players some new things about various different experiences in life. The full game will touch on themes of intergenerational trauma, family expectations and relationships – some of this was explored thoughtfully during the preview, a promising sign that the full game’s story will manage to deliver a very meaningful experience.
Even though Thirsty Suitors‘ preview was a relatively short 15 minutes, it felt like a powder keg of potential. The full game is expected to run for between six and ten hours depending on which options players choose, and there will be six main exes – as well as some hand-picked suitors sent by Jala’s gran – to weather. Besides repairing relationships, players will also get to cook with Jala’s parents, tackle skating challenges, and explore Jala’s hometown. If that’s not enough, you can hi-five a dog and put him on your skateboard – and if that alone doesn’t warrant keeping an eye on Thirsty Suitors, you’ve got a heart of stone.
Thirsty Suitors can be wishlisted on Steam, with more information on platforms and a release date coming soon.