Do you love watching Celebs Go Dating, Dinner Date and other mind-numbing entertainment on TV? Has it inspired you to start your own dating agency? Well, before you up-end your career and invest your life savings in becoming a professional cupid, how about investing in a Nintendo Switch game instead?
And who better to mentor you on the ways of statistically-aligned love than drag star Kitty Powers? The alter-ego of Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker very own developer, Kitty serves as a colourful dating matriarch, informing your attempts to guide a series of digital lonely hearts to their potential soulmates. With the help of her ‘little black book’, you’ll attempt to conjure romantic magic by matching the right personalities and traits with one another.
As a premise, Matchmaker is largely the same as every other dating sim out there (including the many that now populate the eShop on Switch), but with a sense of humour more akin to the slapstick innuendo of British sitcoms in the ’60s and ’70s. And with so many games immediately asking you to kill someone or make virtual war, it’s nice to have another game that’s actually thematically ‘nice’; the entire point here is simply helping various cartoonish daters find their one true love. Of course, not everyone is going to vibe with the overuse of pink, the cartoon visuals and the camp sense of humour, but aesthetics aside, Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker makes a big effort to be as inclusive as possible.
The customers who visit your dating agency are randomly generated, each with their own personality traits and preferences in a significant other. They’re all based on different social archetypes (sporty, trendy, alternative, etc) as well as a randomly-assigned sexual preference and gender. You’ll then consult Kitty’s little black book of other singletons and match up those whose personalities make the best fit. Everything from someone’s job to their birth sign can affect how well your client is received by their potential suitor, so before each date, you have the opportunity to help improve their chances (including adjusting their look or style accordingly).
When the date itself kicks off, you’ll be there to guide your client through the minefields or awkwardness and small talk. Your success here comes down to a few factors, some of which are based on observation and memory, while others leave a little too much down to chance. For instance, some questions posed to you by your date will require you to recall important information from their dating profile or statements made in a dialogue earlier in the date (such as someone’s preference for food, or whether it was raining or clear outside when you arrived).
Your client and their date will interact automatically, but you’ll need to occasionally complete mini-games to help them along – including memorising a series of phrases to impress the chef with your culinary knowledge or selecting the correct garment from lost property when your client needs a quick change of clothes. Some of these mini-games are random in their outcome, such as a Wheel of Fortune-esque disc that spins every time you tell a lie (including complimenting someone’s hairstyle when your client actually thinks it looks pretty naff). The main mini-game – and the one you’ll use most often – is a slot machine that produces a series of potential topics of conversation.
You can nudge these up or down to access a topic you haven’t covered using gold coins, which are periodically earned through successful dates, certain mini-games and other little moments. While originally conceived as a mobile game, there aren’t any microtransactions to speak of, so you won’t need to cough up any more cash to earn more coins. In fact, coins are pretty easy to come by as Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker is a game all about having a relaxing bit of fun (although it does take a while to earn enough for expensive upgrades).
You’ll create your own avatar at the start of the game, and as you pull off more successful dates you’ll level up your budding dating specialist and gain a better reputation. Levelling up will upgrade your dating HQ, while an improved rep will earn you access to more features that help improve your chances on a date. Soon, you’ll be able to give your clients a makeover prior to a date or help them pick out a gift to take with them.
Dates only ever take about five minutes at most, making Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker more suited to short bursts of play in handheld mode rather than extended play sessions. The gameplay loop it serves up is quite rewarding – even if it does mean you’re stuck with one client until you successfully pair them with a new lover – but the mini-games themselves do start to get a little repetitive, especially when it takes a while to unlock new restaurants and the unique scenarios that come with them.
Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker is a cute and inclusive dating simulator that does a great job of normalising love, regardless of gender, sexuality or appearance. While it doesn’t really hold up as a long-term experience, as a short term foray into the world of running a dating agency, Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker really comes together. Dates are short and snappy, and it’s pretty rewarding to see a client end an evening with a new significant other. Mini-games are fun for a while, and grinding away to unlock new pages of the black book really opens up your options, but that gameplay loop can start to become a little too repetitive and a little too predictable after a while.