Dinner Date is a first person experience that puts you into someone’s subconscious. You’ll see what he sees and hear his thoughts as he waits for his date and you’ll push keys. The key prompts float in little bubbles that have hints about what they’ll do. Different keys do different things. You’ll get to pour a glass of wine, look at the clock, check your left hand and gaze at your right hand. There are even such details like putting your spoon into soup, stirring it, put the spoon back down and so on. You’ll hear the character talk, basically telling you which of the things to do next.
Going into the game I thought it would be another ‘crazy hand simulator’ like Surgeon Simulator or Ampu-Tea. Nope, you just press keys to do things when the prompts are up.
You have no control over movement or the camera, just over what the character does as he continues to worry about his date. He will wonder whether to drink another glass of wine and what else he could be doing. The dinner date is a quick experience, over in about 30 minutes. Trying to replay it again didn’t lead me to think that there are different outcomes.
Dinner Date has a lot going for it, the voice acting is good, the environment is great, but its just a small kitchen with a table in it. You’ll go to the window to have a cigarette, but that’s it. This could be the demo of a bigger more detailed game, there is talent here, but I just didn’t have fun playing the game. Plus there’s not much here to get excited about. Its over quick. If a bobbing camera gets you motion sick, avoid this game.
Here’s something to think about when telling a story. If its not the most interesting thing that happens to the character, why aren’t you telling the more interesting story? Is it technical limitations such as having characters to interact with? Is this what leads the character up to his suicide or finding his true love after the game has ended? Is it witty banter amongst two characters blended with subconscious thought? No, but maybe that will happen in Dinner Date 2: The Reckoning. I’m sure that Luke Skywalker had moments where he just chilled in his bedroom thinking about a girl. That never made it into Star Wars.
Dinner Date was just watching something while I mash all keys at once since there’s no sort of right or wrong. Other narrative experiences like Dear Esther and Gone Home at least give you movement control and environments to explore. Like the plot of Dinner Date, it stands in a category all its own.