During last year’s Game Awards, Falcon Age developers Outerloop announced Thirsty Suitors, a stylish story-driven RPG about battling your exes and disappointing your parents. Since then, the team have been keeping game details under wraps, but now thanks to the Annapurna Interactive showcase, Outerloop have released a free Steam demo, meaning now we can all have a go at beating the pulp out of our exes - a dream come true.
You play as Jala, a young woman who just got booted out of her shared apartment after having a fight with her, now, ex-partner. With nowhere else to go, she’s decided to take the bus back to her hometown of Timber Hills to move back in with her parents (hopefully, temporarily). While she's killing time on the journey, she begins to take a dating personality quiz aptly titled ‘What’s your Thirstsona?’ and it transports her to a colourful dreamlike metaverse where she can skate around and answer deep questions about her love life. Is she really a lost cause in love?
It’s through this introductory sequence we learn that this break-up isn’t Jala’s first, unfortunately. As Jala skates through her dreamscape, we learn that she's been unlucky in love a lot, often through her own mistakes. The sequence is a great way to get to know Jala, each answer revealing more juicy info about the main players in the messy melodrama that is her life: the expectations put on her by her parents, the messy break-ups with her exes, and questions about her love life that she’d rather not face up to. It also doesn’t help that her mouthy subconscious keeps butting in with critical truth bombs, some that Jala would rather not hear.
Jala snaps out of the dreamscape quiz just as the bus is pulling up to her hometown, but she still needs a ride to her parent’s house. She can’t call her sister (it’s complicated), her parents (it’s really complicated), or even her ex-bestie and ex-lover Tyler (it’s really, really complicated) so Jala slips into a diner to work out her options. It’s there she runs into the macho, moustached Sergio, and it’s then we find out that Jala and Sergio used to date in the third grade, and Sergio seems to not be over their childhood break-up.
After learning that Jala is now single, the two launch into a turn-based psychodrama battle (as you do when you bump into an ex) where Jala begins to ricochet Sergio’s flirtatious advances with some well-deserved punches and put downs. Combat is made up of small attacks, taunts, QTEs, and even epic Final Fantasy-style summons. Every ex in Thirsty Suitors has a weakness and Sergio’s is that he’s an incredibly thirsty dude. With this in mind, you can pick for Jala to flirt with Sergio, which then makes him incredibly flustered and he begins to slip on his own sweat, botching his wooing attacks.
It’s incredibly tongue-in-cheek and the banter between the two is fun and witty, with Sergio’s overtly thirsty comments being constantly met with Jala’s blunt rejections or mocking flirtatious comments. But as the fight goes on, the two actually start to get more personal and we soon learn that Sergio’s parents divorced the same year he and Jala were dating. In no way does it nullify his toxic machoness (he's still a massive tool), but I did feel a twang of compassion for the dude. It gives the brawl a story and history, making it more than just a humorous run-in with the ex, and it's something that I hope every Thirsty Suitor encounter has.
As the battle heats up, the environment begins to morph and Jala gets pulled into Sergio’s Persona-style inner world revealing a look at his psyche - a neon, vaporwave wonderland of selfies, weights, and cars. It’s here that Sergio sees himself as the person he wishes he was, on the surface a handsome (and “impeccably waxed”) heart-throb but also someone who has his father’s respect. The fight soon comes to an end, though, when Jala uses her summoning ability to conjure a terrifying psychological spectre of her mother who then flattens Sergio with a powerful slap with her chappal.
As the battle comes to a close, the two agree to become friends, and Sergio is able to move on from his infatuations with Jala. The demo isn’t quite over yet though, as Outerloop teases an end scene showing all of Jala’s exes uniting after hearing the news of her return to Timber Hills. It looks like some major drama is about to unfold.
After playing the demo, I couldn't be more excited for Thirsty Suitors. There seems to be a gooey heart underneath all the thirst humour which I really appreciate, and the game doesn’t hide that Jala has made some serious mistakes in her past relationships and I like her character more for that. It’s also great to see some South Asian representation, and I’m keen to meet Jala’s parents and play the cooking game shown in the trailer. Thirsty Suitor’s doesn’t yet have a release date, but the demo is free and available to download over on Steam right now, which I highly recommend you check out.