Thirsty Suitors Review

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Thirsty Suitors is a difficult game to explain, but let’s give it a try. Think Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, but with a cinematic narrative adventure wrapped around it. Then, to this thought concoction, add some RPG elements, including turn-based battles and levelling up, and sprinkle it with QTE cooking and a liberal dose of Bollywood. It is a completely bonkers game but, in its own way, absolutely brilliant.

Jala is returning home to Timber Hills, a small rural town in the middle of nowhere. She’s been away for several years now, under mysterious circumstances, but is back in order to make amends and restore relationships with family and friends. Thirsty Suitors is thematically pretty close to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series, as Jala will encounter her various exes and do battle with them. Ultimately, Jala and her exes alike will work through whatever emotional and psychological detritus of their relationship remains, thanks to over-the-top turn-based violence.

Thirsty Suitors also reminded me of O’Malley’s finest work because the dialogue is off-the-chart fantastic. By turns smart, sharp, witty, and heartfelt, the superbly written banter and fantastically delivered voiceovers ensure an engaging and charming story-driven experience. Dialogue weaves through every element of the game, from battling to skating and cooking, bringing the gloriously eccentric characters to life.

Thirsty Suitors RPG battles between Jala and her exes

Thirsty Suitors remains deliciously original throughout its compact runtime, effortlessly shifting from family drama to outrageous slapstick comedy. You never know quite what to expect; infiltrating and investigating a cult certainly took me by surprise, as did the subject of the cult’s veneration. It’s a credit to the developers and their standout story and character work that all these disparate elements hang together so well. In short, this is the best video game writing I’ve come across all year.

The gameplay can’t quite keep up with that fantastic narrative, though. Skating is fun but perfunctory, the zany cartoon tricks and flips are certainly a highlight, but the frustratingly restrictive camera ensures that you won’t be coming back to attempt a high score. Meanwhile, turn-based combat is lightweight and far too easy. It’s also absolutely stuffed with QTEs, which are required to power almost every attack. Cooking is bizarre and hilarious, but again is nothing more than a series of quick time events. These QTEs are overdone and never change, ensuring that overfamiliarity and repetition soon set in.

Thirsty Suitors cooking with shadowy characters looming behind Jala

The thing is, despite the shortcomings of the individual game mechanics, Thirsty Suitors remains compelling because the character development and story take priority. Every moment in the game is peppered with sparkling conversation and intriguing character choices, lifting up the otherwise average gameplay.

Thirsty Suitors knows when to finish too, ending on a high. This isn’t a bloated meal that overstays its welcome and results in a nasty case of indigestion. Instead, it’s a delicious and unique snack that is to be savoured.

Thirsty Suitors succeeds because it delivers on story. Memorable characters, top-notch voice-over work, and stand-out dialogue all help elevate the average gameplay elements. Ultimately, Jala’s is a story that you’ll enjoy from beginning to end, even if it does involve suffering through a deluge of QTEs.
  • Wonderful characterisation
  • Superb dialogue and voice-overs
  • Compelling and original story
  • Far too many QTEs
  • The skating camera can’t keep up with the action
  • Turn-based combat offers little challenge