Thirsty Suitors Preview: A Refreshing Take on Messy RomanceIGN 11 June, 2022By taking inspiration from its developers’ lived experiences, Thirsty Suitors is one of the more unique games I’ve come across. Promising a story-driven adventure, this is less about dating and more about reconciling your messy love life, balancing family expectations, and performing cool skateboarding tricks. It’s a rare game that meaningfully explores South Asian culture and there’s an intriguing premise within. Showcasing the opening 30 mins, Outerloop Games provided a new look with a hands-off demo, while a Q&A session with the creative director, Chandana Ekanayake, filled in the blanks.Yes, you can pet dogs too, even see them perform sick skateboarding flips.Coming back to her hometown after three years following a breakup, this story focuses on Jala, our seemingly bisexual Indian protagonist. Starting with an online dating quiz called “Thirstsona,” that takes us into a surreal daydream narrated by your own psyche. Skateboarding from question to question, this demo didn’t show much beyond grinding and jumping between platforms, but considering this is the opening segment, there’s a good chance it’ll open up later on. Either way, Jala certainly looked stylish, helped by a vibrant art style and high-energy soundtrack.During this quiz, Jala needs to pick answers from multiple-choice questions about her life, confirming how you’d handle certain situations. Your end results awards points towards certain archetypes, like The Bohemian and the Heartbreaker, which affect your combat abilities and skills. Crucially, these choices directly affect the unfolding narrative, which we’re told leads to different endings. That applies to standard conversations too, so make sure you pick carefully.Once Jala arrived in her hometown, I got a brief look at exploration. The Q&A session confirmed traversal opens up after the second chapter, but what I saw was pretty straightforward, taking us directly to a local diner. From what I did see, Jala can wander around locations, chat to other NPCs, and listen into conversations. And yes, you can pet dogs too, even see them perform sick flips. Honestly, who doesn’t love that.However, it isn’t long before we start running into Jala’s exes. While I got a brief look at all six, this demo offered a closer look at two of them in particular, Tyler, and Sergio. I didn’t learn the specifics of what happened with Tyler, other than how she was “the one,” and she clearly harbours ill-feelings towards Jala after a bad breakup. Meanwhile, Sergio is Jala’s 3rd grade boyfriend, who she runs into at the diner. Even though it’s a different vibe, I was greatly reminded of Scott Pilgrim by the exes’ approach. That said, I have to respect how Thirsty Suitors looks more towards reconciliation than outright defeating them, though this doesn’t mean you won’t fight.After a brief conversation, turn-based combat begins, and you’ll soon learn each ex starts at a different thirst level. Unfortunately for us, Sergio is pretty damn thirsty. Beyond your standard attacks, Jala can block and use either thirst or rage taunts using timed button inputs. Follow this up with a matching skill and you’ll deal extra damage to your foe. Admittedly, the combat mechanics don’t feel particularly original, all you’re really doing is inflicting a status effect on your enemy.Eventually, we ended up in “Sergio’s Inner World,” where he becomes impervious to normal damage. Our solution to snap him out of this? Calling Jala’s mom as a summon. It’s a hilariously grounded approach, one that’s refreshing in its simplicity. Once the battle’s over, Jala levels up through your standard EXP system, increasing stats like attack, defence, and skating. Still, it has a strong sense of humor, so if Thirsty Suitors can maintain this throughout the game, I’ll be impressed.This is a game that knows it’s silly and isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself, making light of Jala’s situation without ever ridiculing her. Sadly, I didn’t see much else beyond this last fight. The demo ends with Sergio assembling Jala’s exes to inform them of her return, setting the scene. There’s a few things I wish I could’ve gotten a more in-depth look at, like reconnecting with your parents through cooking, fending off the random suitors, and 1v3 battles. I’m sure we’ll see these in time but for now at least, what I’ve seen looks promising.