The visual novel dating simulator is a fun genre, but the framework (though usually enjoyable) can get predictable, i.e.: you arrive at a new and unfamiliar location and meet your peers, who are all teenagers from different cliques/talking animals/gay dads, you begin dating several of them and eventually whittle it down to just the one who you want to end up with, and along the way you may possibly discover one or more horrifying twists involving demons or murder or similar. Purrfect Date doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it bucks some of these trends, i.e. you date talking animals (this time dogs haha just kidding, it’s cats) and there is a twist, but you get the opportunity to date each of the cats in one playthrough and don’t have to start the game afresh every time.
In fact you kind of have to date each of the cats, or you won’t see all there is to see in the game. In Purrfect Date you play as a series of research assistants who arrive on an island populated entirely by cats – plus the scientist studying them, the security guard, and a married couple who act as caretakers. Your job is to assist Professor Pawpur in studying the cats. Each assistant is, on their first night, lured to the more dangerous side of the island populated by wild ‘elder’ cats and infected with a disease that transforms you into a furry feline yourself. During the catification process you can understand the cats living on the island, who ask for your help to find out why their friends keep disappearing, meaning you can date them in between doing the research you were hired to do and doing recon to figure out what the hell is actually going down (spoilers: weird shit is going down).
There are six research assistants and each will do a certain amount of research and progress a certain way towards synthesising a cure for their whole turning-into-a-cat thing before eventually succumbing to the infection (though there are other ends to meet on the island) and making room for the next research assistant to turn up. If you’ve been on enough successful dates with your furry paramour of choice then you’ll end up living on the island in unwedded bliss with them. They can also give you interesting items or open up new research avenues in the course of dating them.
Though the scenes and backdrops can become a bit repetitive (mostly due to a new player character having to turn up every couple of hours and go through a similar arrival process to the last one) being able to date all the kitty cats in one playthrough means you get to avail yourself of some very sweet writing. Each cat is markedly different in their interests, personality and tone of speech as well as their look – and enough that you’ll definitely like some more than others. I enjoyed talking to Trixie, an upbeat free spirit who collected mineral rock formations, and Kibbles, a big playful tom cat who was into manga and had been working on an expressionist art comic of his own, but found exuberant and consciously roguish McMurphy a bit much to be going on with. What’s especially nice about dating the cats in Purrfect Date is that, for the occasional dialogue options you get, you’ll usually get the best response by being honest and being yourself, which is a nice change to the insert cookie, receive love interest system for most other games featuring romance.
Choices will come up at other points as well. During a piece of research you might have to decide whether or not to apply certain samples to certain test subjects, or if you should try and sneak equipment out of the lab or try and do secret tests without the Professor noticing. Going wrong may mean that you come to the end of the game without having figured out the formula for the cure, but you can take heart knowing that most of the research assistants you played as ended up fine. Well, probably, anyway. It’s not like they ended up trapped on an island party to some extremely sinister goings on. But replaying Purrfect Date isn’t a chore, and there are lots of secrets to find. I only saw about half of the game’s content and a handful of potential endings on my first run at it. You may want to take a break between sessions and come at the familiar backdrops with a fresh pair of eyes, but statistically speaking around half of you are cat people. Now you’ve got the chance to really indulge in that. In a socially acceptable way.
Developer: Bae Team
Publisher: Bossa Studios
Available on: PC
Release Date: December 15, 2017