A hot date with a pug reminded me why I hate dating

Hot Date might look like an adorable pug dating simulator. But it isn’t. A more apt description would be: a PTSD flashback to every horrible date you’ve ever been on, with pugs (presumably to soften the blow).

If you’re like me, the sight of a candle-lit dinner for two is enough to get your acid reflux acting up. What’s worse? The awkward silences or just how underwhelmed both parties seem with one another? Hot Date captures it all, with: an extensive dialogue system that generates nothing but uncomfortable conversation, a date that appears barely able to stay awake, and that empty feeling in your stomach that confirms you’ll die alone.

this is the Dark Souls of dating sims  

Despite the fact that your dinner date happens to be a dog, Hot Date gets realer than most dating sims. Unlike Dragon Age or Harvest Moon, the success of your romantic relationship doesn’t come down to giving a potential lover the right gifts or saying the right things. As in real life, all your can do in Hot Date is roll the dice, put yourself out there, hope for the best, and most likely get burned for it.

I met about eight different pugs, and my romantic escapades varied from the bearable to the traumatic (what’s that thing they say about art imitating life?) I’m not sure how the algorithm is configured, but from an outsider’s perspective, it appears to be permanently set to “soul-crushing.” Basically, this is the Dark Souls of dating sims. And it feels only appropriate for the pug to be representative of a game like that, since they are (of course) the most nonplussed pup of the canine world. You need only look into their bulging eyes, to see them staring into your soul and find it altogether lacking. 

For what it’s worth, though, Hot Date tries its best to set the mood for you—despite the inevitability of your failure. Your repeated failure to win over pug hearts is scored by a scintillating drum beat (composed by Levi Pack), and the art style (by creator George Batchelor) is polished, clean, and simple.

You can download Hot Date for free on Mac, PC, and Linux.