When I picked up a copy of Speed Dating for Ghosts earlier this week, I’m not going to lie, I kind of underestimated what the game was going to be. Based on the title, I expected a pretty light hearted dating sim about smooching spectral hotties and boning down with some otherworldly apparitions. What I wasn’t really ready for was a thoughtful meditation on what it means to live, once you’re done actually living.
Mechanically, Speed Dating for Ghosts is pretty bear bones. The game features cute character art of ghosts that don’t always conform to human ideas of conventional beauty; for example you might find yourself sat across the table from a plague doctor slowly turning to dust, or a mountain of dirt with a humanoid face mask strapped across its upper section to simulate where its face might have previously been. You pick one of three themed rooms, each containing three ghosts who you interact with by picking dialogue options. You chat with each ghost twice, pick which one you’d like to take on a date, and see if they liked you enough to accept your offer.
Every round of speed dating with the game’s nine possible romance options goes pretty much the same. You spend the first short chat learning generally about the ghost, and what they value, with the second chat devoted to getting into the specifics of their beliefs and interests. Where I was expecting these second discussions to focus more on romantic compatibility, most of them ended up being much more about understanding what kind of understanding and companionship that particular ghost needed, and deciding if you were the right person to provide that in the afterlife.
The titular ghosts in Speed Dating for Ghosts vary wildly in their experiences of the afterlife, and all have wildly different takes on how best to spend their remaining eternity on earth. Ghosts in this world can interact with the human world in limited ways, but it takes practice and effort to pull off. While some ghosts use this power to try and better the world, scaring billionaires like they’re in A Christmas Carol or comforting those close to death, others stick to what they knew in life. Some ghosts just hang out at punk shows because it’s all they really did while they are alive, or perhaps even rob banks just because they know they can’t get caught anymore.
With many of their core human needs now met, no need to eat, sleep, or work to afford accommodation, these ghosts have forever to finally do whatever they would like, and exploring how each ghost plans to use infinite time but limited influence is fascinating.
There’s also some really interesting exploration of the fact that some ghosts handle the fact they are dead better than others. One ghost I spoke with shared a story about initially falling deep into the earth’s core, scared and alone, because she didn’t know at first how to not fall through the floor as a ghost. Another ghost who I sat down with wasn’t even aware she had passed away, leading to quite possibly the most important yet difficult speed dating discussion I’ve ever experienced.
What all of these ghosts have in common however is that, more than looking for love, they’re looking not to be alone for eternity. When you eventually decide to date one of these ghosts, your dates are usually less romantic, and more about experiencing something important with them that they would have struggled to experience alone. From someone’s quiet hideaway in the woods, to solving a murder, these dates are often more about helping these ghosts face who they are, connect with others, and experience the kind of genuine connection with others they hoped speed dating might help them achieve.
Speed Dating with Ghosts is a pretty short game, playing through each of the three dating rooms once and experiencing a single date from each will take around 90 minutes, but there is definitely room for replayability. Even when I didn’t pick a date up the first time around, the full cast of ghosts were each fascinating enough that i had a deep curiosity what dating them would have been like, for better or worse.
Speed Dating for Ghosts may be a simple game, but it’s one that undeniably gripped me with its charming writing, character design, and intriguingly varied characters. If you have a couple of hours spare and want to explore a bunch of interesting characters and their stories, this would certainly be a good game to start with.
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