Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker is a new entrant in a genre that is dominated by highly sexualised portrayals of women, mostly heterosexual plot lines or odd matchups between humans, animals and/or animations. Needless to say, they’re all bordering on exclusionary at their best, or offensive at their downright worst.
Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker is by no means inoffensive (the rude puns and jokes will surely annoy some conservative parents somewhere) but it aims to be the inclusive alternative that appeals to L, G, B and straight gamers alike.
But does it manage to be a standout success or does it underwhelm in comparison to its divisive competitors? Read the rest of this Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker review to find out.
Well it certainly beats it rivals in terms of character models. As KPM boasts the feature of an “endless” list of clients, each of your clients and their would-be suitors from Kitty’s black book are never found more than once. Developer Magic Notion has very cleverly inserted about a gajillion (a rough estimate) different variables into the game including their name, hair type, hair colour, interests, clothing, sexuality (they can like the same or opposite sex or both), eye colour and even their personality traits. In fact, the only mug you’ll see more than once is your own, as the game lets you create a virtual version of yourself – but more on that later.
While you could consider the game’s revolving door of singletons to be an allegory about the dating world (plenty more fish in the sea//there’s someone for everyone etc.) for players, it just provides us with a suitable challenge. Each of these randomly generated characters is a different character ‘type’ including Glam, Edgy, Geeky and so on and so forth. Glam people will get on well with other members of the Glam Squad but just like in the real world, anyone who clicks is a suitable match (plus, clients will have ideal an eye colour and hair colour for their love interests; they’re a fickle bunch.)
The downside to this, and indeed, a downside to Magic Notion’s decision to randomise everything is that it’s not always clear who will match best. For example, an interest in video games will obviously constitute a ‘Geeky’ type but a love of Internet memes might not and there are also hair styles assigned to each type of person, but again, how are you meant to tell what type of person someone is based on their neon blue goatee? Try as I might to make an adequate match based on these things, I couldn’t, which was frustrating if only because a feature that would be useful if it worked, really didn’t.
However, these (unintentionally) unlikely matchups means that Kitty Powers’ Matchmakers at least resembles the difficulty of the real-life dating world. First you pick a place for the date (including restaurants like ‘Jerk King’ and ‘Route 69’, oo-er) and make it through with your client’s feelings in tact and bowels in check. Bowels? Yes, bowels, as there’s a brilliant farting mini-game where you have to decide whether a card will be higher or lower and failure to do so will see you slice up the entire dairy aisle, never mind just cutting the cheese.
KMP‘s multitude of mini-games includes guessing what your date wants to eat based on their description (hot with red meat, cold with no meat whatsoever etc.), finding them in a crowd of people, calculating tips, choosing conversational topics from a wheel to see if they think your client’s shaven (or bearded) face is just lovely.
Not all of these mini-games hit the mark, though, such as the horoscope one that asks if your client and their date are compatible. Maybe the element of surprise is meant to be a draw, but how on Earth is the player meant to know which horoscopes match up well without alt-tabbing out of the game to look it up?
The bright side is that you can cheat on these games, for a price (you get a Family Fortunes style spinning wheel) and most importantly, the variety means that playing these games doesn’t ever feels tedious. Having been matching up lonely lovers for a good many hours now I’m glad to report that I’ve not found any of them to be particularly grating – not even that blasted horoscope matcher.
Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker also keeps you thoroughly engaged/addicted/obsessed with making sure everyone is shacked up in the name of love and your own career security, by using a coin and level up system. On the coin front, you command a fee for each date that your client goes on, with bonuses for successful dates, for matching your client with the avatars of other people and depending on the client’s own income. In turn you can use those coins to pay for cheats, to unlock extra date venues, to unlock descriptions of meals from the waiter, or to pay for services such as a barber, a hair stylist and a hair colourist.
Meanwhile, dates that went well (successfully getting another date doesn’t count – they have to have been made a couple) will reward you with an unidentified amount of XP points which help you reach the next level. This in turn provides you with expansions of your matchmaking base, new personality traits to ask about during dates (e.g romantic vs spicy and sociable vs being by your lonesome) and new locations and services to buy. The fact that you have to level up and earn coins to be able to afford new locations might seem like a grind to some but I’ve been having a tremendous amount of fun with the game so to me, levelling up to unlock these unlockables (as bad as that sounds) was encouraging rather than feeling grunt work.
Less encouraging, however, is the end game. There is no ‘real’ end game in Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker since, as I’ve mentioned, the game can go on forever, but you will be looking out for the messages in your in-game inbox that give you a grade, reputation points (a higher reputation lets you command a higher fee) and tell you how your matches are getting on. I found my clients’ after stories really underwhelming as each of their emails followed the same template – either ‘I liked [good trait], can overlook [bad trait] and now we’re engaged’ or ‘I liked [good trait] but [bad trait] has me running for the hills’. It’s not for a lack of creativity as the rest of the game shows that Magic Notion clearly has that in droves, but it was disappointing that the matches ended like this.
Similarly, the avatar I created has also been going on dates, with Kitty Powers herself telling me about who I’d be suited with best in the real world as well as my avatar’s success rate. Unfortunately, as nice as it was to hear about my avatar’s love life (for example, it told me a percentage of dates that resulted in marriage), the game didn’t let me see any of those dates or even tell me about any of the randomly generated characters that she got paired up. As a result, the entire feature, whilst sounding wonderful on paper, turned out to be meaningless in practice.
Although these things bothered me, they are small worries in what is otherwise a well-made game. Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker made me laugh out loud with its ridiculous puns and Kitty’s silly quips and loading screen factoids and it even made me believe that there’s someone for everyone – even if that someone has green hair, a soul patch and a love of collecting lava lamps.
Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker is now available on PC and Mac via Steam.