In this semi-quarantine world, dating is hard. Any form of real human interaction, and any relationships, romantic or otherwise, have to work around the hurdles presented by the coronavirus. We, as a species, have to learn to communicate and connect in ways that we have never been forced to rely upon before and it’s difficult. So what do you do about it? If you’re Serenity Forge Studios the answer is “make a game about it,” and that’s how we ended up with the spin-off from 2020’s Half Past Fate, with the rather on the nose name of Romantic Distancing.
Romantic Distancing follows the short story of Robin and Stephen, two background characters who were briefly seen during Half Past Fate as a cashier and a tea salesman. They meet when he takes his broken laptop into ElectriCity to get it fixed, which happens to be where Robin works. After bonding over music and burritos, they agree to a date the next week and swap phone numbers. Of course, two days later, the lockdown hits, and their planned concert date is canceled. Instead, we get to take a peek into their video date and see snippets of the ensuing relationship. In the end, it’s up to the player to decide their fate - does love prevail or is this just an unsustainable fling that's yet another victim in the world of the virus?
Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing takes a bit under an hour to complete, depending on how quickly you read. There’s no voice acting to it, but plenty of sound effects and a fun chiptunes soundtrack to set the tone. Much like its predecessor, it also uses a cute, pixelated art style to decorate the world, and a palette of warm, bright colors.
While Romantic Distancing is a cute look into the world of quarantine romance, with the game being so short it lacks much substance. By the end of it, we still don’t know much about Robin or Stephen beyond a few shared interests and their living situations. We know how they react to lockdown restrictions being eased, but we’re never told anything deeper. Their hopes, dreams, what they’re looking for in a relationship, all of that is kept under wraps. Additionally, we don't get to see how the rest of the world handles the pandemic, as most of the game is spent in their respective apartments, aside from a brief post-lockdown foray back to ElectriCity.
On the one hand, it doesn’t really matter what their hopes and dreams are because they are in lockdown and that puts a pin in the issue anyway. It also does allow people to see themselves in the characters’ shoes, but this comes across as shallow rather than deliberate. While we don’t really need to know more about these characters for the plot to progress, it would be nice to be able to see them as less flat and cardboard-esque.
The best thing that this game has going for it is the hopes that we get to see more of the world of Half Past Fate in future spin-offs or possible sequels. With the same aesthetic and a similar feel to its predecessor, Romantic Distancing manages to get away with little worldbuilding in favor of using what has already been established.
Still, for those looking for a brief quarantine diversion and a reminder that love isn’t dead, Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing is a sweet enough story. If you're a fan of the world of Half Past Fate it's a great chance to revisit it and see through the eyes of some of its other inhabitants. And, if you’re separated from your loved one, playing a game together still counts as celebrating Valentine’s Day.
TechRaptor reviewed Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC.
- A Sweet Story, Just In Time For Valentine's Day
- Another Fun Glimpse Into The World of Half Past Fate
- Shallow Characters
- Paper Thin Plot Could Have Been More