Tender: Creature Comforts is Tinder the game. It does it so well that it gave me PTSD and took me right back to my online dating days. I’ll save those stories for a drunken confession video but Tender brings the world of online and app dating to life with such comedic realism that I became utterly engrossed in it. Each time I play, I take on a new persona and see what changes and its a fascinating and emotional ride.
Tender is a dating app for all lifeforms across the galaxy. When you join the app you’ll create a profile from sentences and text preferences and then you can swipe away on hundreds of profiles. True to free app form, there’s a cooldown timer but so long as you are swiping right on at least some profiles you like, you’ll be busy messaging back and forth with hundreds of profiles. Tender is finite though – you can only find love within 10 dates or you have to delete the app and move on.
Each profile picks on dating profile tropes. You have the posers, the friends, the dog photos, the one with all the emojis, the blank photo with an aggressive profile and so on, everything is replicated beautifully with vivid art direction. It is when you match with someone that the true fun begins though.
Conversations work as mini choose your own adventures. Choices matter and every reply is a choice and dialogue tree to choose from. Get on well and you might get to go on an elusive date. It isn’t just up to you though. Spambots, trolls, snooty narcissist and lonely and scared beings are lurking around each profile. Some will lead you on. Others will judge and block you. Some just want fun, others want love. If you do go on a date, one wrong conversation point can utterly unravel a date – just like in real life. It is eerie just how rejection focused Tender: Creature Comforts is. It is superbly well written and I was pulled right back into my dating days of old. The chat mechanics in-app usually give between two and four options for each reply to choose from. There is also some emoji and spelling customisation too. It makes it feel personal and makes you stand out too. The dates themselves stick to a this or that option and often they seem a little…sad? Maybe that’s just me but most characters seem to be a little damaged, awkward or carefree. Maybe I was after too much of a connection!
For every funny character, there is a sad one, a lonely one, a bitter one and someone wanting you to follow them on Insta. You can even find your ex on there and potentially get back together again. I found myself getting so involved with some of the conversations that continue on over time – especially the lonely Jackie – that I was sucked into Tender’s world. Elsewhere I was laughing my head off at dating a human-eating monster by accident or trying to escape a threesome I didn’t want.
If I had a minor niggle, it’s that some of the conversations are clearly more fleshed out than others, but then that’s how online dating is. The amount of people who don’t lead a conversation or ask anything and it just stays stilted is insane and the same thing applies here. If you’ve suffered 20 years of online dating like I have (outside of relationships in that time) – you’ll have a knowing nod and wink to everything here.
Tender: Creature Comforts is a stunningly put together game and experience. It’s a wonderful narrative-driven game that feels free and evocative as you deal with rejection, hope dashing, the joy of success and the joy of blocking someone before they block you. Don’t sleep on this.
Review copy provided by developer.
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