PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Thirsty Suitors has been on my radar since its reveal a few years ago. It mixes a beautiful, unique, and saturated visual style, turn-based combat, great voice acting, and skateboarding. It’s a busy mix on paper, but after playing it for roughly 30 minutes during Summer Games Fest, I’m walking away excited for more.
After a rough breakup, protagonist Jala returns home. But doing so isn’t easy because that former relationship created turmoil in her other relationships back home, including her parents, sister, friends, and more. Now home, Jala seeks to repair these relationships and find balance among her six primary exes.
My hands-on time brings Jala to a skateboard park, where she runs into one of her exes, Tyler. Some narrative beats happen here, but this demo primarily showcased the skateboarding mechanics in the game. Director Chandana Ekanayake tells me skateboarding in Thirsty Suitors isn’t an attempt to feel like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and it doesn’t. But it still feels great; it’s simple, fun, and seems designed to make players feel good while skateboarding rather than worrying about messing up a combo. On that note, Ekanayake says the team wants it to feel more like Jet Set Radio than THPS. You can pull off some wild tricks and massive combos, though, and I look forward to seeing how Thirsty Suitor’s skateboarding mechanics advance later in the game, if at all.
When Thirsty Suitors isn’t a skateboarding game, it’s a turn-based RPG, and I love the combat I experience during the demo. It’s familiar but takes turn-based mainstays and flips them on their heads. Pokemon-like status effects appear, but instead of poison and the like, Jala can inflict heartbreak, thirst, and more. I do this by using special taunts, each with a funny, over-the-top animation. I then use special items to do extra damage based on the inflicted status effect. And I can use standard attacks as well.
In battle, when attacking and defending from enemy attacks, small timed button prompts appear on-screen, and Ekanayake says these are inspired by Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, and that’s extremely clear. After combat, Jala earns experience and the RPG elements come into play. There’s an attack rank, a defense rank, a skating rank, and a cooking rank, and there’s even a “Thirstsona” system that determines Jala’s build and even affects the narrative outcomes of the story.
Builds include the offense-focused Heartbreaker, the defense-focused Star, and the magic-like Bohemian. I’m excited to see how far Thirsty Suitors stretches these RPG mechanics across its 10-12 hour journey.
With my first Thirsty Suitors gameplay demo behind me, I can’t wait to play more. Outer Loop has done a great job blending several gameplay mechanics that, on paper, don’t sound like they’d mix well. But they do here, and it’s all nicely glued together by a diverse cast, excellent voice acting, and the promise of narrative anchored in the real-life lived experiences of Ekanayake and the rest of his team. This demo was just a taste, but I’m excited to see what Jala cooks up in Thirsty Suitors when it releases sometime this year.