Annapurna Interactive always has its finger on the pulse of interesting stories and gives creators the opportunity to not only express their opinions but to put so much love and devotion into their creations. This was evident from the moment I sat down with Thirsty Suitors.
Outerloop Games has done such a fantastic job with Thirsty Suitors. It follows Jala, a woman who returns to her hometown for her sister’s wedding. Back in her hometown, Jala has to deal with certain parts of her life that we all wish we could leave behind: broken friendships and reconciling with her exes. Jala will also have to come to terms with her demanding parents and what has been described as the terrifying and judgmental patriarch of the entire family: her Nani.
Thirsty Suitors lives and breathes its passion by letting us dive head-first into South Asian culture. In the short time I spent with Thirsty Suitors, it did a fantastic job of not only letting us live in that culture but presenting it in such a way that those unfamiliar with the culture could grasp the situations and, in a way, learn about the culture. There was a clear goal to have the players experience this culture and teach everyone about it. Without a doubt, Thirsty Suitors has an air of inclusivity that feels nothing less than welcoming.
“Thirsty Suitors lives and breathes in its passions, having us dive headfirst into South Asian culture.”
The game started with a short skateboarding section which, to be honest, was a bit rough. But as it was more of a tutorial, I was able to fly through it, and I would be more interested to see it explored in a more open section rather than a ‘grind this rail or have to restart’ tutorial feel. It felt too rough to control. The environment set up for the tutorial just felt a little stiff. But we have seen what skateboarding outside of the tutorial looks like from screenshots, and it looks stunning.
Once I got past these opening sections of Thirsty Suitors, I got to the fantastic part that had me drooling, the incredible cinematic conversational combat where we got to go up against Jala’s ex. It has been a long time since I have seen such an amazing evolution of a turn-based combat system.
It started off pretty simple with the usual basic timed attacks and defences of Super Mario Legend of the Stars on the SNES, but as we got deeper into the combat, we were able to use these debuffing attacks that worked to make our enemy, who happened to be an ex, thirsty for Jala. Once they are thirsty, you have other special attacks that do extra damage. These thirst attacks also caused our ex to skip turns, which helped turn the tide of the battle.
“It feels like Thirsty Suitors is this generation’s Scott Pilgrim, but even comparing the two feels reductive to Thirsty Suitors.”
On the other hand, our exes also have these special attacks. But with the implementation of the timing mechanic, we are able to deflect some of that damage. Another thing that stands out during combat is how flashy it is. Each attack comes with a very fluid animation of Jala slamming a basketball down on an ex or posing in seductive ways to build up their debuff of wanting Jala badly.
After defeating our ex, there was this almost heartwarming scene where Jala and the ex made up and became friends. This was followed by a cutscene of the ex informing all the other exes in a strangely hilarious roundtable forum, gathered outside a restaurant, that Jala is back in town. With each ex exclaiming that they would be the one to win Jala back, with the ex we just defeated saying that we are a changed person and like Jala, and they are friends now. It is an interesting way to end the chapter, and according to the developer, this is how each chapter will end.
After my time with the game, it feels to me like Thirsty Suitors is this generation’s Scott Pilgrim, but even comparing the two feels reductive to Thirsty Suitors. Mainly because, unlike Scott Pilgrim, Thirsty Suitors feels like a story of growth, passion, and overall a heartwarming personal journey with something to say. I haven’t even touched on the quirky art style, which makes even the simplest animation come across with flair and vibrancy. Although we don’t have a release date yet, Thirsty Suitors was hands down my favourite game at Summer Game Fest, and I can’t wait to see where the story goes.