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Game Review: Later Daters | Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

CW: transphobia experienced by a character

I recently got a Nintendo Switch Lite and my husband started sliding me links for games he thought I might like. One was for a dating sim with elderly people called Later Daters. I thought it sounded cute, bought it, and promptly forgot all about it for a month because I was addicted to Hades at the time. Holy smacks, was I ever right about it being cute, and there’s a lot more to it than cuteness. Even better? Since it’s been out for a while, you can pick up Part 1 and Part 2 at the same time!

Later Daters takes place at Ye OLDE retirement community and you play as its newest resident. The first thing you have to do is choose whether you want to be a man, woman, or nonbinary person.

Screenshot from Later Daters where players choose their gender and name

Next, you choose whether you were in a longterm partnership with a man, woman, or nonbinary person, or if you had never settled down with anyone. Finally, you choose whether the pet who’s coming with you is a cat, dog, or robot. On my first playthrough, I chose to be a nonbinary person who had been married to a woman and was bringing a robot.

It’s not just the character creation that’s as inclusive as all get-out. Representation through the love interests is too. For example, you can pursue a relationship with Mariana, a Black woman who was married first to a man and then a woman. Or you can hook up with Crystal, a trans woman who moves into the room next to yours. I haven’t figured out yet if all the characters are bisexual or pansexual, but from what I’ve seen, it seems like a strong possibility.

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Screenshot from Later Daters of Mariana, one of the love interests

Because it’s a dating sim, your experience is driven by the choices you make, both in taking specific actions or in selecting dialogue options. I quickly realized that this mechanic offered me a bunch of choices that determine who I wanted my character to be. For example, do I want to be an open, friendly person, or do I want to keep my cards close to my chest? Do I want to pursue a deeper romantic relationship with one other resident or do I want to pursue multiple relationships, since monogamy and polyamory are presented as equally valid choices? Or, do I just want to be on my own with my pet? Truly, anything goes at Ye OLDE and I loved that about it. Their only rule seems to be “no judgmental assholes allowed,” so it’s a pretty great place. To get the full scope of the writing and story possibilities you’ll want to play multiple times. I’ve played it twice so far and anticipate at least three more playthroughs.

It’s not always hearts, fun and roses, however. Later Daters doesn’t shy away from tough subject matter, which makes sense, since all the characters are in their 70s and 80s. For example, Jax is an aging rockstar who reveals that he has HIV. Salema and Haroun are still married, but Salema is figuring out if she can still take care of Haroun with his Alzheimer’s disease worsening by the day. And we learn that Crystal’s son is having a hard time accepting her as a woman, which is the reason for the content warning above (also, Crystal uses her own deadname in a conversation with her son. I don’t know if that requires a warning, but I’m noting it in case that might be a problem for anyone). So many of the feels in this game come from learning each new piece of information and seeing how it reinforces the fact that we’re not promised anything from one day to the next.

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Screenshot from Later Daters of Jax and Crystal

My lone complaint is about one of the chapters (the story is broken into chapters, with each chapter representing a single day). The whole chapter is basically a fever dream, where your character and their/her/his pals are on a starship, which can end in a giant orgy. Orgy aside—because again, anything goes here—this chapter was baffling because it felt tonally off from the rest of the game. It wasn’t bad, it was just WEIRD and I kind of wish that block of content had been another day of resident antics at Ye OLDE instead.

So, will you like Later Daters? That depends on two questions:

  1. Did you like the games Hustle Cat, Dream Daddy, or Hatoful Boyfriend?
  2. Are you likely to say “go get it!” to an 80 year old?

If you said yes to both of those questions, then Later Daters is definitely for you. Its joyful inclusivity and sex positivity were an absolute delight, and its grounding in real-life issues related to aging made for many poignant moments. I loved everything except that one chapter and am excited to have a new standard for inclusivity when I’m playing other dating sims in the future.

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