Thirsty Suitors Review
Jala Jayaratne vs. The World
Problems are a part of daily life, and how we choose to solve them is often a different matter. Perhaps you are the individual who likes to face challenges head-on, or maybe you’re someone who’d rather hide and hope the problem solves itself. Relationships are wonderful, and messy, and teach us about personal growth. However, for some individuals, these lessons come in the form of battling exes, being a family disappointment, and coming to terms with the fact that there is a bear skater cult in town. Thirsty Suitors is a hilarious romp that focuses on family, culture, and the mending of broken relationships. While the execution of its gameplay has some flaws, the game has a lot of heart that makes players root for this crazy cast of characters.
It’s a familiar story: a girl leaves a small town for a fantastic new relationship only to come home with her tail between her legs because it didn’t work out. For twenty-five-year-old Jala Jayaratne, coming back to Timber Hills was not what she wanted, but given her sister Aruni is getting married, and her paati is flying from India to attend the wedding — it’s a lot to take in given the shambles Jala left those relationships in. Shadowy figures also know of Jala’s return, each with their score to settle. Lastly, there is also Jala’s ex-best friend and lover, Tyler, who drags her into finding out about the sinister skater-bear cult that is luring in the local teens. Jala’s return is the talk of the town, and with random suitors asking for her hand in marriage and skater bear cubs attacking her in broad daylight, what’s a girl to do?
In terms of story, Thirsty Suitors does a great job balancing both comedy with serious subject matters. Although Jala does a lot of deplorable things to her various exes, she’s also a character the player can root for as she is constantly growing and becoming much more self-aware of her actions. A lot of the themes are about atonement and culture clash, which are done exceptionally well. Not only does the game show how messy relationships can be, but it also shows how the power of self-realization and forgiveness can transform a person.
It also helps that the game has a fantastic cast of characters to showcase these important themes. Jala herself is quite sarcastic and a loveable heroine to follow. Many of the exes begin with comedic introductions that then transform into much more serious issues, such as abandonment, cheating, and exploitation. Every one of them has a damn good reason to be mad at Jala, and the game wants players to sympathize with them. The best characters in Thirsty Suitors, however, are Jala’s parents, who balance the narrative in a very important way. Jala’s Indian mother has extremely high expectations for her and feels a sense of disappointment when Jala returns home with no plans for college, while Jala’s Sri Lankan father is consistently the one who wants nothing more than his Jalubean’s happiness, but also recognizes that only she can atone for her past mistakes.
If Scott Pilgrim and Persona had a baby, it would be Thirsty Suitors. Players must defeat Jala’s not-so-evil exes, with each boss encounter being presented in a larger-than-life way, à la Persona. Each of these exes has a unique “thristsona,” as they all want answers as to why Jala broke their hearts, and much of the game’s combat system relies on balancing quippy and heartfelt dialogue with a crazy mood system that targets an enemy’s vulnerability. During battles, Jala must use her willpower to inflict specific moods, such as rage, heartbreak, and even thirst, to find and exploit an enemy’s vulnerability. Once the correct vulnerability has been exposed, Jala can use a skill which, with correctly timed button presses, can do monstrous amounts of damage. Jala also can summon family members and exes that she has previously come to terms with into battle, including her mother who slaps the enemy with a giant slipper. These summons are both comedic and useful, as many of them offer bonuses such as status ailments or the ability to view vulnerabilities.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to the combat, and it comes from the constant dialogue. While dialogue options mid-battle sometimes have the power to inflict damage on an enemy, it comes up too frequently and slows down the rhythm of combat. Nearly every turn Jala and her opponent will have an exchange of words, and in regular battles this often feels superfluous. In boss battles it makes more sense as Jala and her ex are trying to get to the heart of the matter, but it still takes from the ebb and flow of combat, often moving battles at a snail’s pace. It’s not a bad battle system, as the exploitation of vulnerability and the time-button presses keep things moving, but players shouldn’t consider it the focus of the game.
Timed button presses make an appearance in one of the Thirsty Suitor’s best parts — the cooking minigame. To make up with many of the exes or family members, Jala must master the art of South Asian cuisine. These fast-paced cooking action sequences are delightful, and the banter that occurs between Jala and her parents easily steals the show. Cooking food not only mends relationships within the game but also provides delicious items that are usable in battle, and visually, and they look so pretty that they’ll make the players’ mouths water. While cooking food and battling exes are core components to Thirsty Suitors, there is also skateboarding, which is the other plot thread that players will have to explore. Unfortunately, this thread is easily the weakest one, as the storyline of the skater-bear cult comes with a mediocre resolution. There is also a plethora of skateboarding challenges for players who dig that content, but having to skateboard everywhere isn’t exactly fun. Skateboarding feels sticky and unnatural, and during some of the more difficult challenges, it’s not easy to know which trick needs to be performed. Thankfully, if players are not interested in this aspect of the game, an auto-skate option is provided.
Where Thirsty Suitors truly shines is in the sound department. The soundtrack does a great job of providing fantastic street beats that pump the player up for combat. Every boss fight has its own upbeat track, and even the sound effects from enemies have a comedic charm. The voice acting is also incredibly strong, with Farah Merani bringing Jala’s sharp tongue and humor to every situation. Every voice in the game is solid, and the cast does a great job of bringing the insanity of Thirsty Suitors to life. Graphically, the game has a lot of appeal. It’s bright, colourful, and very stylized, giving it a very pleasant appearance. However, there are a few minor graphical glitches, whether it is an NPC getting stuck in the environment or Jala losing her face while dialogue is still happening. While these don’t detract from the experience, some of these issues are pretty funny when they occur.
Thirsty Suitors is a game made for those who love comedy and storytelling. Outerloop Games has made such an enjoyable love letter to IPs such as Persona and Scott Pilgrim, while still crafting a game that stands on its own two feet. There is so much personality and honesty that feels refreshing, and Jala is a winner of a heroine because her growth is so important and integral to the story being told. While the combat is serviceable and the game can be completed in under six hours, don’t let it detract you from giving Thirsty Suitors a chance. There is a lot of heart and soul in this game, and that alone makes it worth experiencing.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Fantastic themes and thoughtful characters Cooking minigame is addictive Great soundtrack
Slow combat pacing Skating boarding around Timber Hills is not fun Minor graphical errors