Developer Serenity Forge and publisher Way Down Deep’s Half Past Fate was a pleasant surprise last year, a slice-of-life romantic comedy with beautiful pixel art and memorable music. Actual gameplay was almost nonexistent, but it was forgivable because it was such a novel and feel-good experience. Now, Serenity Forge and Way Down Deep are back with a surprise bite-sized follow-up, an hour-long experience called Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing. The game aims to distill everything that was great about the original into one quick, concise experience, but instead — it’s just a waste of an hour.
Social distancing from this one might be the right idea
As its name would suggest, Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing primarily takes place during the pandemic. Jacked nice-guy Stephen lives with his uncle, and pre-lockdown, he goes to an electronics store to get his laptop fixed. There, he meets the cashier named Robin, and it turns out they have a love of music in common. They decide to go on a date to a concert, but then lockdown starts. Thus, Stephen and Robin take their budding romance digital, speaking through their computer and phone video.
Rather than show static screens of computers, the game opts to keep hopping back and forth between Stephen and Robin’s homes, which ends up the preferable option and works just fine. The gameplay — again, where it exists at all — consists of just walking around their homes or, briefly, the electronics store and surrounding neighborhood. You will observe or interact with various objects or a very small handful of NPCs, and most of it functions as world-building and has no impact on gameplay. The music, meanwhile, is still pleasant, though there are only a few tracks.
The major issue with Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing is that the story is utterly devoid of substance. Stephen and Robin show each other their homes and talk about their lives and music preferences. Then something simple and trivial (albeit plausible) happens that challenges their relationship. That’s a fine setup for a story, but the problem is that the game ends so soon after it finally introduces its character conflict. I was blindsided when the credits started rolling because it didn’t feel like an ending at all. It was as if the game had ended right before the climax.
It’s by no means impossible to tell a compelling story in one hour in a video game, but the writing here isn’t up to the task. If you’ve never played the original Half Past Fate, I heartily recommend that game, but I can’t think of any reason why someone should play Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing, even at its budget price.
A review code was provided by the publisher.