I really wanted Hooked on You: A Dead by Daylight Dating Sim, released quietly on August 3, to be good. The asymmetric online survival horror Dead by Daylight first captured my attention between its bloody teeth in May, and, since then, I’ve been hypnotized by its singularly savage Killers, limping, determined Survivors, and dedication to metaphysical spookiness while cultivating a multiplayer where people like to teabag. As a product of the Twilight generation, I’m a sucker for fucked-up romance, and I thought a serial killer dating sim could be an interesting way to explore why women and Michael Douglas thirst after fucked-up romance in the first place. But Hooked on You isn’t interesting, thoughtful, or very funny about romance at all.
You wash up onto Murderer’s Island with worms in your belly and no memories in your head. In quick succession, you come across a skull buried in the sand, vomit, and meet four cutesified Dead by Daylight killers: Trapper, The Wraith, The Huntress, and The Spirit. Trickster, the franchise’s murderous K-pop star, of all things, is also on the Island, but you can’t date him. His presence is mostly eye candy and another frayed thread in an already weak and mangled plot.
So, you wash up on this island and wipe the vomit off your face just in time to meet some beefcake Killers. Eventually, you discover that you’re also on a dating show and need to eliminate cute Killers as you lose romantic interest in them. The two narrators, the talking spirit of the ocean and the standard narrator that offers you prompts, also encourage you incessantly and cryptically to make good choices and find out why you’re on the island.
“I might be the only one who can help you now,” the Ocean says at one point, opaquely, not acknowledging that the counselors, other narrator, and love interests are all also clamoring to help you with conflicting objectives.
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But sure, I’ll take help from the Ocean. One problem: every time you reach a critical or intimate point in character dialogue and in your discovery of the island, it’s immediately interrupted by the narrators’ chirpy condescension, two Survivor camp counselors, or a snooze-fest game mechanic like quick-time events and quizzes.
The presence of quick-time events refers back to the source game, where Survivors need to rapidly react to their environment to stay alive. In Hooked on You, however, quick-time events are meaningless. You’ll be prompted occasionally to hit a “target” that appears on screen, like a circular bullseye to impress Huntress with your ax skills, character icon to play spin the bottle, or radio station to find something that will help you sleep using a spinning object that you can stop with your spacebar. But other than eliciting some dialogue on your performance and the narrator’s drivel about your score, quick-time events feel mostly like uncreative ways to keep you from getting to the good stuff. The game’s quizzes feel the same. My character, Jimothy, decided to spend a romantic one-on-one date with The Wraith, but instead of any actual romance, The Wraith gave me a didactic three-question quiz about constellations. Wraith, I do not want to talk about Horologium, I want to see your nipples.
Hooked on You is way too self-conscious to show nipple. The game is oozing, spitting self-consciousness. It wants to be zany and upbeat desperately—it feels like the narrators are, by the millisecond, begging you to understand that they know it’s a silly premise for a game, b-but you’re kind of having fun, right? More than once, the narrators emphasize that they know the game is imperfect, but command you to enjoy it anyway. Or else “it’s still totally cool if you have constructive feedback,” the narrator literally says, “the place to leave that is in a positive review, because we all know that nobody reads negative reviews of games—errrr—resorts like this.” Ha ha, they broke the fourth wall!
The narrators are terrified that you’ll see through their repetitive, half-hearted stabs at banter, but they take their desperation to be liked out on you any chance they get. Oh, you think these attractive Killers are attractive? Um, they’re literally killers, you idiot! Oh, it sounds like the two Survivors are having sex somewhere on the island? Ew, don’t say that, sex is so gross! At one point, the narrator, whom you speak to more often than you do any of the Killers you’re meant to be courting, chastises you for the way the game is set up.
“Just because we had a little talk about doing a little talking, it’s not an open invitation to go smashing the fourth wall every five seconds,” the narrator says. Could have fooled me!
This game was such a huge disappointment. At least it’s only a $9.99 disappointment, and buying it also gets you a Captured Heart charm and new outfit for the survivor Jake Park in Dead by Daylight. For anything more than that, on a horny level, you’ll be able to find sexy Killers in Deviantart’s unashamed and hallowed URLs. On a gameplay level, try Sucker for Love or Monster Prom for a horror dating sim that explores the strange, problematic relationship between love and fear with measured humor and heart. I thought it might contribute something worthwhile to the fields of bizarre-but-fun dating sims that blossom on the internet, but, in short, Hooked on You isn’t anything worth dying over.