Ever wanted to date a flirtatious shark girl? No? Then maybe you should bump it up your list, and nab Shark Dating Simulator XL, a click through visual novel with fish gags galore from the comedic mind of Conan McPhee. It's short and sweet, well maybe sweet is the wrong word, but a single play-through takes no time, and you'll find yourself chuckling from start to finish. Recruited from scuba school to work for the rather busty fish scientist Marina, the player is sent down into the murky waters below to investigate a mysterious happening...talking fish?! Correct, you are tasked with capturing one of these supposed chatty sea creatures, so your bad tempered employer can make her mark on a male dominated field. However, instead you will find yourself courting a coquettish shark, who is this way as the result of her own experiment to turn fish into humans. Awkward!
My what big teeth you have!
Normally I would dive into the controls, but being a mainly visual novel there is not much to talk about. Your mouse is your buddy, taking you through the dialogue and a couple of choices that pop up, and the one mini game nearer the end of the play-through is also piloted by clicking and mostly luck. Although I will say it is very responsive and everything flows together nicely, I had no issues or complaints so that is a win from me. The draw for this title is not in the game play, being that it is very standard and nothing overly stands out, but rather the subject matter and fun you as a player can draw from it. I may have attempted comedic voices again when reading through the text, I like to think I am a hoot after all.
I got balls!
There is one mechanic SDS XL utilizes, and that is the gathering of 'balls', acquiring them based on the choices you make in the game. They drop from the top of the screen, looking much like ball bearings to me, and are the ammo you will need for the final block breaker mini game, so consider your options carefully. And yes, if you do pick the scenario that makes you more courageous or 'ballsy', you will get more balls, but remember to woo the lady and she may reward you in the end game.
The aim of the game is to successfully date this slightly bipolar shark, in aiding her to create a new formula to return herself to her original human state and in doing so 'get the girl', but this visual novel does not take itself seriously in the slightest, and is full of one liners and crude, sarcastic characters snapping at one another. When playing a dating sim, you know what you are in for, and this one does not beat around the bush.
I come from the land down under!
The visuals themselves are actually pretty good, I will admit I was expecting them to be a little less polished considering the price of the game, but it all comes together very well. The darker shading touches are reminiscent of the old pop art style, which gives a really nice level of detail, the only thing that slightly pulls away from this is the final form of your new beloved. Naturally, I cannot discuss this game without eluding to the half shark half lady partner you will find yourself with in the end. And yes if you are good at the mini game she will find herself missing items of clothing, when she wasn't wearing many to begin with, so be prepared for an eyeful. The tone of the game is very obvious from the get go, but after drinking the formula the curvaceous shark girl is a lot lustier.
Part of your world!
When seeing SDS XL, I was expecting something akin to Hatoful no Boyfriend, but with sharks instead of pigeons. Now this game is a lot smaller and less detailed, but it is a fun and interesting experience that despite what I may consider my better or more sensible judgement, I did enjoy. Sure it is not going to be the biggest life changing epic you have ever encountered, but for 79p I had some laughs and am even curious to see if there are other obtainable endings or what would happen if I didn't score high enough to impress my date. Not to mention the indication of more stories coming soon, I know I will have to play them just out of sheer intrigue. Help me guys, I have a problem! Without a doubt this was a surprise in a lot of ways, and for that I actually applaud it!
Fancy some aquatic romance? Or you know, just interested to see for yourself how far this game goes? It is now available on Steam in early access, follow the link to check it out and let your imagination swim away.
A quick virtual bang for your buck? Expect sudden revelations in Shark Dating Simulator XL!
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