Thirsty Suitors review – emotional combat that’s equal parts funny, horny and heartfelt | Games

Jala has to face the music. After her latest breakup, she realises the way she has treated most of her romantic partners ranges from noncommittal to potentially cruel. She returns to her small-town home of Timber Hills in an attempt to make amends, which is easier said than done. As soon as she enters the local diner, Jala meets her middle-school ex, Sergio, who challenges her to a fight in order to win her back.

Thirsty Suitors lives up to its name. Over the course of the game, Jala, a second-generation Indian immigrant in her 20s, fights her exes, most of whom are definitely still thirsty for her. By using combat as a way for two people to talk honestly about their feelings, Jala’s adventure manages to pack a lot of interesting questions into what is basically a row of very silly battles.

Combat is turn-based. To attack or defend yourself, you have to complete a short timed button-press each time, and to win, you have to get your opponent into different emotional states. While the battle goes on, Jala and her opponent have a conversation, working through their feelings with words and fists alike. Determining what an enemy will respond to is guesswork, but you’ll get an idea of their vulnerabilities from how an ex reacts. Sergio, for example, makes no secret of his thirst, so Jala uses her thirsty attack, draping herself suggestively on the ground while you mash a button to make her eyelashes flutter.

A shock attack sees Jala deliver a shocking truth, and so on. You may also summon a friend – Jala’s mother, for example, will appear to unleash the finishing move of every south Asian mother: a slap with her slipper. These battles are long, dragging on to the point where you’ll use the same attacks over and over, so although this version of combat is an interesting take on having an argument, it does feel repetitive.

When you aren’t fighting, you’re on four wheels. Jala goes everywhere on her skateboard, and skating is a large part of the game, complete with optional trick challenges. There’s a plot point featuring local skate punks who have formed a cult around a guy in a bear costume.

While much of Thirsty Suitors is definitely silly, it manages to cover a lot of thematic ground with depth and empathy. Topics such as rural exodus, coming out as queer and the unique challenges south Asian immigrants face all find their space, without feeling hastily stuffed in. The game’s central conundrum will resonate with most people: namely, that we all make mistakes while we’re trying to figure ourselves out, and it often takes hindsight to learn from our mishaps. Most of us have had at least one relationship that doesn’t make sense to us now, romantic or otherwise, and the fear of disappointing familial or even societal expectations is difficult to overcome.

Still, to enjoy Thirsty Suitors is to roll with all of its anime-esque absurdities. Even the pacing is episodic, with each day starting and ending the same way, which for a game can feel a bit rigid. But the whimsy – from fights with talking animals to exploring an ex’s subconscious and a cooking mini-game featuring martial arts moves – draws you in. It’s full of flavour in every aspect; well-written characters, great art design, a soundtrack mixing hip-hop and Asian instruments. Do yourself a favour and watch animator Aung Zaw Oo’s reference videos on X (formerly Twitter) if you want to know where some of Jala’s slickest moves come from.

Thirsty Suitors may be a very different take on a south Asian immigrant story, but it’s made with so much style and fun you can’t help but love it.

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Thirsty Suitors is out November 2; £24.99/$29.99 USD

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