[Review] Nicole – Nintendo Switch

 

I am a hypocrite.

Put me in front of a romantic drama, rom-com or anything else described as “rom” that isn’t a vacuous spider and I will roll my eyes and generally be a grump as it transpires that true love was there all along blah blah bleurgh! However, put me front of an RPG with a fleet of eligible NPCs and romance options in dialogue trees and I will flirt my way to victory! With occasional awkward moments where I’m forced to choose my video game bae because I might have attempted to seduce literally anything with vocal cords.

Also, put me in front of an RPG with dialogue trees and a range of veritable virtual honeys and then deny me any opportunity of smooching (I’m looking at you Outer Worlds!) I will get distinctly cheesed off.

So even though dating sims are generally not my bag in the slightest, I figured I’d expand my brazen flirtatious horizons and give Nicole from Winter Wolves Games and Ratalaika Games a chance. I might not be able to romance my way across the galaxy, but at least I can relive my awkward college years vicariously through perky Law student Nicole Grave.

Nicole

As Nicole, you are initially over the moon to be starting college at your first choice institution. Your roommate Chandra Dawn (yes that is her name) seems nice enough, and the fact that there have been a number of disappearances on campus doesn’t really bother you at all, until it looks like you’re lined up to be victim number 4.

 

The game is primarily focused on stat building.

The stats you end the game with will dictate which one out of the 10 possible endings you will receive. There are two bad endings, one of which is you being kidnapped which is suitably bad, or the deeply insulting “forever alone” ending because you didn’t fancy any of the bachelors thrown your way.

Speaking of which there are four potential suitors some of whom wave their red flags high and proud. There’s walking boner and academically challenged narcissistic sports pimp Kurt Madry, socially awkward penguin and “adorkable” Darren Beville, Southern belle Ted Stahr whose default mood is furious, and most likely to be a serial killer and wear his dead mother’s clothes Jeff Ryan.

Nicole Jeff

If you successfully romance one of these fine specimens, you’ll unlock one of the other 8 possible endings. A “normal” ending for each of them or a “special” ending where they “help” you solve the mystery of the disappearances.

 

This is one of my MANY problems with the story of the game.

As a self-rescuing princess and out of practice blue-belt in Taekwondo (Toi-Gye is a hard pattern and sparring with 14-year-olds was a constant trial in trying not to knock them on their ass) I take extreme issue with the fact that in order to come out of this game with a “good” ending I need a boyfriend to stalk me and save me when the time comes!

Given that the game goes out of its way early on to subvert the dumb blonde trope and have Nicole portrayed as a capable and intelligent individual, she is insanely dumb when it comes to the end game. If you max out your clues stat you will discover a ramshackle abandoned building where the kidnapper holds their victims. Any sensible human would take this information along with the threatening text messages you receive to the police… Not Nicole.

Instead our dim-witted amateur detective goes back to the suspected kidnapper’s hideout without telling anyone to confront said creep on her own and if you haven’t sleuthed and wooed enough then you’re in trouble.

Nicole stats

Unlocking the better endings, therefore, requires a bit more thought when it comes to increasing your stats. Looking for clues is an option to increase your clues score and other stats such as diligence, amity, wit and zeal can be increased by taking part in certain activities or doing certain jobs. These other stats are especially important as you will need to max out one of these for whichever guy you want to end up with.

Getting a job will help to increase your money stat unsurprisingly, and those bucks are vital so that you can buy your man gifts to increase your relationship, because whores will have their trinkets! You also have to do other regular things such as eat, wash and sleep to keep your morale and energy stats high, as low ratings here will impact how you perform doing other actions.

Stat raising is simple and honestly tedious. You have a limited amount of actions you can do each day and as these actions rarely change, most of the game is simply select action and press button to increase stat. You do get to interact with the fantastic four dreamboats based on how well you’re racking up your clues score and take part in beautifully clichéd college melodrama.

These interactions are your opportunity to build relationships, but there is literally no room for error. Select the correct dialogue option and your relationship will improve, select the wrong one and your relationship will get worse or not budge. While you can improve relationships with gifts there are only five gifts appropriate for each guy and the rest is down to dialogue choices. Get any of these wrong and you’ll be going to prom solo.

So not only do you have to tell your chosen one exactly what they want to hear and lavish them with gifts, you also have to maximise the characteristic most desired by them. Given that you are on a time limit you’re better of putting all your chickens in one fox den and laser targeting all your misguided affection at one dude.

Nicole Darren Kurt

If I had to choose one of the hot single dudes in my area then the least obnoxious, most normal option is Darren. Yes he talks like someone out of a Jane Austen novel and he goes a bit emo toward the end, but compared to the others he is at least basically nice. If you choose to turn Ted’s frown upside-down and try to get to his squishy interior or you’re fine with Kurt’s low-level sex-pest behaviour then I guess that’s your choice. If you choose to romance barely concealed sociopath Jeff then I have many questions for you.

I don’t want to be the type of reviewer who trashes a game just because it’s not a genre I’m at home with or would naturally pick.  I have seen playthroughs of other dating sims like Dream Daddy and Monster Prom which are probably more my speed, and Doki Doki Literature Club which just looks messed up. Nicole treads a weird middle ground between these games depending on where you place your affections, so your ending will either be adorable, feel forced as hell, or feel very uncomfortably wrong.

 

 

Final Words

My first step into the dating sim genre has not been a good one. In defence to the genre however, this is less to do with the fact that Nicole is a dating sim and more to do with the hot mess of a story that is both intellectually insulting and certainly troubling when it comes to what the game thinks is romantic!

The characters are hilariously tropey to the point of being an unintended parody, and some of the darker themes the game attempts to deal with, if you get there, are handled in such a dangerously tone-deaf way that I can only wonder what on earth was going through the writers’ minds.

This is a dating sim you should definitely swipe left on!

 

star 2

Review code provided


Platform: PC, Nintendo
Release Date: 31/07/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: RPG, Sim
Developer: Winter Wolves
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Website: www.winterwolves.com
Twitter: @RatalaikaGames
Download link: eShop

4 thoughts on “[Review] Nicole – Nintendo Switch

Add yours

  1. Nicole my favorite Waifu!
    I have been wanting to get a visual novel game for Switch. What do you suggest? This 1 looks decent. What would be your top 3 suggestions? 🤔Hope I am not putting you on the spot,lol I haven’t made a wrong buy with Switch games because of your reviews 😉😄

    Like

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