Half Past Fate (2020)
Developer: Serenity Forge
Taking a hard turn from last week, let's get into a cheery and romantic little game this time. I heard about Half Past Fate when the sequel (HPF: Romantic Distancing) was announced to be releasing earlier this year. I decided to pick it up on sale and it was a perfect game to play handheld on Switch while I was visiting family. Half Past Fate is a romantic comedy adventure about the events leading up to 3 couples getting together all at one fateful moment. Half Past Fate is incredibly charming and silly, although it could have used more variety in the couples and in the gameplay.
Half Past Fate opens up to the words "12 hours ago", letting you know that the events you're playing out are all happening before a specific important moment. The first character you play is a businessman called Rinden, but you'll subsequently be able to play as 5 other characters at many other points in time, ranging from "8.5 years ago" to only a few "hours ago" as you get closer to the end. Rinden runs into Mara at a coffee shop when she spills his drink on him (how much more rom-com can you get?) then runs off to her work meeting. Ana, marketing intern and tea connoisseur, meets Jaren, a sweet nerdy guy who works at a retro video game store, at a tea festival and they exchange numbers. Bia and Milo met more than 8 years ago when they were both in college and have remained best friends since then. Playing as each of these characters, you get to experience the budding romance in each of these 3 couples. If you've ever watched multi-story rom-com movies like Love Actually, Valentine's Day, and New Year's Eve, this is essentially the video game version of that - except more cute and less misogynistic. There isn't a clear protagonist for most of the game, until, there is... more on that later.
Half Past Fate has an excellent pixel-art style that stands out from other games because of its interesting use of three-dimensional pixel art. The characters look like they're in a pop-up book, two-dimensional in appearance but three-dimensional in how they can move through the world. It looks really cute and it allows you to explore the full area of each level. I also really like the art style used for the character portraits, including the many expressions they include for all the characters. Every character, including side characters, were given a lot of personality and felt like real people. The bubbly, bouncy music is catchy and gets stuck in your head, although at times specific songs can get repetitive. Each couple has their own theme, which is pretty adorable. The gameplay in Half Past Fate mostly consists of finding specific objects and passing them through people to get something you need for your objective. It's pretty fetch quest-y, but I don't mind that too much. It motivates you to explore every map to make sure you didn't miss anything, as well as talk to every person. They include in-game achievements, even on Switch, encourage you to pursue many interactions that aren't required for the main story.
Half Past Fate is full of "coincidental" meetings and a cast of characters who are all somehow connected to one another, as if the town they live in is tiny and everyone knows one another. However, I'm okay with the cheesiness of that. It's part of the fun and it makes the characters memorable since you see them a lot. What I actually had a small issue with is that some of the "side" couples, ones that weren't playable or the focus of the story, were much more interesting and relatable than some of the main couples. For example, I wanted to know more about Charlotte and Jodie and play their story. I say that mostly because I really liked Charlotte as character. I understand Jodie and Charlotte's relationship was already formed, so maybe it wouldn't have been the best for this format, but I just think there was a missed opportunity to have one of the couples be LGBTQ. Especially since - here's my real hot take - I think Rinden and Mara weren't a good couple at all. I didn't like Mara, she was obsessed with work and incredibly rude to anyone who stood in her way. It doesn't matter if your project is important environmentally good for the world, that still doesn't make it okay to overwork your employees and make angry demands to clients who rightfully passed up your product when it failed. Rinden isn't as bad, he's very corporate as well but he seems to at least care about other aspects of his life, not just work. He's also pretty forgiving despite how many times Mara yells at him or spills drinks on him. I don't think their story is very romantic and I personally do not ship them - I wish that Milo and Bia had been the "primary" couple of the game instead, since they had such a rich backstory together.
Half Past Fate is really fun and sweet, and I hope to play more games like it. It's a good fit for me since I'm not super into dating sims where you, the player, have to romance different characters, but I do like romance stories in games. The game makes you feel invested in (most of) the relationships and it's big payoff to see it all come together. Its cute style makes it very approachable but also very polished-looking. I recommend this game to any fans of story-based games, good pixel art, or rom-coms. It could be improved by adding couples that more people could relate to and root for, as well as adding gameplay that involves more than fetch quests, but I do think the simplicity of it works well to tell its story.
Half Past Fate is available on PC and Switch
Played on: Switch
Playtime: 7 hrs