Looking for a super cute game to kick off the new year? Look no further than Best Friends Forever, the dating sim where navigating the complexities of modern dating is made all the more fun with the help of your very own furever friend! Developed by New Zealand based indie studio Starcolt, Best Friends Forever one part dating sim, one part pet care game.
Start your brand new life in sunny Rainbow Bay, take in the sights and sounds of the city—raise a cute pup and get to know the colorful cast of singles and their furry companions. Make new friends and maybe even find love along the way. Adopt your own cute doggo and form a bond that will last a lifetime! Romance and cute doggos, what’s not to love?
Everything is right there on the label with Best Friends Forever—you adopt a cute dog and woo hot millennial singles in artsy canine friendly city. But, given everything going on in the world right now, I can appreciate the game’s simpler premise. In fact, in this post pandemic world I really miss being able to go out and hang with friends and in it’s own way, Best Friends Forever takes us back to a time when we could actually do that. Rainbow Bay is a veritable paradise, with it’s thriving social scene, attractive singles, and of course cute pups galore!
As soon as you arrive in the city you can head over to the Paw Prints Pet Care Center to adopt your very own doggie companion. You can choose from one of a handful of dogs—I picked an adorable 9 month old Shiba Inu, named Cheeseball—each with their own unique histories and traits. Not only do you have to balance romancing each of the prospective love interests, each of whom have their own cute fur babies, BUT, you also have to train and bond with your newly acquired pup. Full disclosure, I don’t have a dog of my own so I have zero experience raising a pet and after playing this game, I’m not sure I’m cut out for one either.
Your doggo gets their very own interactive sprite, which appears in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and this is not something you can ignore, because your furry friend becomes the ultimate cockblock from the moment you take them into your care. There will be times when you’re required to tend to your pup’s needs—most of the time while you’re interacting with one of the love interests. And at first it was kind of fun balancing having a conversation and taking care of Cheeseball. Some of the actions were cute, like how you can pet your pup whenever you want or when your doggo decides to randomly fart. Yes, you read that right, your dog can and will fart at the most inopportune moments. Others were a bit more of a challenge, like when Cheeseball would get scared, so I’d need to give her a few reassuring pats or when she needed to handle her business, so I’d have to toss out the bag. The events are completely random, so you really have to keep a close eye on your pup to avoid any mishaps, but I’d kind of worked out a good system… that is until Cheeseball decided she wanted to take a massive dump during my first date with Anders. Mortified doesn’t even cover how I felt when that happened, however the other characters don’t react AT ALL—that’s when I discovered your dog’s actions don’t really have that much bearing on the plot. Which was a huge missed opportunity for a much more interactive gameplay experience.
In addition to the random interactions, you are also tasked with actually training your pup which is more utilizes a very standard stats raising mechanic. There are five different attributes that you have to maintain in order for your pup to be considered “trained”—Manners, Sociability, Trust, Smarts, and Fitness. At the start of each week you can choose five activities that raise specific stats, with the end goal of raising them just high enough to get your pup through their check-ins at the Paw Prints Care Center. Activities range from taking social media pics to going on walks or even binging a show with your pup. After which you can spend one on one time caring for your pup by feeding them, bathing them, and even playing with toys. These activities correlate to a second set of stats—Satiation, Hydration, Mood, Hygiene, and Energy. But, unlike the base stats, these can be be lowered or raised based on which activities you choose to do. Giving Cheeseball dry food to eat raises satiation, but lowers hydration and if I choose to give her wet food instead, hygiene is lowered, so it’s really a balancing act to see which options work best for your pup.
When compared to the pet care aspects of the game the dating portion seems much less developed, taking place largely within an in-game dating application called Woofr. At the start of the game you answer some quick questions to “help” determine your matches, but this is mostly to help determine your character’s personality since regardless of what answers you give all of the potential love interests are available for you to date. Again, this was another missed opportunity, because I would have loved to have had your answers affect which characters you could pursue… like it would in a real dating app. But, alas, it was not to be.
The locations of each of the potential love interest appear on an interactive map. Simply click on the location icons to find the person you want to hang out with and then you’re there. For the most part early interactions with the other characters are pretty short random encounters around town where you get to know your suitors a bit better. But if you hang out with them enough you can unlock date scenarios and after three dates that’s when you can choose to take your relationship to the next level. I kind of played the field a bit, spending time with each of the characters in turn before narrowing things down to sexy lawyer Anders and his gorgeous (eyebrowless) Labrador retriever Hemingway and Sasha, the sweet cinnamon roll from the apartment upstairs and his adorable pup Marshmallow.
You spend most of your time just hanging out with everyone, getting to know more about them while exploring various locations around the city. There really isn’t much in the way of a conflict, which is nice since it really gives you a chance to focus on the characters, but I couldn’t help but want more. There just aren’t any tangible stakes so it’s hard to get too invested in the relationship between your character and the LI, so if you’re expecting a whirlwind romance… there’s none of that here. But, I did like that all of the pursuable characters are friends with one another, and there are even a few group events throughout where you can just spend time with everyone in a more casual setting. The chemistry between the characters was great and there were a quite a few times when I found myself laughing out loud at the fun dialogue options.
Of course, I can’t talk about this game without mentioning how wonderfully diverse this game and I definitely enjoyed that you can romance any character you want regardless of which identity you choose (customize your appearance and choose your pronouns) at the start of the game. You all know that I am always down for representation in my games, but I was particularly impressed with just how diverse the cast of Best Friends Forever is—Anders has a genetic eye condition that affects his sight, so Hemingway is his seeing eye dog; Robin is a mother of two; Sacha is a transgender man; and then there’s the BIPOC and LGBTQIA rep. This is truly a game for everyone.
So the Verdict – Should You Play Best Friends Forever?
I had a lot of fun playing the game. The characters are all great and even if you don’t choose to pursue someone romantically you still have a good time getting to know them platonically. The writing is hilarious, and there were more than a few times when the back and forth between the characters got a genuine laugh out of me. The pet care management system was interesting and it’s inclusion in the game definitely elevated what would have been an otherwise average dating sim. If you’re looking for a “romance game” you will be sorely disappointed by Best Friends Forever. If you’re looking for a chill, diverse game where you can date attractive singles and raise a cute pup… absolutely get Best Friends Forever.
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