It’s not often games slot perfectly into their predefined genres anymore — especially in the indie scene. Browse through Steam, and you’ll find a myriad of games splicing together mechanics and art styles from as many as three or four different genres, some genuinely hitting upon something new, others fading into obscurity amidst a sea of other great but poorly executed ideas.
Doomsday Paradise is yet another hopeful attempt at this lofty goal on PC.
I can’t say I’ve ever played a dating sim for longer than five minutes, nor have I been much interested in turn-based combat (Baldur’s Gate 3 and Final Fantasy 7 aside); yet there I was, carefully pondering over my next response so that a green demon girl with an obsession with Halloween wouldn’t friendzone me.
Five Days to Midnight
Doomsday Paradise started as a Kickstarter project launched back in November of last year. This is a dating sim with RPG elements, but unlike most that try to accomplish either of these styles, the gameplay is much faster.
And that’s a good thing, as it’s this premise that distinguishes it from its contemporaries. The whole thing takes place across only five days or ‘turns’, the end of the fifth day marking the inevitable apocalypse that will ravish the sunny beaches of Sunset Island in firey devastation.
The perpetrator is the appropriately named Dark Knight — a celestial horse that peppers you with a flurry of devastating magic spears when you fight him, usually killing you. You’ve got plenty to do before reaching your doom, though, for as modern as the game looks, the majority of the gameplay is rooted in the oldest RPG tropes going back to tabletop.
The majority of your time here revolves around choosing how to react to certain snippets of dialogue between a few of the game’s six main characters (and some others that appear periodically). Each decision you make siphons off your five-day story into one of one hundred separate endings.
You’re continually presented with these choices, whether that be what you choose to do during the day or night, where you start your quest and where to go next, and how you react to conversations. Alongside your main objective of saving the world (or not), you’re also made to choose one of the supporting characters as a crush.
While experiencing multiple endings is more of an extra in most games, here it’s the main focus. Each run is nice and short to entice you with another one or two in a single sitting to find out what could’ve happened if you behaved differently.
While there’s whatever wacky objective you’re faced with to work through, flirting successfully with your crush so that you can woo them before doomsday is just as important: it’s this mixture of building friendships and romances that dictates the huge number of endings, with the ability to sack off the whole ‘save the world’ thing to have a fling with your favorite character.
I appreciated the game giving me a menu that showed which of all possible endings I’d unlocked whilst detailing how many were left. If I’m going to go for it and attempt to unlock every ending in a game, I’d rather not be delving into Reddit threads to find stuff the game should tell me.
Of course, those endings aren’t going to matter much if you don’t enjoy engaging with the characters involved.
Fangs, Claws, and Abs
Each of the romanceable characters couldn’t be better distinguished so far as their appearances, and the artwork has to be commended here.
The renderings look fresh out of a zany anime like Hunter X Hunter or One-Punch Man, and their sharp dialogue (not quite as sharp as their abs, mind you) was similarly evocative. That said, I was disappointed to find very little actual voice acting.
The portrayals of the characters in the trailer sounded great, and it was a shame we didn’t hear more of the actor’s work besides a few grunts and two-word phrases. With the character’s personalities blending into one at times, it would’ve helped to hear them.
As the player you also get to choose from several different characters to play as. There are five in total each with similarly cool designs, but I found the aesthetic choices a little odd.
While the romanceable characters are each designed to resemble attractive humanoid forms, our protagonists take on the appearances of mutated frogs, spiders, and so on. All the available options resemble archetypes of hideous manga villains.
I think it would’ve been better to have you pick and mix your character through a selection of various monster parts, much like those old flash games we used to play as kids; for all the effort placed into the development of the supporting cast, our character is completely overshadowed — and not simply in their appearance.
The selections would make much more sense if the character you chose had an actual personality with specific dialogue options, but that isn’t the case. It feels like you’re an outsider, chipping in here and there to guide the action rather than a main character. With this being the case, why would any of these hot, charismatic singles want to date you?
That said, The devs took their time with the script. There are a lot of fun little stories that’ll make you giggle here, and with such a variety in the number of endings, the few that make you groan don’t put a dampener on things.
It must have been a huge undertaking to weave in so many possible outcomes with a diverse range of characters like this, and the fact that it mostly always works is impressive in and of itself.
Something else I appreciated about Doomsday Paradise, compared to other games of its type, is that it didn’t ask too much of you. The tutorial sections can probably be printed on an A4 piece of paper, and while there are extra tutorials to go through if you want a slightly deeper experience, you can easily enjoy the game without being a stickler for stats and strategy.
I’m A Lover, Not A Fighter
The combat pulls together elements from the Deck Builder genre, in which you use onscreen cards to battle enemies in turn-based JRPG skirmishes. While you’ll be leveling up, gaining skills, and acquiring weapons in the main part of the game, the combat opportunities in which you’ll utilize these assets don’t come around too often.
These sequences do come across as a bit of an afterthought, and they were the aspect of the game I enjoyed the least. They’re pretty much your standard turn-based affair, whereby you choose from a selection of Skills Cards you acquired during the main story to fight random enemies.
It wasn’t that they were boring, but more so that it seemed to jar with the game’s tone up until that point: I’d be getting into a ridiculous dialogue about Fidget Spinners one moment, and then be randomly thrust into a combat sequence the next — a diversion I wasn’t particularly interested in.
But I suppose that’s what comes at the cost of the laid-back attitude Doomsday Paradise takes. You’ve got this overarching plot of an impending apocalypse mixed with an overall non-chalet tone. This is what makes the game unique, but it doesn’t exactly get the player pumped for combat.
I did like how your effectiveness in battle was predicated by the relationships you’d formed thus far, however — the friends you’ve made along the way jump into the fray to lend a hand depending on how you’ve connected with them, so even with what seems to be a lull in the gameplay, the focus is still on the main elements.
As is the case with everything else in the game, combat sequences don’t last very long. Nothing in Doomsday Paradise outstays its welcome, so even when it falters, it isn’t exactly a major issue.
Party Like It’s The End of the World
Doomsday Paradise is undoubtedly at its best when you’re playing with friends. Many of the aforementioned complaints melt away in the sheer ludicrousness of the situation, and I was impressed with how diverse your options were when playing with someone else.
You can play competitively or cooperatively, and online, through Remote Play, or simply by passing the controller to one another. I think this last option was the most fun: engaging with real people as you play adds a lot to the vibe, and palpably rectifies elements I considered missing from the single-player experience.
I can see the game being one of those you pull out over a few drinks amongst boardgames and Switch titles, and I think it’s in that setting, where your hypercritical focus of game mechanics and specific lines of dialogue are taken away, that the experience comes into its own.
This is even more so the case the more players you add in: with each choice having the potential to drastically change the direction of the game, you can imagine the chaos the push and pull between four players creates.
The Verdict | 7/10
Above all, I enjoyed Lemonade Flashbang’s laidback approach to a genre often overcomplicated and longwinded. It was surprising how in combining elements I ordinarily didn’t like, Doomsday Paradise managed to subvert my expectations.
There’s a lot to be desired when playing the game in single-player, but those missing elements are diluted considerably when playing with friends.
This is a party game, and I think even the developers would agree that in playing through on your own, you’re missing that extra all-important special sauce that ties it all together.
With this being the case, then, your ability to maximally enjoy the game is mostly predicated on having people to play with, so this should be your main consideration.
The lack of drive I had to unlock all available endings became irrelevant, considering the mechanic was essential for the multiplayer to remain interesting; the player-character’s lack of depth could be accepted when romancing was a means to an end for crushing your friend; the basic combat could be forgiven when tensions during these sequences run high as you battle your opponent for the ultimate romance.
I don’t think I’ll bother playing Doomsday Paradise alone again, but I’ll most certainly be bringing it out over Christmas.
None of this necessarily excuses what could’ve been tackled better for solo play, but it does at least make many of the decisions make sense. I’d only really recommend this if you’re looking for a fresh new take on the idea of a multiplayer party game, as no one wants to spend the apocalypse alone.
- stellar art direction
- a huge amount of possible endings
- clever integration of branching dialogue pathways
- an overall fresh take on the party game formula
- the single-player novelty wears off after one or two runs
- combat jars with the RPG elements and feels a little generic
- lack of voice acting diminishes the dialogue
- the protagonist characters seem like an afterthought
Closest Alternatives to Doomsday Paradise
- Slay the Spire
- Monster Prom
- Find Love or Die Trying
- Boyfriend Dungeon
- Monster Train
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Will Doomsday Paradise be coming to platforms other than PC?
Answer: Nothing has been announced as of yet, but I’d imagine it would be a strong possibility. I can imagine a game like this working well on both mobile platforms and Nintendo Switch.
Question: I see there are both mouse & keyboard and controller options. Which works best?
Answer: I tried both, and the mouse & keyboard felt better as it’s generally less cumbersome when navigating the menus. That said, playing with a controller works fine too.
Question: I don’t have anyone to play with for couch co-op. Is the game still worth it?
Answer: While I consider in-person multiplayer the best way to play the game, you’ll still get 80% of the benefits of co-op playing online. Make sure you and your friends have microphones, though.
Linden put his speed dating skills to the test for eight hours — enough time to romance a good chunk of the characters and gather some friends for a few rounds of local multiplayer.
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