Love Triangle: Dating Challenge is a dating simulator, but not in the conventional Japanese sense. You won't have to memorize bra sizes or blood types; instead, you'll wield snappy one-liners steeped in referential humor. The game stars Erica (concealed deep within frumpy, faded jeans), who's caught between the allegiances of friendship and the urges of her loins. The drama unfolds through mostly static cutscenes, featuring self-consciously trendy dialogue that will charm even pop-culture cynics. Love Triangle is ultimately much too short and linear, however, and feels like a slickly produced demo.
Dating Challenge centers around Lucas, a himbo who's into football, "the ladies," and--strangely enough--Jane Austen novels. Lucas has been dating your best friend, Kiki, "since the womb," but has recently been spurned in favor of Kiki's new celibate lifestyle. It's your job to charm the pants off Lucas while maintaining your friendship with Special K. This is accomplished by selecting options in expanding dialogue trees. These are punchy and entertaining, despite their portrayal of young people as sponges for TV trivia and celebrity gossip.
In between scenes, you'll have the option of playing whack-a-mole with the game's characters. Hit Kiki over the head at least 18 times and you'll win some humorous dating tips or bizarre animal mating facts. We encountered new tips and factoids even on our third and fourth play-throughs.
The game has at least four possible endings, but all of those are achievable from the very last of the six scenes. In other words, the first five chapters are entirely linear and lead you ineluctably toward a final confrontation with Lucas. Even a slight flirtation with Kiki in the penultimate chapter proves to be just that--a directionless dalliance. As a result, most of the game amounts to choosing the dialogue options that will allow the story to progress in a predetermined way.
A larger problem is that Love Triangle takes about 10 minutes to complete. Although you'll want to play at least a couple of more times after that, so as to see all the possible responses and dialogue options, your total play time of 30 or 40 minutes still doesn't represent a good value for your mobile dollar. You get a piece of Love Triangle promo art for completing the game three times, but the extras end there.
This is unfortunate, because Dating Challenge's interface and graphical presentation are excellent on the Nokia 6620. If you played the Nintendo DS's Sprung, you can expect (a little) more of the same from Love Triangle. The characters are all drawn in a Franco-manga style, and their facial expressions change based on your conversational choices. Selecting a snippy remark will prompt Erica to raise one of her perfectly manicured eyebrows and simultaneously curl her upper lip into her best Billy Idol snarl. Coy quips and inviting innuendos will also yield corresponding expressions. A few chords of music will play after momentous events in conversation, but the game otherwise stays pretty quiet.
Against your better judgment, and potentially against your will, you'll end up liking the sassy Kiki, or the love-stung Lucas. For this reason, the game's relative linearity would potentially have been forgivable, if not for Love Triangle's incredibly short length. This should be a free Internet Flash game, not a commercial release.