Later Daters is a cute and clever queer dating sim set in a retirement community. It’s divided into seven chapters, each of which takes about ten minutes to read. I enjoyed this game so much that I played it three times. There’s a fair amount of repetition, but also enough potential for variation to keep each replay interesting.
Each of the characters in Later Daters is distinctly attractive in their own way, but perhaps it’s important to say that not a single one of them looks a day past 65 years old. In fact, most of them seem to be in their mid-to-late 50s. I’m not sure if this is a failure of imagination or simply a concession to the player, but everyone is healthy and hearty. All of the characters have good hair and good skin and good teeth and good posture, and they all have the minds and progressive views and sex drives of college students.
Not that I’m complaining, of course! I just want to make it clear that, as in any dating sim, there’s a strong element of fantasy involved.
Your character, who looks maybe 50 years old, is supposed to be 80. (You can choose their gender, but I’m going to stick with “they.”) They’re an artist who lived in a big house out in the country, but their doctor recommended that they move to a retirement community after they developed vertigo and took a fall. The player can choose how positive they feel about this; regardless, everyone in the community is friendly and welcoming.
The retirement community itself is beautiful, with lovely apartments, grass-covered lawns, and a gorgeous greenhouse filled with marijuana plants. The community also has sufficient funding for various clubs and activities, and it’s managed by the residents with no outside interference. It feels like paradise, to be honest.
The main goal of the game is to choose an NPC to romance, which you can do at your leisure and to whatever degree of steaminess you prefer. The first time I played the game, I was so enchanted by the characters that all I wanted to do was to make friends. I therefore played the game as aro-ace, which ended up being a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I made some questionable decisions regarding a few of the characters, overstepping the boundaries of some while not being attentive enough to others. I therefore played the game again to get to know them better, and along the way I ended up starting a relationship with my cute neighbor.
On my third playthrough, I was like, “Fuck it, we ball,” and I ended up seducing a rock star. The bed scenes were very silly, and there was more than enough humor to create a bridge above any potential cringe. I don’t think most people are going to feel compelled to crank it to Later Daters, but the quality of its dick jokes is extremely high.
Despite the number of excellent (but mercifully non-obtrusive) one-liners, the underlying purpose of the game is to help the player explore scenarios related to aging and death that aren’t often addressed in pop culture or entertainment media.
To give an example, a minor character suddenly dies of a heart attack in the second chapter. Although you can choose not to participate, your character is invited to a group therapy session that has moments of humor but legit made me cry the first time because it was so heartfelt and honest. No one preaches or lectures, but the session does manage to sneak in some real talk about issues such as the importance of creating a will when you get older.
Another example is the person who is (or seems to be?) the sole exception to my earlier statement that “every character is healthy.” A man named Haroun is suffering from Alzheimer’s. This understandably causes trouble for his wife Salema, who doesn’t want to move him to an intensive-care residence.
If you become friends with Salema, you’ll be introduced to her fourteen-year-old grandson Marcel, a sweet kid who tries to help with Haroun but can’t really manage his care on his own. Putting Salema and Haroun’s issues aside, it’s lovely to see how everyone reacts to Marcel with love and kindness. If you’re a queer person who’s ever felt anxiety regarding the judgment of older people, this portrayal of friendliness and acceptance is a godsend.
Given that Later Daters is so warm-hearted, I didn’t have the courage to do a genocide run, but I’m curious about what that would look like. From the very first dialogue option, you can choose to be extremely negative about moving to a retirement community, and you can also actively choose not to spend time with anyone.
I’m the sort of person who needs a lot of alone time and has never taken well to communal living. If I were to play this game realistically, as myself, I think this would probably be tantamount to a genocide run. Still, I get the feeling that Later Daters might be a safe space to explore these fears and anxieties.
I think it’s especially for people like me that the fourth chapter of the game is a sci-fi themed “and it was all a dream” style mini-story that serves as an icebreaker, allowing you to explore your relationships with the characters without there being any long-term consequences. This chapter is a marvelously clever storytelling device, and it’s a lot of fun.
Even if you’re not especially into older-looking characters, Later Daters is about an hour of good art and excellent writing that can easily be played in one sitting and rewards multiple playthroughs. And again, the dick jokes are great, but you don’t have to date anyone if you’re just interested in the story. If you do happen to be up for romance, Later Daters gives you all the queer options you could hope for while allowing you to set your own pace at every step of the way.
There are several ways to download Later Daters, including paying for each chapter at a time, but I’m happy that I went ahead and got the full game, “Later Daters Part One and Two.”