C14 Dating review for PS4/PS5, Xbox One/Series X, Switch

Platform: PS5
Also on: PS4, Switch, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Winter Wolves
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

On starting up C14 Dating, I was immediately hit by the sounds of pop-rock and the bright, smiling faces of interchangeable teens. Couple that with the fact that I knew the game was a visual novel developed by Winter Wolves, and I instantly got flashbacks to the last game of theirs I played with similar vibes, Roommates — though given how terrible that game was, PTSD may be a more appropriate description for my reaction than “flashbacks.”

Once I actually started playing the game, however, I soon learned that the comparison doesn?t totally work. Yes, C14 Dating looks awfully similar to Roommates, and yes, it?s also a dating game, but if you look beyond those two things, you?ll find that C14 Dating is a little more complex — and, thankfully, a little better.

The reason for this is related to the game?s name. C14 Dating?s name is a not-so-subtle reference to the other name for radiocarbon dating in archaeology. And, as you very quickly discover, the game is about a student participating in a summer archaeology internship in Belgium.

Shockingly, the internship is actually highly relevant to the game itself. See, unusually for a dating game, C14 Dating allows you to either pursue a romance with one of the other interns…or, if you want, take your studies seriously and spend the game focusing on your work. Admittedly, even in the second stream you?re still expected to befriend at least one other student, but it?s still kind of refreshing to see a dating game that?s not all about dating.

I should probably note that regardless of which path you choose, you?re not going to be exposed to world-class writing or anything. C14 Dating may be better than other Winter Wolves visual novels, but that?s an incredibly low bar. In fact, your options are either romance a bland hunk (or, if you prefer, a bland hottie), or spend your summer studying, and neither is all that interesting.

Still, seeing as I went into C14 Dating expecting offensive stereotypes and even more offensive music (seriously, Roommates? grating pop-punk still haunts me), it counts as a win that I mostly avoided those things. C14 isn?t the greatest visual novel I?ve ever played, but it?s not the worst by a long shot, and given the developer?s track record I?ll count that as a positive.

Ratalaika Games provided us with a C14 Dating PS4/PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: C+