May 14 2012
I somehow forgot I bought this game last year. Since I was in the mood for a game set in Jane Austen’s fictional universe, I was all for it. Even when I discovered it’s not an adventure game, but a RPG (role-playing game) or strategy game. I hadn’t played this type of game before but hey, it’s Jane Austen. So I was willing to try.
Right off the bat, the game opens with a tutorial to explain that you’re the heroine in the world of Pride and Prejudice – which includes some elements from other two Austen novels: Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility – and your actions will determine your matrimonial path, and blah blah blah. I was impatient enough to leap over the rest of tutorials into the game.
A big mistake.
Because I somehow ended up marrying someone I didn’t expect to marry. To say that my jaw was on the floor would be the understatement of this century. I’d expected to marry Mr. Darcy himself. Oh no, Matches and Matrimony won’t make it that easy for the likes of me. Well chastened, I went back to the game’s tutorials and dutifully read all before trying again.
Matches and Matrimony: A Pride and Prejudice Tale is essentially a dating sim that revolves around your decisions in how you would pick an activity for each day of your five-day week — depending on your path, there are potentially fourteen weeks in total per game — and how some characters who might like you more or less, based on your responses. And this would affect the percentage of your sum and subsequently influence your matrimonial path.
Each activity has points, plus or minus, for each of nine characteristic traits: Willpower, Wit, Talent, Kindness, Propriety, Sensibility and Energy.
If you select ‘Go Visiting’ for one day of your week, it’ll increase Kindness (+6) and Propriety (+4), and decrease Energy (-10). And ‘Read a Book’ for another day, which would increase Wit and Sensibility while decreasing Willpower. ‘Rest’ for one day would mean Energy 40+ alone.
Note: sometimes it’d reverse unexpectedly. When you might expect more points for certain traits, it’d go in the opposite direction and decrease those much-needed points. (I later figured out why that happened, so you’ll probably figure out yourself, too.)
At the first try, I had no strategy – none whatsoever – so I randomly clicked on an activity for each day and hoped for the best. Oh, I did have a bit of a strategy: I’d made sure that I was nice to everyone. Never rude or confrontational. Good manners, always.
And that, readers, is how I ended up with that dreadfully dull cousin, Mr. Collins, as my husband.
Oh, the horror.
So, how you choose activities for your heroine each week does affect your path. Sometimes, crazily so. Likewise with your interactions with various characters throughout the story as their reactions will influence your path, positively or negatively.
To begin with, you get to name the heroine – clearly based on Elizabeth Bennet – however you like. I found this rather disconcerting, to be honest. I mean, ‘Fia Bennet’ doesn’t sound quite right, does it?
I did later have fun by naming my heroine after my baby brother, ‘Alasdair Bennet’, though. Pretty immature, but so fun.
While most characters are from Austen’s fictional universe, the details of some characters are different. Such as Mr. Wickham, from Pride and Prejudice, is renamed as Mr. Wickeby for this game, but everything he says and does in this game resembles those of Mr. Willioughby from Sense and Sensibility. Mr. Bingley’s first name went from Charles to Edward. For a while, I didn’t notice this change until I vaguely remembered that Edward is from Sense and Sensibility and that his surname is Ferrars. It explains why Mr. Bingley seems a combination of Charles Bingley and Edward Ferrars. I don’t think there are any more significant changes. Not as far as I can recall, anyroad.
Well, not all characters from Pride and Prejudice appear in this game. Younger Bennet sisters – Mary and Kitty – don’t show up. So, along with the Bennet parents, it’s just Elizabeth (you), Jane and Lydia (who’s renamed Lydianne for this game).
Did all those changes mess with my head? Yup. I think the game designers did it to make the game unpredictable for various paths to the nine possible endings.
In other words, what you know about Austen’s novels may work against you.
My sketchy recollections of the novels had clearly worked against me because I kept marrying the wrong suitors, from Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility) to Captain Wentworth (Persuasion), or ending up alone as “an old maid”. I mean, I was left pretty nonplussed when I somehow managed to marry Mr. Bingley as well. And that cad, Mr. Wickesy (a.k.a. Wickham from Pride and Prejudice and Williboughy from Sense and Sensibility). I also ended up being well liked by the dreadful Bingley sisters and thoroughly disliked by my supposedly best friend, Charlotte.
The competitive cow in me was annoyed enough to replay the game to correct all that as well as to achieve the ultimate goal: marry Mr. Darcy.
Although the game itself was easy to master, finding the Darcy route wasn’t that easy. In fact, it was so challenging that I ended up playing the game repeatedly for a couple of hours, trying every possible route.
If you play this game just right, you’ll be involved with all main key plot points of Pride and Prejudice including the awesome confrontation with a certain snobbish Lady and the famous first proposal scene with Darcy and Elizabeth (you).
I oddly felt thrilled whenever the red line in Darcy’s ‘attachment’ bar increased. He likes me, he likes me! And I let out a little cheer when I finally married him. I admit I did feel a little pathetic afterwards but hey, I nabbed that surprisingly elusive bloke.
I don’t think I’d have enjoyed replaying the game so much if it wasn’t for the game’s Skip function, though. This function allows you to speed through all dialogues and scenes you’d already seen until a new dialogue line or scene appears.
So you can replay the game until you reach your chosen ending. I read somewhere online that three endings involve Darcy, but I had managed to reach just six out of the nine endings so there are two more Darcy endings I haven’t tried yet. Gah. At least it shows that this game’s replayability value is pretty high.
The game also has an option to save a spot any time throughout the game, up to 10 slots. And believe me, readers, you will definitely need this option.
Because when you realise you don’t like where your path is heading, you can’t return to change your selection of activities for that week. Once you’ve made your choices, your path is determined. So each time your heroine says “Now is probably the best time to save your game” before you could make your selection of activities, do it! You can save a game over a previous save when you run out of the save slots.
The game’s options page is pretty basic as it has functions for you to control the Music and Sound Volume, ‘After choices’ (stop skipping or keep skipping), Display (full screen or windowed mode), and Text Speed.
Also, bundled with the game are Austen’s full novels: Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility, that you can read within the game.
And of course, it has information guides (mostly to explain each character trait) and character profiles.
While it’d grown on me during the game, I found the general art rather frustrating. This sort doesn’t usually bother me, but since we see the background art repeatedly throughout a game? And when we see Darcy’s supposedly magnificent home? It can make one wish the game makers had invested in a better artist.
Some dialogue exchanges – especially the ones involving Mr. Collins - were a tad long-winded. I did wonder if this was intentional, though. Occasionally, some parts felt repetitive but I can’t tell if it was due to my impatience or the pacing of the game itself.
It’s quite a short game, too. Perhaps between twenty to forty minutes per game, I’d say? Well, it depends on each path. The ’best’ path lasts roughly fifty minutes while each of ‘bad’ paths varies between twenty to thirty minutes. The shortest – and the worst – path is the Mr. Collins route, which typically lasts twenty minutes. Of course, it also depends on your pacing preference. I’m a speedy gamer, so it was a quick play each time. Well, except for that damn Darcy route.
And I really don’t understand why the game creators set Jane Austen’s novels in “Victorian times” (see left for the ‘TALENT’ screenshot). I don’t know much about period costumes, but I’m pretty sure some background characters are wearing 1880s-era clothes and hats, too.
Anyhow, the competitive cow in me quite enjoyed playing the game repeatedly so it deserves a B from me.
Suitable for all ages and ideal for players who are looking for a fun dating sim. Also for those who like simple RPGs with a bit of a challenge. Some parts of the game might have Austen purists twitching, but Matches and Matrimony: A Pride and Prejudice Tale is honestly a gentle fun and sweet-natured game.
Available in Windows and Mac at all major online retail stores including Big Fish Games ($2.99), Amazon US/UK/etc. ($6.99) and iWin ($6.95).