Tender: Creature Comforts says love is in the non-air
Welcome to Comfortix, a planet inextricably intertwined with all sorts of alien species looking for love through the dating app Tender. We got some octopus people, stretched out furbies, dorgs (they’re like dogs but can talk and are capable of having three Ph.Ds), and, of course, humans. Humans like you! But you probably won’t come across many during your stay, so hopefully you’re a bit more open-minded when it comes to finding “the one.” Think you can stay on this app long enough to find what you’re looking for and delete it once and for all afterwards?
Tender: Creature Comforts doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that it’s a Tinder parody; however, Tender: Creature Comforts is not only a very good Tinder parody, but a very good dating simulator period. Maybe even one of the best. In the very least, it feels the most real, like I’m talking with a plethora of people with different personalities, texting styles, goals, situations, senses of humor… all of them just as realistic and just as draining as the people found on the app it’s emulating.
When starting up Tender: Creature Comforts, players will be asked to fill out their profile, making sure to include the important things like a profile photo, a captivating bio, and a birthdate. After that, Tender employee Annie arrives to fill you in on the important details, but not before setting your text style and asking some pointed questions to figure out what you’ve come to Comfortix for. Annie lets players know that they’ve been approved to stay on Comfortix and explains the visa situation: you have 10 dates, then you have to leave the planet and reapply for a dating visa. Unless, of course, you’ve found “the one,” in which case you’ll blast off into the universe with them to start a new life. Or something. Good luck, love hunters!
And just like that, players are dumped into the world of Tender: Creature Comforts. Swipe right on the heroes and left on the zeroes (no worries if you accidentally swipe left on a complete cutie, the rejects will shuffle back into the deck eventually). Different combinations of answers upfront seem to yield different compatibility opportunities; saying I dumped my ex seemed to make a familiar face swipe left on me, but saying it was “mutual” saw us both swiping right. I found a surprising amount of replay value in trying to figure out the specific requirements needed to interact with certain creatures, and our conversations were fun, funny, and suspiciously realistic.
It really is crazy how many different creatures are up for chatting on Tender — one might immediately unmatch me for being a Scorpio while another matches with me specifically because he has a human fetish. As long as you’re swiping right enough, there’s literally never a lull in conversations because even if one creature pauses to go about their day, another pops up to tell me all about how theirs is going. It’s never a dull moment with Tender: Creature Comforts, and I always felt like I was learning about real people, myself included.
Of course, the point of any good dating app isn’t to chat, it’s to date! Play your cards right and these text adventures will turn into… text adventures. But the dating kind, meaning players will make choices based on their date and setting, like a restaurant, bowling alley, comedy club, or simply Netflix and chilling. There are points in the date where you might feel things aren’t going so smoothly, so opportunities to eject are ever-present. For some dates, the scenarios you find yourself in run the gamut from romantic to repulsive, from pretty to predatory, and even straight up cringey.
One thing that was both frustrating and commendable about Tender: Creature Comforts is how committed the team was to making Tender feel like Tinder dating. There are so many instances where you can go on a date and have great chemistry — even makeout sessions — but get ghosted the next day with a super lame excuse about food poisoning. Or how you can be chatting with someone who looks real, but they end up being a bot sending you a sketch link. There’s even a few that’ll let you know they accidentally swiped right. Awkward.
Although I found this at odds with the standard dating sim experience that lets players game the system and somewhat manipulatively choose what the romantic partner “wants to hear” to end up with their interest by the end of the game, Tender: Creature Comforts explored allowing the player to “do everything right” and still get the love rug pulled out from underneath them. I replayed this four different times trying to end up with one character specifically only to realize that there wasn’t actually an ending for him so it was doomed from the start. Now that’s an interesting approach to a dating sim!
As for the romantic partners you can end up with, I found their different situations to be equally fascinating but sometimes a little disappointing. Once you go on a second date with a person, you leave the planet and begin your new, presumably happier life with them. The endings force you to choose text like you’ve been doing the entire time, but with a catch — the different options presented literally dictate how your lovelife ends up afterwards, and a misunderstanding in wording will yield some seriously unhappy endings. In one, I ended up with a cynical dude who seemed to be codependent?
In another, there was an option for a woman who cheated on her partner with me to find her happily ever after with me or cheat on me with our roommate depending on my choices. I can’t fathom choosing anything that would end up bad for me after all that hard work (no joke, that last scenario took something like six hours to get) so while it’s different than other dating sims, I’m not sure a depressing ending is all that welcome. Still, I can’t truly knock Tender: Creature Comforts for the unhappy endings since they’re optional and there’s so much else to… well, love.
Tender: Creature Comforts is suspiciously realistic to the point where I got that familiar feeling of exhaustion I get from talking to other people for too long. Featuring wildly creative art, clean UI, witty writing, and, perhaps most impressively, dozens of unique voices expressed through individual writing styles, Tender: Creature Comforts is a one of a kind dating sim that is surprisingly deep and downright addicting. I dare you not to try to swipe right on every alien in sight — perhaps you’ll find true love on Comfortix after all 🙂
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: iOS, Android, PC (reviewed); Publisher: Gideon Lazarus + Jie En Lee + Kenny Sun; Developer: Gideon Lazarus + Jie En Lee + Kenny Sun; Players: 1; Released: May 28, 2021; MSRP: $9.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Tender: Creature Comforts purchased by the reviewer.