Game Review: Thirsty Suitors (Xbox Series X)

Thirsty Suitors is an attention-grabbing game, one that bedazzles with its colourful fantasy elements, but sticks in the mind because of its themes and depth. It’s wacky, it’s weird, and it’s a lot of fun. Most of the time.

Developed by Outerloop Games and published by Annapurna Interactive, Thirsty Suitors puts players in the skater-shoes of Jala Jayaratne. A young woman with South-Asian heritage who has returned to her hometown of Timber Falls after leaving unexpectedly three-years ago. Madly in love, and unsure of who she was, Jala took off in the night leaving behind her friends, lovers, and family.

She’s back now, and it’s time to make amends, but she needs to do it quickly as her older sister, Aruni, is getting married soon and Jala doesn’t even know her soon-to-be brother-in-law’s name. However, apologies may not be enough to make up for the damage she did before she left. She hurt a lot of people, and some of them are out for revenge.

On paper, it’s not the most exciting of stories, but the writing in this game is done so well, it’s a story that becomes investible. The characters (some of which are larger than life caricatures) all have depth, all have plenty to offer, and even though the game is rooted in the South-Asian culture, anyone can relate to its messages. At its core, Thirsty Suitors is about owning mistakes and trying to be a better person because of them. It’s about parental acceptance, being your own person, and living life to its fullest.

It doesn’t matter what your background is, everyone can take something from this story.

Although, to be fair, it’s not easy to begin with. This is because Jala isn’t that likable at first. Arriving home, having made yet another mistake, and hoping to just ‘slot’ back in. She comes across entitled and selfish, but as the game goes on, it becomes clear that is the point. She is those things, and it’s up to her and the player to show others that she is learning and growing as a person.

This is done mainly through conversations where the player can influence how she acts toward others. Do you go for the heart-breakingly harsh approach? Do you try to be as honest as possible? Or do you try to please everyone?

It’s a shame that these choices don’t really have any bearing on the story, instead the words and actions of Jala gift skill-points that can be invested in one of three areas that offer boosts to different stats. It’s basic RPG mechanics though, and offers no major game-changing elements. Instead, most of the levelling up will come from cooking, taking part in skate challenges, and doing battle.

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Yes, doing battle. You read that right. The major gameplay element of Thirsty Suitors is turn-based combat. Done in a way as to progress the story and make amends with those Jala has wronged. Fighting exes, fighting suitors that Jala’s grandmother has sent to woo her, and fighting skate-punks who are part of some sort of cult led by a bear-suited mysterious individual.

Battles are turn-based but the mechanics are simple. Jala has a basic attack, but the real damage comes from special attacks and taunts. Find your opponent’s weakness by taunting them, sending them into several different moods such as raging, thirsty, impressed or heart-broken. Then unleash special attacks that take on a ‘quick time event’ format to do the most damage. All while Jala and her opponent trade words.

Battles can be long-winded, especially with the main characters, but they’re never boring. It’s through these battle conversations that the depth to Jala and all the other characters are truly unleashed and everyone has a story to tell.

It’s not the only thing players can do in Thirsty Suitors though. The game has two small hubs that players can skate around with shops to visit and other characters to talk to. Alongside that, players can set high scores by skating and take part in challenges set by the head of the skate-punks.

Unfortunately, skating is one of the weaker aspects of Thirsty Suitors gameplay, as Jala has a habit of sticking to things and the controls aren’t the most fluid when it comes to quick movements and direction changes.

Then there is the cooking mechanic, where Jala cooks with her parents making traditional Indian and Sri Lankan recipes. An aspect that could have been awful, but ends up being a highlight of the entire game thanks to the clever gameplay process, excellent dialogue, and increasing challenge to 3-star each meal.

Again, it might sound insubstantial but the depth that comes from this gameplay mechanic, combined with what players get elsewhere, makes Thirsty Suitors so much more memorable. It’s easy to see that those who come from a similar background to the characters, and those who have experienced or are experiencing what the characters are going through here, will feel represented.

The game deftly handles cultural expectations, the role of parent and child, the feeling of being an outsider no matter what, the LGBTQ+ community and how it plays into South-Asian beliefs, sex positivity, trauma, depression, and so much more. On face value, no-one will expect just how deep this game goes.

If your first thoughts about Thirsty Suitors relates to its inclusivity and portrayal of LGTBQ+ and non-white characters in a negative way, you really need to take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. Be better. Not everything is aimed at you specifically.

The thing is, Thirsty Suitors doesn’t take itself too seriously either. Playing up fantastical elements, having plenty of humour, and being quite colourful, visually. It’s a nice-looking game, but it’s the incredible array of voice actors that really stand out here.

All of this enough to win over many of its faults. Faults like its shortish length, its abrupt ending, the lack of impact choice words have on the story, its unresolved threads, the fact that battles start to get a bit samey after a while, and the less than stellar skating mechanic. Enough to take the shine off the game, but not enough to make it one not worth playing.


  • Carl Fisher

    Owner/Administrator/Editor/Writer/Interviewer/YouTuber - you name it, I do it. I love gaming, horror movies, and all forms of heavy metal and rock. I'm also a Discworld super-fan and love talking all things Terry Pratchett. Do you wanna party? It's party time!

Thirsty Suitors (Xbox Series X)
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