Two-thirds of the way through Half Past Fate, Bia (one of six characters you switch between through the game) attends a house party for a friend she has an obvious crush on. If you walk into the bathroom and inspect the mirror – like most adventure games, you can inspect just about everything – she’ll check her reflection and exclaim: “Lookin’ good, Bia!”
This is one of several moments that illustrates Half Past Fate’s most rarefied quality – its characters have a clear sense of self-worth. Before this moment, I didn’t realise how rare it was for characters in games to acknowledge when they’re having a good hair day. It’s one instance of many where the game treats its characters with love and respect.
Half Past Fate is, essentially, three interconnected romantic comedies packed into an adventure game, complete with meet-cutes, long-simmering crushes, quests for love, opposites attracting, and other well-worn tropes. Each romance plays out over a different timescale, from one day to eight years, and side characters move between stories until everything culminates in a beautiful, heartfelt finale. It both embraces genre clichés and excels beyond them thanks to a pervasive good-naturedness, with wonderful characters and enjoyable, eminently solvable puzzles.
The adventure elements of Half Past Fate are light and fun, albeit never particularly challenging. There are no illogical solutions here, and the path forward never involves tricking someone, or stealing, or being duplicitous – by pursuing love, each character makes life for those around them a little better. As one character puts it late in the game: “It’s not always about rewards… helping someone out is just the right thing to do.” There are always rewards for your actions in games, of course, but the attitude rings sincere.
It’s the characters that really make the game sing. Jaren, a nerdy game store employee, has been drained of all gamer toxicity, and his crush on tea enthusiast Ana is sweet and pleasant. Milo and Bia circle each other for years, and the game’s script smartly focuses on the importance of their friendship. Mara and Rinden are the genre-standard pricklier pair who clash and hide their attraction from one another, and their romance is paired with a surprisingly compelling plot about their personal business interests. There are no revolutionary mediations on the nature of love, but at its heart, this is a game about good things happening to good people, and that makes for an extremely pleasant experience.
Half Past Fate is gentle and uncomplicated. It’s five hours of easy puzzles and straightforward storytelling, and extremely charming despite its repetitive soundtrack and small locations. It’s also a game of extraordinary warmth and care, with a gorgeous sprite-based visual style, strong writing, and a whole lot of heart. You might not fall in love with it, but you’re likely to form a huge crush.
Of the main cast, I never expected to grow the most attached to Jaren, a sweetheart nerd who works at a game store. This kind young man with a penchant for detective work won me over so completely that the (mild) twists and turns of his plot sent me reeling.
Sweet-natured and warm, Half Past Fate is the game equivalent of a cuddle and a lie-in.
Genre: Adventure | Format: Switch (tested) / PC | Developer: Serenity Forge | Publisher: Way Down Deep | Price: £17.99 | Release: Out now