My Virtual Girlfriend, though it calls itself a “dating simulation” game, bears less of a resemblance to real dating than an iPhone flight simulator bears to controlling aircraft. In flight simulators, the player might get a faint glimpse of understanding of the challenges and dangers of aviation. Here, in My Virtual Girlfriend, the player might wind up knowing less about dating than before he started.
To be fair, the game is meant to be fun and silly, and presumably meant to appeal exclusively to teenage boys. The problem is that teenage boys might still be left bored. The game tantalizes with its hints of sexuality; the girls in the game are all buxom, and the dialogue is a non-stop torrent of flirty double-entendre. Except that’s all there is to it. Sorry, teenage boys. You didn’t think Steve Jobs was going to let something sexy and explicit into his pristine App Store, did you?
Gameplay begins with a “matchmaking” questionnaire. There are lots of questions about how the player sees himself, to what degree he is “naughty” or “funny” or “intelligent,” and a few more about physical appearance. Then the player answers the same questions about his ideal match. Next, My Virtual Girlfriend will present some girls who bear little relation to the answers given.
When the game begins, it’s just you and your “date,” staring at each other. You can press buttons in the left-hand column to do date-like activities, which will either earn points or lose points, depending on whether or not they fit within your date’s narrowly defined set of interests. If the player has any grasp of stereotypes, it’s usually pretty easy to figure out what to do to earn a lot of points. For example, if your date just won’t shut up about how awesome recycling is, it’s a good idea to hit the “Go Hiking” button. Or, better yet, take her recycling.
The girls will also ask questions of the player, but responses are limited to thumbs up, thumbs down, neutral, or confused. These are pretty easy to figure out, too. If the girl says something flirty, give it a “thumbs up.” And if that recycling-obsessed girl asks if you like SUV’s, hit “thumbs down.” You’ll be having an “awesome” night with your “date” in no time.
The look of My Virtual Girlfriend is simple. The girls are 3D-rendered convincingly enough, but none of the activities are rendered at all. If you decide to go on a hike, you’ll just be shown a still image of silhouettes hiking, along with a button that says “Continue.” Then, you’re back in that room with your date again. There’s an inherent contradiction to this game. My Virtual Girlfriend plays into a chauvinist perspective, so that women are basically vapid sex objects. Then the game tells says you can’t do anything but try to talk to them. So, naturally, the conversation is dull and predictable. The game writes itself into a corner.
The sound design also leaves something to be desired. The developers didn’t record any voice actors for when your date speaks, so instead you’ll hear this crazy, jumbled pigeon English. By level three, you’ll have turned the sound off on your virtual girlfriend.
Though this game doesn’t quite succeed, even by its own terms, many teenage boys will likely find it a diverting way to spend an hour or two. Thankfully, My Virtual Girlfriend is only about a buck, so even if you decide to take the plunge you won’t have to spend too much. Put another way, you won’t be scared off by the prospect of commitment. Am I right, fellas?