Lighting candles, pouring drinks, ordering food - these should be the simplest parts of any date but Table Manners, a physics-based dating simulator, can turn a seemingly basic task into a downright chore. Echo Chamber Games' new title has you control an ominous floating hand and wrestle against purposely wonky controls to complete a string of commands and woo your date in a timely manner. This recipe for disaster certainly has its comedic moments but, overall, we found it to be hampered by many flaws.
As mentioned, the goal of each stage in Table Manners is to keep your date feeling content and their mood is displayed by a bar in the top-right corner. This bar will fluctuate depending on how efficiently you've completed demands such as feeding them food and pouring drinks. As you scramble around, knocking objects off the table and setting things ablaze, you'll notice them losing their patience when they pull out their phones or glare at you with arms crossed. You are awarded a star rating based on your performance on each date and it's important that you impress as later dates and restaurants are locked behind a required star count.
The scrapbook on your desk acts as a level select and within it, you can access six different restaurants, with each adding their own quirks. There's a sushi restaurant that has looping conveyor belts and wants you to use chopsticks to serve up cooked meat and veg. Then there's a restaurant on the deck of a ship that sees you rotate between two neighbouring tables every time it bounds over a wave. The variety presented here keeps things from feeling stale and it was fun to see what motif would be explored next.
Mastering the controls is the biggest struggle that you are going to face in Table Manners. You use the W and S keys to raise and lower your hand and if you are positioned too low, for example, you are in danger of just sweeping the objects over in front of you. Holding down the right mouse button is used to tilt objects and this can take a bit of getting used to because if you release it by accident you can accidentally drop what you're holding. The controls combined with the time limit made things feel chaotic as we were always on the edge of disaster.
Things were already intense but adding to our stress levels were the many bugs that persistently slipped into the mix. We found that our hand would often get stuck on the table and sometimes snatching up an object would send a table's entire contents flying up into the air. We twice encountered a bug that wouldn't let us progress or restart a stage and we were forced to restart the game. These issues often cost us precious seconds and it was frustrating to have to resit a stage due to the game's technical flaws.
You can cool off in between dates by hopping on the Blundr app (a Tinder knockoff) and sliding into the DMs of a few of your matches. Here you can choose to tell a joke, make small talk, or try and seduce someone, and these options often make for some hilarious responses. The problem is though that this all feels a little bit pointless. There are no perks granted for chatting to your dates, in fact, it can actually hurt matters as they might choose to block you forever. Some of the responses we received didn't appear to make sense either. We remember a date telling us that we made him feel sick but he was still keen to meet up with us right afterwards.
Additionally, there's only a handful of different character models that you can date with only a randomised set of features to differentiate them and we only recall seeing about five different bio variations for Blundr profiles. You are also guaranteed to get a match on every date you swipe right on and there is no story at all present to reveal the motivations behind our venture onto the app. This whole portion of Table Manners feels woefully undeveloped and we wish the developers had spent more time fleshing it out into a worthwhile addition.
With its persistent bugs and frustrating controls, the chaotic tableside antics of Table Manners failed to keep us hooked for more than a handful of dates. We found gameplay bugs often cheated us out of progression and interactions within the Blundr app felt fruitless and without direction. Even though we thought that some of the restaurants added some fun ideas, and the art style here is bright and charming, we would still recommend you swipe left on this one.
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