Well, that was fast. Two weeks after it was initially announced, KFC's game I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin' Good Dating Simulator is out on Steam, and you can play it for free. Naturally, that's what I've done.
As someone who's supposed to be eating vegetarian food and definitely not fried chicken, I'm admittedly not the target audience for this game. However, the editors heard I like cooking animes and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which was apparently enough to qualify me to taste-test this delight. To my surprise, I actually had some fun with it, although most of the enjoyment came from the sheer absurdity of the story - and subsequently wondering what on earth I was doing with my life.
Here's a quick explanation of what's going on here - and it's a lot.
For starters, you're a young cooking student who's enrolled at a prestigious culinary school, which famously has three-day semesters. That's a pretty tight turnaround to romance Colonel Sanders - a talented but aloof fellow student - who has lofty aspirations of starting a huge fried chicken chain. That'll never catch on.
Making things harder are your two rivals, Aeshleigh and Van Van (the latter of whom looks like he's been ripped straight from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure), along with a variety of choices and timed tests you're required to take. If you mess up, it's possible to "die" from a variety of causes - although thankfully you wake up at the start of the day and can fast-forward yourself straight back into
seducing Colonel Sanders
refining your culinary skills.
If it wasn't already obvious, the story is packed with absurdist humour (your best friend falls in love with a pressure cooker and your professor is a dog), and I frequently found myself screenshotting some of the more memorable quotes. To my surprise I found much of the dialogue amusing, and the rest so ridiculous it was still entertaining. It's the kind of material that's funny to point out to a friend and giggle, which is exactly what happened in the office when I had to explain why sexy Colonel Sanders was on my monitor. As essentially one giant meme, the game's insistence on constant humour makes it fairly one-note - but seeing as it lasts a little over an hour, you can reach the end before it starts to really wear thin.
Obviously, the purpose of this game is to advertise KFC, and I noticed a steady drip-feed of marketing buzz words: small-town country cooking, TLC, family recipes and simplicity are just some of the phrases that repeatedly cropped up. The game does have some self-awareness and frequently riffs on its own existence as a marketing tool, but the sensation of voluntarily engaging in a 90-minute corporate advert (and then writing about it) is an odd one, and something I'm not entirely at ease with. I'm still reeling from the cognitive dissonance of enjoying it, yet also hating myself for enjoying it. Much like soloing a KFC family bucket.
In the end, I only half succeeded in achieving my goals: I managed to convince Colonel Sanders to date me (I think), but he wasn't suitably impressed to make me his business partner. Perhaps that's because I injured my hand in a pastry-making machine because I was too busy dreaming about Colonel Sanders. What a clucksterfuck. A number of the plot threads were left hanging, and I'm still unsure as to what I should have done to convince the Colonel of my cooking skills, but I think the one playthrough is enough for me.
So, do I recommend chicken this out? At the end of the day, it's a free dating sim designed to market fried chicken. In exchange for selling your eyeballs, you get exactly what's on the tin - or rather, bucket - in the form of a collection of memeable (but surprisingly beautiful) screenshots, and a shallow but silly storyline based on fast food. If you're expecting anything more than an hour and a half of ridiculous entertainment, well, I don't know what to tell you. KFC's game is an intriguing example of how the ads are getting smarter, and it's annoyingly enjoyable - something to play on your lunch break, have a laugh at, then forget about. If you can resist the temptation to run out and buy chicken, that is.