Dating simulators have become increasingly popular with the rise of games like Dream Daddy on Steam. Pub Encounter follows the same basic premise; you meet different characters, all portraying different archetypes, take your pick of the bunch, and then romance them. It’s a simple enough premise with a decent line-up of characters. With that said, dating sims will forever be a very niche genre. Not everyone will enjoy them, and Pub Encounter is no different.
The game starts by putting you in a prologue scenario, introducing you to the cast of romanceable characters, and setting up a basic premise as to why you would spend time with them. It’s no mind-blowing story, but it’s serviceable enough and overall makes the game a little bit more believable. As the game goes on, you get to know each character through dialogue trees, eventually deciding on which one you want to romance. The cast of characters features plenty of tropes, (i.e., The ruthless businessman who works too hard but is secretly sensitive and caring, the goofy and oblivious but genuinely kind-hearted, and the wild one who wants to stir up trouble.) The cast as a whole is likable, with each character providing unique situations for you to interact with them.
When the closest thing to gameplay in a game is picking options from a menu, it’s essential that the UI makes sense, is easy to navigate, and can be navigated quickly. Thankfully, the UI is well thought out. There are no glaring issues, and it smartly includes a fast forward button to skip scenarios that are uninteresting to you. Text scrolls quickly, and if it is still too slow, you can jump to the end of the dialogue. Everything is snappy, and the game never forces you to wait for it to catch up with you.
Some of the storylines are cliche, but charmingly so. If you are a fan of slice of life genre, you will quickly draw comparisons to various anime. The cliches are never egregious and in fact, adds to the game thanks to several satisfying moments of, “I knew that was going to happen!”
Fans of Otome games will beyond a shadow of a doubt enjoy Pub Encounter. It’s rife with charming characters, witty dialogue, tons of anime cliches, (in the best way possible.) beautiful artwork, pleasant background music, and a fantastic UI. Despite all these positive aspects, it’s still a game about falling in love with middle-aged anime men. It’s not going to be for everyone. But for people who enjoy that kind of thing, it’s a must play.
Great Characters: The characters are all likable and have interesting stories. They are easy to care for and make the game better overall.
A Simple and Effective UI: The UI is the closest thing to gameplay, and if confusing and cluttered, would ruin the game. Luckily it is smartly designed and gives you the excellent option of fast-forwarding through dialogue.
VERY Niche: Not necessarily a bad thing, but more of a warning for newcomers to Otome games. Not everyone will like these types of games. What boils down to a playable novel, if you don’t think you’ll enjoy flirting with forty or fifty-something-year-old men, you will most certainly not enjoy this game.
Pub Encounter is well-written, well-drawn, and overall above average narritive game. It’s an excellent dating simulator, but dating simulators will always have a limited core audience.