International Affairs Proves Bizarre & Incendiary in Equal Measure
A silly dating sim that has more depth than you'd think.
In 2019 it often feels like everything has become political, with the commander in chief having reached certified meme status. Into this world comes the often outrageous, occasionally stupid, and always silly International Affairs, a game that at first blush seems designed merely to create controversy. And while this world leader dating sim certainly does play with fire, it rarely comes across like a one note joke, or hollow political screed. In fact, if anything, it's almost shocking how un-political so much of it feels.
You play as a fresh young intern who's just arrived to the United Nations.
But when you get there, you find the place overflowing with attractive, single world leaders, who seemingly all live at the UN full time, college dorm room style. Of course, they all want to date you.
Seemingly designed to satiate the internet's unquenchable thirst for political humor.
There are five romanceable leaders in total, hitting on a broad array of mostly familiar archetypes. Whether you’re after a sweet natured Canadian or a sinister Russian, you'll find a man who hits that particular button. And yes, they are all MEN, as is player character, young Larry Lopez.
One of the dangers with International Affairs was that it easily could’ve been an insult to queer players, having nothing else to say other than “picturing straight world leaders engage in a gay romance is hilarious.”
Instead, the writers seem to have chosen to lampoon politics and dating sim tropes in general, ala Doki-Doki Literature Club. Instead of making the existence of gay world leaders the butt of the joke, it instead becomes a gentle, and at times surprisingly heartfelt example of representation.
Expect the unexpected.
If you’re expecting a game whose end-all and be-all is boinking hot world leaders, International Affairs delivers, but it also contains far stranger and more confusing gameplay digressions, including, yes, summoning Cthulhu. Various date scenarios involve everything from making prank phone calls, to advocating for mall cops, and this out of left field approach can feel disorienting at times.
On the upside, the game absolutely gets what any fan of the romance genre understands and what most outsiders ignore; the thing that makes romance attractive isn’t just the promise of physical relations, but everything in the world of the game that adds context and meaning to those relations. Imagine my shock when I found myself genuinely invested in whether or not Larry wound up with the Prime Minister of Canada.
Make no mistake, you'll have plenty to do besides chase after love: filing papers, making phone-calls, and planing a world peace festival, for a start. But that pursuit of love is absolutely always what the plot and gameplay circle back to.
The game absolutely gets what any fan of the romance genre understands and what most outsiders ignore.
"Do YOU have what it takes to date a world leader?"
In the end, your failure or success will come down largely to picking the best dialogue and event planing choices. Your character is tasked with throwing a festival, and it's up to you to pick everything from the theme to the decorations, to the catering. Will you feed the festivals attendees Trump brand steaks, or serve them up fine French cuisine courtesy of Macron? Should everyone gather at a major outdoor venue, or at your grandmothers house in Florida? The decisions, and the consequences, are yours.
Funny, outrageous, and quite possibly amoral.
At the end of the day though, this is a crazy, ridiculous, borderline insane game, and boy, oh boy can the choices you make bring fire raining down on its virtual model UN. Many of the endings are far from happy, some even punishing, or overtly bizarre. They nearly all feel deserved, however, and left this reviewer feeling accomplished and satisfied (for the most part).
While it’s definitely surprising to find that International Affairs capably handles it's serious plots, no one should be surprised to find that it’s also pants-wettingly funny. True, the games humor may be offensive to some, but if you're able to ride its particularly profane wave, you'll certainly be in for some laughs, if nothing else.
International Affairs is ultimately as heartfelt as it is funny, with a timely message at its core.
© 2019 Leafy Van Wilder