So I played through the entire KFC dating sim/visual novel so you don’t have to, and if this review makes you want to play it, well go watch someone on YouTube do it! Titled I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator, which is six words too long, the game was produced by Psyop, Inc, as their first outing in the visual novel genre. The game boasts “several endings, 9 characters” and an unnecessarily attractive younger version of KFC founder Colonel Harlan Sanders, who the player must woo while dealing with a three-day culinary school where the professor is a dog.
I could talk about how this game doesn’t take visual novels as a genre seriously and is awful for doing so (which isn’t the worst thing ever but). I could talk about how this game surprisingly has a good understanding of meme culture which makes it kind of hilarious (which made the play-through almost worth it). I could even talk about how the funny side-plot important to all visual novels where, surprise, there’s actually some evil spell book and students have used to turn other students into monsters made me laugh (I’m never using a spork again).
However, I’m not going to do any of the above (in detail), because first and foremost, this game is just the latest in KFC’s line of wild marketing strategies so even if Psyop had tried to make a good visual novel, they wouldn’t have done so. This one is definitely nicer to look at than the virtual reality training game for employees (why) or, during their ~hipster~ makeover, the 8-bit style Atari video game (again…why). This visual novel’s dialogue likely pales in comparison to the Mother’s Day novella where Sanders sweeps a woman off her feet in the Victoria era (I have to leave, my bus is here).
Of course, a dating game with a company’s mascot isn’t completely unthinkable. After all, there’s fanfiction where Flo from Progressive and the Mayhem Man have to survive the apocalypse together. Heck, there’s a total of 467 works under the “TV Commercials” tag on AO3 so clearly there’s an audience somewhere for this kind of content. We all remember how people reacted to hot Mr. Clean right?
Don’t get me wrong, the supporting characters are hilarious, especially your rivals Aeshleigh (spelled that way on purpose), and Van Van (you can imagine what he’s like). Other side characters include Pop, Clank (a sentient appliance), a student who “dies”, and the player’s best friend Miriam (who does get her own love interest storyline for a hot second).
The game is even enjoyable to play at certain points with enough endings to be semi-interesting, beautiful graphics and music, and of course choices to make that affect those endings. However, the dialogue is ridiculous for most of it, and the mini-games are not the best.
Is this a game that (even disregarding the capitalist impetus behind it) would win awards or be worth multiple play-throughs? Not at all. Does it work to make you incredibly hungry because the food looks like someone studied a lot of Ghibli movies? Yes.
The most disappointing thing about the game is that KFC chose an advertisement company without any experience in visual novels, and I understand why they picked the advertising company (duh), but for the love of chicken, at least hire someone with experience so the game is enjoyable. The whole point is using it for marketing, so if you know that the popular thing is for Twitch streamers and just random people on YouTube to stream and/or post their playthroughs of a game, then make the game a fun one!
I spent most of my time just fast-forwarding through the dialogue once I realized it wasn’t that great, just so I could attempt the mini-games, and or get somewhere within the plot. Plus, there are only ten short chapters and you can’t even save wherever you want so it becomes more about (at least for people who play this genre of game often) getting to a mini-game or scene that seems important, and then reloading if something goes wrong. Because I bet there is at least one visual novel developer out there who would have taken KFC’s cool cash and made something fun to play beyond the novelty of “lol KFC made a dating game.”
Sadly, all I got out of playing this game was a craving for some halal fried chicken.