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The Dead by Daylight dating simulator is cute but cowardly

A good game ashamed to go for greatness

Hooked on You: A Dead by Daylight Dating Sim - The Trapper, a built masked man in an old school bathing suit and an intimidating mask, poses on a beautiful beach. Image: Psyop/Behaviour Interactive
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

The Dead by Daylight dating simulator, cheekily titled Hooked on You, is an interesting paradox. This is a project that, for most studios, would exist in the form of an April Fools’ joke or Easter egg. But Dead by Daylight has a notoriously thirsty fan base, and developer Behaviour has leaned into this, giving players a dedicated game where they can get to know their favorite notorious Killers. The studio is publishing developer Psyop’s Hooked on You: A Dead by Daylight Dating Sim.

The premise is simple: You wake up on an island surrounded by some of the sexiest Killers in Dead by Daylight, and instead of instantly shanking you and hanging you up on a hook, they want to play beach volleyball and smooch. The player chooses which Killer they want to spend time with, attends beach activities coordinated by awkward Survivors Dwight and Claudette, and plays the occasional minigame. It’s the logical endgame of the fandom’s horniness, and yet the writing is very earnest and charming.

Hooked On You: A Dead by Daylight Sim - Claudette, along with fellow survivor Dwight, is dressed in cheery island gear. She’s saying “Trapper, without further ado, would you like to make us all uncomfortable by pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable not only in polite society but within the narrative of this in-world event and also the larger meta-narrative of a Dead by Daylight dating experience?” Image: Psyop/Behaviour

If the player is lucky and makes the right choices, they get to cuddle up to one of these deadly Killers. If they’re unlucky, they get stabbed. The narrative also hints at something darker going on beneath the surface, almost as if this is just some kind of misery-generating machine cloaked in the cheery vibes of a dating simulator. As a premise, this is great. But the trick with a jokey concept like Hooked on You is that you actually have to deliver a full product. This is where developer Psyop stumbles, constantly turning to the player to ask “Isn’t this weird? A whole dating sim… about a horror game? Wild, right?”

This isn’t a bad game by any means; in fact, it’s surprisingly solid. If you’re a Dead by Daylight lore fan, it’s quite wholesome to chat to these characters about their grisly backstories and morbid motivations. Sometimes, Hooked on You is hilarious — or genuinely horrifying. There’s a running gag about a nearby island that’s much cooler, more exclusive, and — oh yeah — has all of the game’s licensed characters from horror franchises hanging out. The Trickster also shows up as a surprise guest and mentions his NFT line. Then the game effortlessly flips into depicting a spectral lighthouse pulling souls out of other realities to dash them upon the unforgiving shores, or the Trapper proving himself to only be capable of a possessive, controlling mimicry of love.

It’s a shame, because Hooked on You has all of these great traits, but at the end of the day the game feels terrified you might find it cringe. Characters won’t stop turning and mugging for the camera. They say “wink, wink” aloud and then say how wild and unexpected it is that they’re saying “wink, wink” instead of just winking. The narrator chides you for breaking the fourth wall too often, before cheerfully smashing it two scenes later to make a joke about why you should leave a good review for the game on Steam. Every time I fall into a groove, the game stomps on my foot and asks me if I get that this whole premise is very silly, do I understand that? Yeah, Hooked on You, I do, please let me get back to getting crushed by the Huntress’ thighs.

It just comes across as Psyop being afraid that the player is laughing at them and not with them. The narrative is focused on preemptively reassuring you that the developer knows this is a joke, and is not taking this seriously, and yeah it would be pretty cringe if this was serious but it isn’t. It’s all very unnecessary, and I kind of hope Behaviour and Psyop take another swing at the dating sim genre without all the self-conscious narrative clutter — because the good stuff is very good.

Hooked on You: A Dead by Daylight Dating Sim is available on Steam. The game was reviewed on PC using a download code provided by Behaviour Interactive. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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