Long ago, in the dark, desolate year of 1989, a man named Tom Scheffler created a game called Girlfriend Construction Set. It’s a title some might decry as a lonely man’s daydream; a game for guys who need simulations to land dates However, those who look beyond its off-putting exterior will discover an addictive and fascinating retro gem.
Girlfriend Construction Set asks players to build a lady from the ground up, selecting her face, height, weight, and measurements. From there, you must assign points to other important attributes, like “Personality,” “Jealousy,” and “Sex.”
But the core of the Girlfriend Construction Set experience lies not in the girlfriend you create, but in the dates you take her on. See, your character has his own set of attribute points, which he can use to attract better girlfriends. If your dates go well, your points will rise, and you can trade in your old lady for a shiny new one.
It’s a fairly sexist premise — one that many players will find offensive — but the game makes up for it with its bizarre charm. Rather than serve players a run-of-the-mill fantasy, Girlfriend Construction Set throws countless curveballs your way. Even dating sim addicts will find plenty of surprises:
I started out with an attractive lady I named Apollonia. I put plenty of points into her appearance, assuming that her prickly personality would provide me with a challenge. Things started off decently — I even punched out a waiter on her behalf — but before long, the relationship went sour:
I quickly rebounded with a lady I dubbed Robotica. While I set my sights lower this time around,being dumped had caused my attribute points. I simply didn’t have enough points left to construct a semi-likeable girlfriend. I did my best to win over Robotica, but she was not interested in being wooed:
When I dumped Robotica, she didn’t seem that broken up about it, but that didn’t help my flagging attribute points.
I decided it was time to start fresh. This time, I’d take things in a bold new direction. Instead of dating fantasy ladies, I’d date someone a little more real — myself. I queued up a new game, and set out to create the most accurate Mandi possible.
At first, things went smashingly. We had fun nights at the bowling alley and epic adventures in China. I even had the rare opportunity to make out with myself:
But before long, I ran into trouble. Although my attribute points were rising as intended, I didn’t have the heart to dump myself and start over. Mandi had become the Absolutely Safe Capsule of imaginary girlfriends. The relationship had fulfilled its purpose, but I was still trapped within its safe confines.
And so, we stagnated. We continued to go on the same boring dates, where I selected the same boring dialogue options. When I decided to mix things up with a trip to Acapulco, we spontaneously decided to get married.
Since then, I’ve made many more girlfriends, but none of those relationships have been successful. I’ve tried taking my ladies shopping, tried taking them to hockey games, and even tried getting them involved in political scandals. No matter what I do, nothing seems to work out.
Girlfriend Construction Set isn’t some weird game for the permanently dateless; it’s genuinely creative and legitimately entertaining. The script is hilarious, the gameplay is challenging, and even the weaker aspects of the game are pretty fun.
But the more I play it, the more I realize that I’m just not cut out to construct girlfriends.