Today’s hypothesis: The best time management games are based on real-world activities. See Diner Dash, First Class Flurry, Airport Mania and now Flash Dating,
which artfully transforms the world’s trickiest job – helping busy
singles find their soulmate in seconds flat – into an engaging desktop
diversion. While some players may find it hard to fall in love with the
title’s starry-eyed setup and highly repetitious action, thankfully a
strong sense of personality and catchy subject matter still carry the
day.

Starting out, you’ll play as Sammy, a young sock sorter who dreams of something bigger. Encouraged by a friend to start her own business, the young entrepreneur soon does just that, attempting to pair busy professionals and make the best match of all – the kind founded on mutual caring, respect and admiration. Acting as her virtual assistant, you’ll essentially help clients find the guy or gal of their dreams in this mostly standard time management challenge, while also bussing tables, telling jokes and otherwise attempting to play Cupid’s little helper.

Each scenario takes the form of an individual item in Sammy’s day planner, and specific speed dating event. Your goal: Given limited time constraints, score enough points to meet a predetermined goal in order to proceed to the next workday. The first step simply involves picking a venue, food selection and musical backdrop for each encounter, based on hints Sammy provides.

Once situated at tables, patrons’ needs – drinks, roses, chocolate-covered strawberries, help rekindling conversation by selecting the appropriate subject from scrolling thought bubbles or shifting topic meters – must then be attended to before they swap partners, which occurs every few seconds.

Perform your tasks well, and you’ll not only boost your score (also increasable by telling visitors jokes to help break the ice between performing more mundane tasks), but additionally increase guests’ chemistry and gain clues as to each customer’s interests. This information comes in handy during play’s final phase, a matchmaking segment that – given each man or woman’s portrait and a clipboard filled with icons detailing what topics they dig – tasks you to actually pair up new couples. Thankfully, if you’ve done your homework, it should be easy: Scroll through the range of featured hotties, and potential significant others smile brightest when presented with their most compatible mate.

While play itself tends towards the monotonous – there’s not quite the same sense of manic chaos as in competing titles, actions can’t be disengaged and overall difficulty level is minimal – there’s just something uplifting about the experience which catches one’s fancy. Maybe it’s the colorful, modern aesthetic, which uses fashionable cartoons representing a diverse range of young men and women (look for tattoos, piercings and, happily, people of all ethnicities) to portray an atmosphere of romance.

Perhaps it’s the broad range of backdrops, consisting of everything from casinos to bookstores and discotheques that prove so engaging. It could be those catchy speech clips (“My counsel has advised me not to discuss my ex-boyfriend;” “So who’s your favorite modernist sculptor; “And that’s why I don’t believe in wearing shoes;” etc.) which, admittedly, prove slightly less appealing the 10th time you’ve heard them.

Then again, mayhap it’s just the chance to sit back and watch lovestruck couples connect and be happy. Whatever the case, there’s just something inherently enjoyable to the experience.

A good thing that – apart from bonus upgrades (love that psychic power), occasional awards and increasingly more time-constrained scenarios, there’s little to keep players coming back. So while serious gamers won’t find true love here, just know that, especially if you’re feeling blue over a recent breakup or simply looking to kill a few minutes here and there, Flash Dating proves well worth flirting with nonetheless.