In the opening to the 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen wrote, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” In the new 2018 video game Austen Translation, you play as a woman who’ll do anything to win over that kind of single man. It’s hilarious.
Austen Translation is a strategic dating sim that pokes fun at the regency romances of authors like Jane Austen. In the game, you pick your heroine and then scheme your way to marriage by sabotaging the other ladies. Each heroine has stats for Wit, Charm and Ruthlessness that they’re trying to match to the bachelor they want to marry. During each round you can take one action that changes your stats, and sometimes the stats of another character. When the game finishes you’ll learn if someone proposes to you, or if you die an old maid.
The pleasure of this game comes from the narrator and the writing. Each round of gameplay is presented as a chapter in a regency novel, with a wry English-accented woman reading the title aloud. I can almost see her arched eyebrow when she says things like “All hope for civility at the fox hunt is soon abandoned.” Even better, when I clicked on the screen to skip her dialogue she said to me, “Did you really just cut me off?”
The scheming is a little light. This is not a deep game. I still found it a fun way to kill a half hour before bed. Like Austen’s novels, this game is funny, its humor revealing the absurdity of a society where a woman’s success in life depends on whether she gets married. When you lose, the narrator blithely remarks that your character has “died in a rat-infested hovel.” The options you have to sabotage other characters also got a chuckle out of me. During a ball, I earned a point in ruthlessness by casually tipping a harp over onto another heroine, crushing her.
Although I played the game solo, you also have the option to play it with up to five total players on local co-op. It’s fun and easy enough to play that I want to introduce it to my mom, who introduced me to Austen at a young age and never played a video game. I hope she’s ready to lose, though. She raised a daughter with a lot of points in ruthlessness.