I'm just not that into Colonel Sanders
After quitting KFC when I was 19, I never thought I’d be sitting at my computer nearly a decade later playing through a game where the main objective is to woo a young, “hot” version of Colonel Sanders. It’s hilarious and a little gross... kind of like I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator.
To put things in perspective, I worked at KFC for 2 years. It was my first job. In that time, I learned everything there was to know about serving fried chicken at one of two equally terrible KFC locations in Gilroy, California.
Alright, I didn’t learn everything, corporate was never going to tell us grunts what the secret recipe is. Rumor has it that it’s locked away in a vault somewhere in Kentucky.
To the company’s credit, most of the food is edible, and the chicken itself is actually pretty tasty thanks to that mystical blend of 11 herbs and spices. It’ll never look as good as it does in the artistic renders featured in I Love You, Colonel Sanders, but it’s not the worst depression meal you could eat. Trust me, I once ate 40 wings from Domino’s in a single sitting.
The concept of I Love You, Colonel Sanders is the same one you’ll find in every other indie dating sim from Dream Daddy to Hatoful Boyfriend. Essentially, you need to pick the right responses in order to impress the character you want to hook up with.
In I Love You, Colonel Sanders, the main option is a fictional version of Colonel Harland Sanders, the man who founded KFC in the 1950s.
I wonder where KFC corporate got the idea to take Colonel Sanders – a little old man in a white suit and country bow tie – and turn him into a literal snack. In the game, he’s serving up silver fox looks for days and I’m ashamed to say I don’t hate it. He's not my type, but he's far from unappealing.
I’d honestly love to meet with the marketing team and pick their brains on the decision to promote a "hot" Colonel. Sex sells, but does it help sell chicken? I really want to know.
It isn’t just KFC corporate throwing this idea around either, as you'll find plenty of fan fiction online about the Colonel that "ships" him with rivals like Ronald McDonald. It's not something you want to go searching for, though. Trust me.
To the game’s credit, the writing is way better than a simple fan fiction about the Colonel hooking up with Ronald McDonald. It acknowledges the oddness of dating a fast food icon and plays it up with over-the-top supporting characters.
It’s not just sexy Colonel Sanders, you also have a walking JoJo's Bizarre Adventure reference in Van Van the Man Man, and a rival who looks a lot like a character you’d see in the anime, The Devil is a Part-Timer.
Aeshleigh and Van Van are clear standouts, the other characters less so. Miriam is your typical sidekick best friend complete with a forced “quirky” personality, and you have your annoying character in Pop (please make him go away).
Oh, and there's also a cutesy character in Professor Dog. I will give the game bonus points for designing an adorable corgi and giving them the role of esteemed culinary professor. He’s by far the best boy.
While KFC proudly proclaims that I Love You, Colonel Sanders is a “game that KFC actually made” I feel like a lot of the praise should go to indie developer, Psyop. The game’s strengths are its art, on-the-nose sense of humor, and its clean execution.
That’s not to say that KFC’s presence can’t be felt throughout the game. In fact, just the opposite.
I’m not sure if it’s because I once worked for KFC, but the game gave me flashbacks, and not always pleasant ones. When subjects concerning KFC menu items are brought up, you can tell that corporate took the time to make sure everything was properly worded. The questions and “choices” don’t feel surprising or organic either.
To win Colonel Sanders’ heart, you’ll need to talk… like you worked at KFC for 2 years. All answers pertain to chicken, sporks, flattery, and proper kitchen etiquette. It’s all a bit hollow and lacking in substance, though I suppose it’s better than ingesting KFC indoctrination the hard way.
I actually took management classes where I had to drive to an official building and study the true inner workings of KFC, which included a ServSafe test on kitchen safety (wash your hands, identify proper holding temperatures for food, all of that boring stuff you don’t want to read about).
I was even given a biography about Colonel Sanders to read for uh, inspiration? I guess.
To the book’s credit, it was great prep for understanding some of the game’s Easter Eggs. For example, when you visit Colonel Sanders’ house and snoop through his belongings, you’ll see a photo of him and a guy named Pete. The Pete this photo is referring to is actually Pete Harman, a businessman who helped KFC become a successful fast food empire.
One thing that kept popping up in my mind as I was playing was whether KFC will use this game as a way to train new employees? Or as part of their management training classes? If so, godspeed to them.
Overall, I Love You Colonel, Sanders is fine if you want to picture yourself "clucking" the Colonel, but you can’t venture away from the structured path KFC has carved out for you. They expect you to love the Colonel, think his food looks tasty, and hopefully go out and buy some.
It’s hard to overlook the fact that I Love You, Colonel Sanders is basically promotional material that’s been wrapped up in a free-to-play game. I suppose it doesn’t matter given that it’s free, but I can’t help but wonder what Psyop would have created on their own had KFC not been as involved as they clearly were.
I just want to know what Colonel Sanders keeps in his basement, ok?
If you have time to kill, I guess there are worse things to play than I Love You, Colonel Sanders. If you’re looking for a transformational indie dating experience, I’d personally recommend playing Doki Doki Literature Club or Dream Daddy instead, both for very different reasons.
I don't know, maybe my lack of enjoyment with I Love You, Colonel Sanders boils down to the fact that I still have nightmares about prepping cole slaw in the fridge at KFC with nothing but a pair of plastic gloves and a lack of basic human dignity, then coming home smelling like grease and sadness.
Yeah... it's probably that.