I’ll admit it: I thought Hatoful Boyfriend was a joke. I thought this was yet another silly game in the same vein as Goat Simulator or one of the other dozens of ridiculous titles made up simply for the sake of fun.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I am totally and entirely willing to buy into silly games with no purpose of existing beyond being silly. I was ready to get into Hatoful Boyfriend simply because it was a pigeon dating sim. That sounded ridiculous enough to earn my money, so, when offered a chance to review the game, I jumped at it.
Hatoful Boyfriend was originally released in Japan. Thanks to its genuine success, it wound up with an English translation and a North American publisher. Yes, this game is actually here because it’s been successful and established a following.
Why? Well, surprisingly, it’s good.
Dating sims. You’ve probably goofed around with one of these before.
At first blush, and let’s say that blush extends into four or so hours of playing and replaying, Hatoful Boyfriend feels exactly like an old dating sim. You’ve more than likely found one of these games, whether created by some westerner in Flash for Newgrounds or through downloading something like Katawa Shoujo.
Right, Hatoful Boyfriend plays like those games. There are multiple “romances” to go after (seven, I think), and moving down each path requires making decisions through selecting text options. There’s some really, really simple stat raising that occurs through elective time, and everything else boils down to picking things in-game that relate to the bird you’d like to… land.
Like I said, if you’ve seen this genre done before in any way, shape or form, you should know what to expect from Hatoful Boyfriend in a mechanical sense.
It’s just that, well, you play a human girl, and the romantic targets are all birds. They’re based on real life birds, too. I know that because I talked to the developer about it. No, seriously, here’s our Twitter exchange.
It’s the writing that makes this game good.
Surprisingly enough, Hatoful Boyfriend works not because it’s a silly pigeon dating game. No, it works because it’s a well written, sometimes silly pigeon dating game.
There’s a story here. Not just the stories that play out by following each romance to its end (or, sometimes, multiple ends). There is an overarching reason for a world where one human girl must date pigeons, though I refuse to spoil that for you here.
The whole thing is written well, in fact. There were some minor text and grammar errors here and there during my play, though they’ll likely be patched out. Beyond that, Hatoful Boyfriend actually works as a clever visual novel with choices.
In fact, I’d wager that most players will actually audibly laugh a few times while in play. Perhaps you might find it funny that a cafe customer is the long lost love of a tough scooter gang swallow. Maybe you’ll think it’s awesome when one bird is obsessed with speed and encasing the world in pudding.
I did. And that charm never wore off during play.
The nice thing about this game, and really a piece of convenience I genuinely appreciated, was that the developers were smart enough to include a fast-forward feature. When you’ve seen the intro four times already, it’s nice to be able to whizz through an entire section of old dialogue with a quick click. Hatoful Boyfriend built this one button in specifically so gamers could find their way to all the endings.
Worth $9.99? Absobirdly.
And the first definitive “buy” in our brand new review system goes to… a pigeon dating simulator. You know what? I’m not avian mad.
If you’re still reading this review, I assume you don’t mind weird and wacky fringe video games that weren’t built to appease the masses. I mean, if you are that bird and you hate this kind of fowl stuff, obviously Hatoful Boyfriend won’t be your cup of seed.
But, if you’ve ever pecked at a dating simulator before, like witty writing and are willing spend a few hours exploring one game for all it’s worth, Hatoful Boyfriend is an easy purchase. I imagine it’ll be in a big sale down the line, too, so this recommendation goes double for whenever that happens.
Disclaimer: We were provided a review code from the publisher for the PC version of Hatoful Boyfriend. We finished all the game’s endings before starting this review.