Hato Moa -- Hatoful Boyfriend
Nov. 23, 2014
Uh, I played Bird Smoochin Game. I got all the endings. IT WAS REALLY WEIRD GUYS. Also my heroine was named Breakfast Burrito, because I wanted a name birds would find alluring and mysterious.
I can't really say I liked this, but I had some fun with it and I'm glad it exists. If it goes on sale for $5 again, you should grab it, even if just to infuriate and confuse your Twitter followers.
Most of the ~game~ portion is boring, because it's just a prelude/teaser to the bonkers-ass payoff ending. The structure of the experience is, roughly: you cycle through a bunch of poorly signalled repetitive trial and error nonsense to "date" a bunch of flying ashtrays* who are so roughly sketched that you have no real reason to prefer one over another or care what happens to any of them. You get about four or five solid bellylaughs out of it, plus some creepy foreshadowing and a generous cup of what the fuck. You are murdered at least three times, then take a brief detour into a JRPG joke that only barely overstays its welcome. You use a FAQ because you're not a masochist. Finally, on your last pass through the game, everything goes horridly off the rails, it turns into a gruesomely absurdist political SF mystery story, several characters acquire some personality and backstory, and the weird turn pro.
I enjoyed that final path a lot, for its sheer balls-out WTFness. Play the game for that. (And for the first time you get executed by ninjas.) Also, I'd need to play through some stuff again to be sure (and I won't), but I think it mostly manages to keep the character starting positions consistent through all the endings -- re-writing pre-story state is a pet peeve of mine, and it's easy to screw it up on a branching paths situation where some paths go gonzo.
The interface and the experience of play were needlessly crap, alas. This is just a very vanilla RenPy game, right? So why the hell is it missing scrollback? You get it for free, you have to turn it off on purpose! Boo to that. Anyway, compare HB's interface to Christine Love's Don't Take it Personally, Babe: the scrollback function there makes it really easy to explore alternate choices without wasting your time on convos you remember verbatim, and I didn't feel like I spent any appreciable time sitting around tapping my fingers. But the fast-forward thing in this game is a junker of a replacement. Also, save games were glitchy on the Mac version as of late November, which didn't really add any fun to the mission.
I remain very iffy on visual novels as a form, even iffier on dating simulators as a genre within that form, and pretty iffy on the allied noninteractive genre of harem anime. (Although… given that HB is a deliberate misuse of both form and genre, I guess I wasn't expecting it to clear anything up or show me what I'd been missing.) From my limited run-ins with the date-sim/harem genres, they seem to tend toward fairly blank and shitty protagonists who are meant to function as player/viewer self-inserts, and I just haven't been able to dig that -- I find it boring, and maybe a bit gross. I don't want to date any of these anime babes and/or hunks, I want to watch them date some other character who has my primary sympathy but who is completely distinct from me and whose tastes differ from mine. (Also, insert something here about the weird checklist approach to romantic pursuit in these things, but, eh, video games, whatcha gon do.) OTOH, when I've seen the standard approach sufficiently fucked with, I've seen glimmers of something interestingly solid. E.g. Ouran High School Host Club, where Haruhi was a present and active character -- I enjoyed that show a lot. Or Don't Take it Personally, where it's more like you're playing matchmaker/observer in a number of relationships you're not directly involved in, and all the participants in those relationships are pretty well fleshed out. Or... does Haruhi Suzumiya count? Probably partially.
I dunno, has anyone played or seen a straight-ahead version of the genre that redeems the standard structures and tropes? I'm about ready to say it's not for me, but hey.
* I was once told this was widespread Montreal slang for city pigeons, and I love it.