Review: Hatoful Boyfriend

by

Hatoful Boyfriend - Screen 1Developer: Mediatronic, Hato Moa
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PC (Steam)
Price: $9.99
Release Date: July 31st, 2011(Japan), September 4th, 2014 (Steam)

Hatoful Boyfriend is an otome visual novel about a human girl that attends a prestigious school for pigeons. The game is comical and absurd, not even taking the time to explain how or why pigeons have become intelligent and would attend school. The game will extensively employ puns in order to deliver jokes, so if you hate that sort of stuff chances are you won’t enjoy this game much. In fact, there’s more than just a few disagreeable things with this game.

Story
Human girl joins prestigious school for pigeons. Human girl bonds with avian classmates. Human girl falls in love with a particular bird. Human girl gets a generic romantic ending with their feathered waifu. The plot is your average otome game, with the difference all the boys are actually, in fact, literally pigeons. The game’s main feature is its story, and it certainly delivers in that aspect. At first it will taunt you by flashing several story inconsistencies, and then slowly introducing a grander plot that’s taking place behind the scenes. The writing itself is bad, but it knows exactly what kind of story it wants to tell.

Hatoful Boyfriend - Screen 2
Gameplay
The user interface in this game is the absolute worst I’ve ever experienced with a visual novel. Sprite loading, making choices, changing scenes, even inputting your name has long delays. The game lacks even the most basic features you’d expect from a visual novel, such as Quick Load/Save, Fast Forward key, and even the most basic feature: Backlogging. You can’t go back and review already read text, and the only way to skip text is to press a button that’s shown on the top right of the screen. Even so, it will stop fast forwarding between scenes, and after every choice.

Despite all this, I was willing to forgive this game. That was, until I had a serious issue. Because you can’t read what you’ve already skipped, I was saving periodically and reloading whenever I missed text. During my 4th playthrough, I attempted to reload a previous save and, to my surprise, the game didn’t load properly. I’d get the music and background, but no textbox, and nothing worked. In other words, it was a corrupted save file. Not only does Hatoful Boyfriend fail to provide even the most basic features, what little is there is faulty and broken. Because of this, I must say that this game features the absolutely worst User Interface I’ve ever seen in a video game, visual novel or otherwise.

Sound
The music is mediocre, generic, and repetitive. There are very few songs, and none of them is any good or memorable in any way. The game also isn’t voiced, which is rather unfortunate. I’d love to have known what the birdfolk would sound like. Not nearly as bad as the user interface, but there’s nothing worth listening in this game’s audio.

Hatoful Boyfriend - Screen 4
Graphics
The background look good, but not nearly as good as you’d expect out of a visual novel. If I had to grade it, I’d say it’s on the level of a child’s picture book artistry. The game’s sprites are also a big disappointment. This game features birds as main characters and they do it by using pictures of actual pigeons to use as sprites. You’d expect them to use high resolution images of a bird, but no. The sprites don’t even look good.

Downsides
Out of all the things, what ticked me off the worst was the user interface. I can look past the music and art. After all, indie game developers often don’t have access to skilled musicians and artists in order to make their games. However, the game’s interface is outright lazy work.

Hatoful Boyfriend - Screen 6
Overall
Hatoful Boyfriend is so bad it’s actually comical. Judging this game by its attributes might give you the impression that it’s the worst game on Steam, but I doubt that’s true. Nobody would be impressed by this game if it sported a good soundtrack, amazing backgrounds, or high-res pictures of birds. The reason anyone would play this game would be to read and enjoy pigeon hijinks and distasteful bird puns, and this game will deliver just that.

Despite all the bad things I’ve pointed out here, I did laugh quite a few times while playing Hatoful Boyfriend. I didn’t love the overall experience, but it wasn’t so bad that I wish I could get my time back. The bottomline here is: the game is successful in its goal, to entertain the player with jokes and rather wacky visuals. Anything beyond that, and you’ll be disappointed.

The Reviewer has given this game a Final Grade of 4 out of 10

Pros:
– Cheap on Steam
– Comically bad
– Actually funny
Cons:
– Awful art
– Even worst music
– Atrocious User Interface