Video Game Review: Hatoful Boyfriend

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) Being an avid comic reader, the visual novel genre is one that I have always wanted to dip my toe into. Visual novels involve you reading text displayed over static images and making dialog choices in order to influence the outcome of the story. I tried to play 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors on the Nintendo DS, but I wasn’t good at keeping up with my handheld gaming. When I saw Hatoful Boyfriend on a Playstation Network sale, I thought this would be a great, if kooky, way to give visual novels a try.

Right out of the gate, you know you’re playing something different. Your protagonist is the only human attending a high school for pigeons. There are a couple of story details presented about how birds became an intelligent species, but it’s never really explained why you are going here. It creates a surreal tone for the game where you could fairly easily replace all the birds with humans and the story would be mostly unchanged, though it would lose out on all the wonderful bird puns.

Despite the fact that the presentation of the game is so goofy, there’s some very compelling writing behind it all. Not only is the game very funny throughout, there are some truly heartwarming moments. The game is a dating simulator, so you find yourself making choices regarding which of the several characters you want to spend time with. Some are fairly abrasive, but the story path I ended up going down told a very emotional tale of love and friendship. It sounds ridiculous to say that about a game starring birds, but that just speaks to the strength of the writing.

With all the different choices presented throughout the game, there are over a dozen endings available in the game. This not only makes it really feel like YOUR story, it also gives the game a surprising amount of replay value. It only took me about two hours to run through the game the first time, and there are options to speed through dialog, making subsequent playthroughs less of a slog.

Do I recommend this game? Yes, but not unequivocally. Obviously, if none of this sounds interesting to you, I wouldn’t blame you for skipping it. This is a very specific type of game with a very strange theme, so it’s clearly not for everyone, but if any part of it sounds appealing to you, I definitely think you’ll have a great time with it.

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