Backseat Gaming Challenge 1: In Which I Make My Boyfriend Go On a Date with a Pigeon
Smalerie Note: You might have noticed that there is a lot of bolded text down below. In order to attempt this experiment, I had to promise The Boy that he could get a chance to interject his opinion on both the games and my post as I wrote it. So, um yeah, let’s see how this works. The text in bold are his comments. A couple years ago, when this blog was still cutting its baby teeth, I wrote an article about backseat gaming. In the case you don’t want to check out the old post, I’ll summarize it for you. I love video games, but can’t really play them due to my carpal tunnel. Instead, I’ll often play the “assist” with my boyfriend, making suggestions, cheering him on, and getting overly excited when I can convince myself that yelling “JUMP!!!!” every few seconds is actually a helpful thing.
Now normally I wouldn’t mind the back seat gaming. It can make for some interesting conversation: “I must say dear Valerie, that head shot from my new sniper rifle is quite smashing. But I do worry about its DPS”. So in an attempt to give her something new to watch me play, I told her to pick the strangest games she could find and boy howdy did she deliver.
For some strange reason, we haven’t been doing this together as much. I think there are a few factors in play here, but The Boy wants to lure me back. And so he issued a challenge. He would let me choose 3-4 games on his Steam account and he would play them, no matter what I picked. And so, I endure the weak AC unit in his office to bring you the first in this series: Hatoful Boyfriend.
Note: The AC is not weak. She is just crazy.
Hatoful Boyfriend is not a new game. In fact, those in the know were able to get a fan-translated free demo back in 2011 that was so popular that it resulted in the translation of the full game. This game certainly has legs though. This year has not only seen additional releases of its HD remake but there are plans for remake of the sequel Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star as well.
Oddly enough I have never really heard of the game until more recently and with good reason I suppose. I mean look at it. You’re dating pigeons!! You might was well be playing a game where you are dating disease infested winged rats. Histoplasmosis! Cryptococcosis! Gingivitis?!...but I must soldier on.
Hatoful Boyfriend is a dating sim with a twist. Think of it as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” visual novel where your main objective is to find love...in a hopeless place. ;) Ok, maybe not hopeless, but certainly weird, because in this world, highly intelligent birds are the new dominant society. Humans, on the other hand, have been reduced to living in caves outside of town. You are in luck though. Your character has been chosen to attend the premiere high school for birds: St. PigeoNation's Institute. And so your quest begins, both for an education and hopefully LURVE.
I suppose as dating sims go it’s all right, not that I have much basis for comparison nor have I ever dated an actual bird. I mean, a world where intelligent birds exist might lead to some interesting conversations but could get pretty awkward. This is especially true when Thanksgiving rolls around with your bird friends and you're serving their Uncle Bob the turkey as the main dish.
Smalerie’s Review: This game gets a lot of points for having both a wicked sense of humor and a truly original plot line. All the typical romantic stereotypes are here - from the friend you grew up with to the mysterious loner but you know, this time around, they're birds. While the story is often engaging, I found myself wishing that it was better-paced and had more choice elements. It wasn’t uncommon for you to spend a very long time getting through a scenario only to find yourself rushing through others. Thankfully, the focus on telling a story is strong enough to pull you through. Scattered through the game are inside jokes, hints as to why humans have been taken over by birds, and situations that are both dangerous and bizarre. These sorts of elements can add a lot of replay value for those who are looking for a game that is laser-focused on allowing you to experience the world in which it takes place. I can certainly see the appeal and was extremely entertained to watch as The Boy tried to court some fancy pants pigeon who was not only a French aristocrat, but also student council president. *Swoon! He did pretty well, but I think I could do better. In fact, I might try a few games on my own to see if I have more game than the boy. Spoiler alert: I do! 3.5 out of 5 Birdketeers.
The Boy's Review: So the game basically consists of playing as a female character and trying to woo a pigeon. This is surprisingly harder than it seems. Imagine going up to one of your co-workers and trying to tell them that you need their pencil, but your sentences to choose from are:
A) “Boy, we sure are having some great weather today”
B) “Did you see Bob over in accounting? Geez Louise”
and my favorite
c) “Hey, where did my napkin go?”
The result is that you keep going in an almost round about way until you finally get what you want. Since I did was not particularly enamored by any one pigeon (ahem) that I met over the course of the game, I thought I would go with the funniest sounding which was Sakuya. Lemme tell you something, if the thought of a french fantail pigeon with a snotty attitude doesn’t tickle your funny bone, then you need to hang out with pigeons more often.
In any event the game pushes you on to go through semester after semester of school, interacting with various birds and their roles. At times you get to make decisions about participating in a class or school event with one of your potential suitors or sometimes going it alone. Sprinkle in some winter and summer breaks, and you have a chance to strike up some romance depending on how often you manage to interact with a particular bird. Er, not that I ever found myself staring into the deep brown eyes of Sakuya, wishing hope against hope that if he opened his heart up a little, he would see me as the one true friend he needed.
The only part of the game that I found truly interesting, and I use the word loosely, is that the new world that the character finds herself in seems to hint of a major catastrophe of epic proportions that gave rise to intelligent birds. In the end I give Hatoful boyfriend 2 out of 5 Bernices.
Well, it looks like I got a lot more enjoyment out of this game than the Boy did. Have you ever played this game? Have any helpful tips to share? Or maybe just want to make a suggestion for the next game I force The Boy to play? Let us know in the comments below and participate in the torture, erm, I mean FUN!