It’s pretty obvious that Hatoful Boyfriend is not your average type of game. In fact, it’s downright strange. Dropping players into the role of the only human student at the prestigious St PigeoNation’s Institute, the game is an interactive text-based visual novel that doubles as a bird-dating simulator. Having previously achieved some commercial success on Mac OS X and Windows, it is now available for players to purchase from the PlayStation Network.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future where birds have taken precedence over humans, the game relies on the interaction between your character and those that work at and attend your school. You are assigned a set of stats that can be manipulated by choosing to attend a range of lessons. Attending maths class for example, will benefit your wisdom, whilst choosing gym class or music lessons will improve your vitality or charisma respectively. These stats are important, as they influence your relationships with your teachers and potential love interests. By neglecting them you will find yourself disappointing different characters, which may prevent you from reaching your desired ending and effect other situations later on in the game.
Another element that influences the story is how you decide to spend your time and whom you choose to befriend at the school. You can choose to take sides with particular characters in arguments, as well as pick whether to visit one location over another. These decisions unlock unique events that strengthen or weaken your relationships depending on your actions. If you want to achieve a certain outcome, you will have to choose wisely to prevent these decisions negatively impacting upon your playthrough.
The real area where the game shinesthough is through its story and characters, the surreal nature of both is ultimately what makes the game worth playing, but it is also the reason that many may choose to avoid it outright. Though it is true that the game is not for everyone, it offers plenty of charm for those who do decide to take a gamble on it. Characters such as the narcoleptic teacher Kazauki, the weak-stomached sophomore Ryouta, and captain of the track team Okosan keep the story interesting with their amusing traits, whilst each narrative juncture provides its own rewards for players to discover and enjoy. There are also some gaiden missions to complete in the game which focus on lost loves, biker gangs, and conspiracy theories. These additional scenarios grant the game an extra layer depth, whilst providing a welcome break from the drama in the classroom.
Hatoful Boyfriend is a colourful title that utilizes a blend of photography and anime caricatures to tell its story. Animations are few and far between, with its style being more reminiscent of an elaborately crafted picture book than a conventional videogame title. This may disappoint some who will prefer a more thrilling experience, but it does well to set the game apart. With multiple endings, a bizarre central premise, and quirky characters, the game contains a surprising amount of depth though it is still bound to be divisive in regards to its style and its ridiculous premise. These elements are simply too odd for the game to garner mainstream appeal but if you can overcome such surface details, you'll find a game of some depth underneath.