“Congratulations! You’ve been accepted as the only human student at the prestigious St. PigeoNation’s Institute, a school for talented birds!”
In Hatoful Boyfriend a teenage human girl enters a school where students are all birds living in the year 2188 in fictional Japanese town. The birds have taken the place of humans in society. The main protagonist has an opportunity to start dating eight love interests from kindhearted childhood friend to creepy school doctor. The game is an obvious parody of Japanese visual novels directed to female audiences, in this case, the handsome boys are just turned into birds. The player has to make choices of answers to follow the story paths directed for different characters – if the player chooses too diverted answers the chance to get a bad ending increases. For me, it was possible to get four pigeon-boys’ story endings at the first try but after that I needed a walkthrough to support my choices. Completing the paths is essential if the player wants bonus paths to open – like the mystical underlying story ending for the whole game – and at that point the game becomes much more than a simple parody.
The game really fools the players emotionally. It sounds like a big joke which you just have to try out and laugh couple of times to the dating clichés and funny characters and situations. Sooner or later, depending on how long the player continues the story, there are actually very clever, sad and even disturbing story elements for the main characters. From the dating sim point of view there isn’t any sexual interaction, not even kissing, but some characters say very sweet things and the player might hope to hear more about the chosen love interest’s thoughts, but the endings are very quick and leave much to imagination.
Hatoful Boyfriend has become an internet phenomenon. YouTube is full of Hatoful Boyfriend themed Let’s Play -videos, people post their favorite quotes from the characters, praise the bird-gang and share stories of how the game has touched their hearts deeply – and I think it really deserves all the positive attention.
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4
Developer: PigeoNation Inc., Hato Moa, Mediatonic
Publisher: Devolver Digital
First International Release Date: 15th February, 2012 (remakes 2014-15)
PEGI rating: 12