Hatoful Boyfriend review: the bird dating sim has novelty value - but not much else

£6.99; PC, Mac; Devolver Digital

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The Independent Tech

There are few reviews that could just be me saying ‘WHAT?’ over and over again. Hatoful Boyfriend could easily be one of those reviews. Set in futuristic Japan, after some kind of intelligent bird take-over, Hatoful boyfriend lets you play as a girl just admitted to a school for ‘talented birds’ (WHAT?). Over the course of a school year you follow the story, making choices about which classes or electives to take, deciding whether or not to intervene in fights or question birds on things you discover or seek to discover, deciding which bird you’re going to give your beans to as part of an end of year celebration where girls give beans to male birds they like.

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We’ve seen some impressive takes on the interactive story game lately, The Wolf Among Us springs to mind, games that have an interesting storyline that keeps you engaged and makes you consider the choices you’re making, whether that’s what to say in a conversation or whether to chase someone down an alleyway.

Unfortunately, Hatoful Boyfriend is full of tired stereotypes. Oh the stupid jock has a beautiful singing voice. Oh the sleepy teacher has a sad past. Oh the mean kid hiding in the library just wants to be loved. Oh.

With it’s tired old storylines the game ends up adding to the tired old stereotype that Japan is a really weird country. Tell someone about the game and then tell them it’s from Japan and there’ll be little shock. Couple that with the shoddy translation and the fact it’s about bestial love and you have the formula people expect from small Japanese games.

True it is a remake but it doesn’t have the same excuses that the people rendering Resident Evil 1 into HD have, this game was first brought out in 2010, not 1996.

It plays more like an awkward flash game you’ve found at the dead end of the internet. The novelty value is there; it's funny to tell your friends about and to bring up in pub conversations, but the re-playability that is supposed to be a factor – trying again and again to get different storylines and different bird-friends – is pointless when you’re bored during the first run-through.

Even my attempts to mock the game while playing backfired. Calling your character Bird Lover just ends up with them being referred to sweetly as Lover Bird thanks to the Japanese naming system, but I probably should’ve seen that one coming.

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