Price: £7.99 inc VAT
PS4 tested. Also on PC
What’s this, a dating simulator for birds
? You don’t see that aviary day.
Dating simulators are a niche genre that rarely achieve mainstream visibility but Hatoful Boyfriend is a strange beast, achieving cult success on the PC. This is at least partly due to its central concept: You play the only human at St. PigeoNation’s institute. A girl amongst the pigeons, surrounded by feathered suitors eager to show you their im-peck-able flirting skills.
You also live in a cave, but this doesn’t seem to be noteworthy to these bird-brains. In fact, there’s a lot the game seems happy to gloss over: the fact you’re the only human. The fact your best friend is a rock dove, the fact that there’s a host of giant birds running around with human level intellect. The game barely mentions these at all in your initial playthroughs: something is wrong in bird-town, but all you seem to want to do is romance pigeons.
In it’s own surreal way, it all makes twisted sense. one of the highest compliments I can pay the game is that despite it being a visual novel about a human girl that lives in a cave and tries to date a variety of talking birds, it’s entirely consistent in tone and fully believable. I often found myself totally engaged with the unusual world, and i’ve never felt more like an awkward teenaged girl looking for my true love.
true love, by the way. This isn’t pigeon based smut. At no point did anybirdy ever suggest anything other than pure of heart romance. Endings spoke of marriage and of lifetimes spent together. Heartrendingly, some feature characters considering the biological differences of humans and birds, concluding a romance would never work. While the subject matter is amusing, the gut-punch of two teenagers working out there's no long term prospects to their romance gave me more emotions than I'd be happy to admit.
These aren’t people with bird faces, a human dating simulator reskinned for pigeon-fanciers. These are birds with bird faces, wearing their avian limitations on their sleeves. While you’re awkwardly navigating high-school there’s a sense that something’s terribly wrong, but I was torn between trying to find out more about the dreadful secret or taking an extra gym class so that the school’s track star: again, also a bird, would take an interest in me.
Why settle for the track star? Every Japanese high school stereotype is present and correct here: the handsome boy that takes an interest in the girl as soon as they meet, the softly spoken best friend, the posh aristocrat. You can date whomever you choose, but you can only choose one. Trying to rule the roost and flirt with multiple birds at once will see you rejected by your would-be partners and left alone.