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Bird dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend is a bizarre delight

I am the last human girl in the world. It's a heavy burden to carry, but I'm taking it well, as evidenced by my decision to start dating birds.

I should back up a bit.

I'm playing Mediatonic's Hatoful Boyfriend, a dating sim where you — a human girl — attend school and date an array of pigeons, doves and so forth. If the concept sounds familiar, that's because it is, sort of. The game is a remake of the 2011 visual novel from Hato Moa, recently revived by Mediatonic and picked up for publish by Devolver Digital. It's also the most bonkers game I've ever played.

Like many dating sims, Hatoful Boyfriend sees your character attending school and forming relationships with her classmates. The game plays through a series of events each day that require you to manage your time and spread your affections accordingly. Although the initial hook is pretty obvious (Date pigeons! Date doves!), associate producer Luke Borrett assured me there's more to the game than its premise might suggest.

"We've found a lot more depth to it as we played more of it, and that's what we liked," Borrett said. "It's that funny hook that sucks you in, but there was this deeper story here. We found ourselves a little bit emotionally invested in a pigeon dating sim which becomes increasingly harder to justify to your friends and loved ones."

"It's somewhere between [parody and dating sim]."

The concept hooked Mediatonic immediately, the producer said. He compared it to the Persona series or Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.

"We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get it out to a wider audience," Borrett said. "It's going to be a niche thing, but there are people who love this sort of thing."

During my time with the game, I clicked through dialogue and spent time bonding with different birds. Many of my options were blocked off for the demo, but I was able to join the track team and break up a bird fight. Borrett said that later in the game, characters engage in role-playing game boss fights with "straight up HP bars" and stats.

"It's very out of left field, but that's a lot of this game for you," he said.

Hatoful Boyfriend doesn't have a set release date, though Borrett says the team is looking to release in late July or the end of Summer. The game will launch for Mac and Windows.

"It's somewhere between [parody and dating sim]," Borrett said. "There is a lot going on."

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