Oct 27, 2012

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Host Holic Review

Host Holic Review

Visual novels are a guilty pleasure of mine and I’ve played my fair share of them. Red Panda Games’ newest one, Host Holic, combines a dating sim with a teaching sim and a bit of mystery on the side. How well does the title fare with the unusual combination? There is only one way to find out.

Host Holic follows the player as they spend their last month in Japan, teaching English to a class of young students. As a foreigner, you might imagine the teacher’s life to be dull and uneventful. As you progress through the month however, you find out there is plenty to do from uncovering the case of a mysterious ailment that is plaguing the students to spending time with one of the hosts of Holic. You can also create bento boxes, play games at the local arcade, and shop for clothing to dress your favorite host in.

The story isn’t an outlandish one, which I felt was good. There are some plot twists that really surprised me. Ones that prove that the 16+ rating that Host Holic deserves. The game contains mild sexual themes which I will admit bothered me slightly. Overall, the story is well-written. The characters you interact with have good personalities. I did wish that there was more interaction with the students as this game puts some emphasis on the teaching aspect.

Host Holic plays out like any other visual novel: you read a bit of text, click to advance to the next bit, and repeat. But there are also some fun little mini-games within the game. During school hours, there is a classroom mini-game that has you choosing between two to four different options on how to handle a misbehaving kid. This game is simple though the right choice might not be as easy as you think. The wrong one could cause the class’ focus and morale to lower. There is also a bento box game that awards you in-game money, depending on how well your box looks. Not to mention the dress-up game for the hosts whenever you bring them home or the two games at the arcade. All the mini-games are easy to get the hang of, even the classroom one once you figure out the right choices.

My only major concern with the mini-games revovles around the classroom one. I love the idea of a teaching sim and had great expectations for this. I felt that the classroom mini-game could have offered more, either in the form of more situations to handle per day or by perhaps using more variety for the mini-games. I would have loved to have seen a mini-game in which we have to guess the correct English translation for the Japanese word written on a chalkboard.

The game’s few menus are easy to read and navigate. Controls are responsive; though they did seem to lag behind a bit during the dress up mini-game portions. The game gives you the option to go with the darker storyline or a more lighter tone as well as the ability to skip parts of the dialogue.

I adore the artwork. Each character is well-drawn and the colors are pleasing to the eye. While each adult character does appear to be unique in their looks, the kids seem to have some reused elements (hair styles and outfits) to them. This isn’t a bad thing as the most you see of the kids is a small portrait of them during the classroom mini-game with the exception of a couple who play key roles. I also found the soundtrack for Host Holic to be very nice. I really liked the song used in the intro.

Don’t expect to have to invest a lot of time per playthrough with Host Holic. A playthrough can last from anywhere from an hour to two tops. With nine unique endings that vary depending on how your month was spent, there is some reason to replay the title.

Host Holic is a fun little visual novel for the casual fan. Those who want a fuller experience might be turned off by how short the playthroughs are or the lack of more action with the school section of the game. I enjoyed the game but it did leave me wanting more. I would have loved for the game to have spanned longer than the one month it did and more emphasis on the teaching sim aspect.

Host Holic
Platform: PC (Reviewed)
Genre: Visual Novel
Release Date: September 30, 2012, Gold Version: October 30, 2012
Developer: Red Panda Games
Publisher: Red Panda Games
ESRB Rating: 16+
MSRP: $19.99


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