If one game has marked me in the last year (well, apart from the graphics on Infinity Blade,) it has to be Kairosoft's Game Dev Story: a simulation game capable of mixing a niche theme, addictive gameplay and a lovely retro pixel art with controls and a game UI not quite ready for the jump to iOS devices.
As cryptic as this Japanese developer can be, it has decided to launch on of their titles on the App Store which I believe has been available on its home country for a while.
Hot Springs Story[iTunes Link] by Kairosoft gives another twist to simulation management games from its first iPhone hit. As the game suggests, you are in charge of running a Japanese spa resort, upgrade it and expand it to become the number world destination in the country in only 16 years.
While Game Dev Story focused on dosing research resources and assembling a team to launch a successful video game, Hot Springs Story goes to the classic side of building genre seen in games such as the original Sim City and Theme Hospital. You'll need to build baths, rooms and other facilities to attract enough customers to make the whole thing profitable and ensuring they spend all their money during their stay.
The catch here is call scenery: in a very Feng shui way, every room benefits from the presence of nearby trees, rocks and other garden decoration. A crammed place with rooms lined along a corridor, usual in Western hotels, won't be pleasing at all for your picky guests. A zen approach planning the layout of the resort will be paramount.
As your hot springs shapes up, it will start attracting a refined public with high expectations. The rich mix of customers with all their individual preferences will be grouped under main attributes such as age and gender. Expect to see student groups, fishermen, fortune tellers, and even programmers paying you a visit. catering for their needs will require you to constantly rebuild and improve your facilities, making the game absolutely addictive. Upgrading rooms, purchasing more expensive garden items and upgrading your rooms will be nothing compared to buying more land and realising that your ideal masterplan has many flaws.
I believe the goal of the game is to design separate areas that appeal to specific customers. Seniors will prefer traditional tatami rooms, women will go for beauty treatments and youngsters are the only ones that play with arcade games. The list goes on. Some players have tried to decipher some events items that unlock events, so you might want to check out fine gaming forums for some help if you are stuck (Touch Arcade has some on this particular topic.)
If you are new to Kairosoft games, don't be surprised to find minimalist help menus(being positive here) or little direction on what to do next.
I loved spending hours re-arranging facilities on my personal zen garden and trying the effects of the upgrade items available on the shop. Eventually you'll want to unlock all the extras, a task that is almost impossible in your first 16 years. Fortunately, if you start a second game, you'll keep most of them and will be much easier to start.
All in all, I liked the graphic style and the addictive slow-paced nature of the Hot Springs Story. This time around, you'll be able to use landscape mode and zoom in/out, so the iPad experience is guaranteed although this is not a native Universal title. Being a port has numerous disadvantages such as the black bars on the sides, but the primitive saving menu and the lack of multi-tasking will allow you to try different tactics and revert to the original starting point if you regret afterwards.
Notice that on the main menu you'll find a quite well hidden second slot to save your game, so you won't necessarily loose your original map if you decide to start from scratch. I have checked Kairosoft's website and have noticed that they have a dozen on games with similar mechanics under different themes. Game Dev Story 2 is out already on the Japanese App Store and it works pretty much like Hot Springs Story. If you are a fan of this small saga, perhaps its a good game to play while you wait. The theme is not my favorite, but I have enjoyed it throughout and keep hooked to it.
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