Hot Springs Story Review

Last year we gave high praise to Game Dev Story. In fact, we loved the ‘create your own videogame company’ simulator so much that we gave it our Game of the Month award for October and placed it at #14 on our Top 50 iPhone Games of 2010. Now Kairosoft has released a follow-up, Hot Springs Story, which applies the same awesome pixel art, user interface, and concepts to a spa setting. It’s fantastic, and even better than Game Dev Story, except for the steam-bathing old ladies.

While Game Dev Story focused on managing staff members with different areas of expertise, Hot Springs Story is all about creating a spa for these characters to populate. Your spa starts as a plot of grassy land with only a reception desk, and you must build it out tile by tile. In the beginning, you have a couple of plants, rooms, stores, hot springs, and other items to lay down.

As you progress through the game, investment opportunities and special clients will show up and bring along new services. You’ll also get the opportunity to widen your spa’s plot of land. It’s quite rewarding to build up your spa to a massive complex and watch as customers wander around it.

Nothing like a hot bath on a cold winter day.

Each store and facility is targeted towards a certain gender or type of person. Placing certain stores and facilities near each other brings benefits, while other combinations (such as placing a noisy pachinko machine next to your guests’ rooms) have the opposite effect.

In the game, a month lasts 24 virtual hours, and each hour lasts a different amount of real time based on how busy your spa is. For example, peak hours in the afternoon go by slower than early morning, when all the guests are asleep. This keeps the pacing just right, and also kept us playing nonstop.

After a certain number of months, your spa will be covered by the magazine of your choice. The goal is to appeal to that magazine’s readership by setting up your spa with facilities that cater to them, like building beauty salons to appeal to women’s magazines. Placing first on their list nets you money, higher popularity, new magazine outlets, and a shiny trophy. Every time you get covered, you are automatically prompted to choose the magazine you want to be surveyed by next.

I see you are interested in distributing Mr. Sparkle in your home prefecture.

It all may sound complex, but the game does an exceptional job of easing you into the gameplay. Once you’ve placed your first set of rooms, you’ll quickly and smoothly transition into the spa manager we know you’ve always dreamed of becoming.

Compared to Game Dev Story, this is a much more approachable game, and just as tough to put down. The pixel art is also a step up in Hot Springs Story, keeping to the same style but with smoother animations and more detailed textures. There are varied visuals for night and day, as well as each season, which are nice touches.

Another welcome addition to Hot Springs Story is landscape orientation and the ability to zoom out for a wider view of the map. Kairosoft did a good job of making the game controllable when zoomed all the way out, and it never zooms in for anything unless you manually move it.

Somebody must have missed the shady fortune teller.

Like in Game Dev Story, there is a save button that, when pressed, instantly saves your game without a hassle. We appreciate how quick it is to save the game, but iPhone games should automatically save your progress right where you left off when you close the app.

Hot Springs Story’s auto-save function will set you back a few month in game time if you accidentally leave the app. Support for multitasking would at least somewhat resolve this issue. Our other small gripe is that a mouse cursor appears for a few second on the screen after some actions, which looks a little sloppy.

Hot Springs Story might just be the best tycoon/simulation game on the App Store. All we need now is for Kairosoft to bring over The Game Dealer, their game retailer simulator, which they already released on Japan’s App Store. Then, we’d really feel refreshed.

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