Version Reviewed: 1.1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4
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How on earth do you follow up a game like Game Dev Story? Game Dev Story was phenomenal and hugely addictive. The first time I played it, I intended to play it for 30 minutes one Saturday morning, 3 hours passed before I knew it. It wasn't a perfect title but it was oh so compelling. So, how do you follow it? With Hot Springs Story of course. A game all about running your own spa resort. It's not the most obvious move and admittedly it might not be as compelling for games fans as the previous setting, but it works.
Hot Springs Story is perhaps not as instantly addictive as Game Dev Story either. It takes longer to hook you, mostly because in the early stages, it's not obvious what you're meant to do next. A help section offers plenty of advice but in a slightly unwieldy way that makes you wish for a more comprehensive tutorial. Once it gets its claws into you though, much like Game Dev Story, you'll be hooked.
Feeling more like a Sim City or Theme Park style game rather than Kairosoft's previous title, the core structure behind Hot Springs Story is to build up your spa. You can expand the small resort you start with as you progress through the game by building the likes of bedrooms (or Tatami as the authentic language uses), bathing rooms, restaurants, salons and even arcades. There's a bit more strategy involved than simply expansion though. A great variety of guests are interested in visiting depending on what you pitch your resort at. The likes of students, businessmen, housewives and more are all available here but it's down to you to appeal to their individual needs.
In this respect, Hot Springs Story feels much more like a conventional sim than Game Dev Story did, focusing more on general customer satisfaction than individual staff members. Indeed, Hot Springs Story gets a bit more complex but logical such as the need to consider where you place rooms such as if you place a quiet room next to a loud room (such as an arcade), no one's happy.
There's also the addition of structure courtesy of the magazine contests that pop up. These contests allow you to focus on certain clientele and aim to be the best in your chosen field. In turn, if you win, you gain more money, become more popular and acquire more advertising. It ensures that there feels like there's more point to Hot Springs Story rather than Game Dev Story's method of providing award ceremonies which didn't really change enough to matter hugely.
Controls wise, Hot Springs Story brings with it a virtual d-pad as well as conventional touch controls which makes it easier to navigate. A landscape appearance rather than portrait view is particularly useful too. Menus still don't feel as simple to understand as they could but it's a minor niggle. A tutorial would have been welcome though, particularly for such new features as advertising.
Hot Springs Story isn't quite as gripping as Game Dev Story. Its subject matter being not quite as clearly enjoyable as the earlier game, plus it's really quite a serious sim, with no sign of the humor of Game Dev Story. However, in turn it's a deeper experience with more to it. This ensures that Hot Springs Story is still a great game to play, just not quite as wondrous as its predecessor.