Hatoful Boyfriend is a silly dating sim and visual novel that works due to it not taking itself too seriously. It’s an otome game, sure. We’re romancing birds. But, at the same time, we’re cleverly looking at dating sim conventions and playing off of them in a humorous way. My Horse Prince, an equally absurd Android and Apple iOS game, works for the very same reason. This goofy game has the potential to be creepy and disturbing, but instead is delightfully funny. This crazy, comical game works, thanks to its above average translation and willingness to be completely goofy.
It all starts with a clever story that is constantly winking and nodding at the player. My Horse Prince knows exactly how ridiculous it is. It knows there’s absolutely no possible way to have this make sense, so it doesn’t try too hard to explain everything away. Your avatar was born in the year of the horse, according to the Chinese Zodiac, so that’s why this horse has a human face and behaves like a person. Except, he’s apparently also getting jobs and able to find his way around the world, so maybe others see him for who he is? It doesn’t matter. He needs an owner, our avatar is talked into it, and now she has a horse stalker/boyfriend.
Our heroine is incredibly self aware. She knows how ridiculous My Horse Prince is. She knows that the horse is actually rather creepy. When she first sees him as she visits a ranch, looking for a man, she thinks he’s attractive. Then, she realize that is a creature with a man’s head on a horse’s body and sees him for the monster he really is. Her attempts to rationalize the situation are hilarious. At one point, she claims she’s there to investigate selling Handsome Horse Ranch Water, rather than gawk at the horse prince again. (In a delightful callback, we learn Reductive Ranch Water was a success.) She works perfectly as the straight man for the horse prince comic. Even as she’s getting into these implausible incidents, she’s coming up with these wonderfully sarcastic quips. She says what we’re thinking, which makes the game more enjoyable, unlike the more agreeable, blank slate heroines we can see in such games.
Yuuma, the horse, is equally delightful. Rather than behave as an ordinary man who happens to have a horse body, he acts like a rather childish animal. He asks our avatar to be his owner, then goes on to check and make sure she’ll spend a lot of money on him. A bit conniving? Sure, but the owner of the ranch explains the horse was going to pretty much be put down when we met him. Once he knows he’s saved, he starts behaving in unexpected ways to help and be near his new owner. He attempts to act as a housekeeper, making her meals. (And almost unintentionally killing her.) He takes a job as a construction worker. (Which doesn’t lead to an almost untimely death for our heroine.) He’s silly, but in an earnest and well-meaning way. It toys with the idea of an obsessed fan, but adjusts it so what would otherwise be disturbing comes across as an animal who doesn’t know any better.
Even the clicker portion feels like it goes out of their way to present increasingly absurd situations for our amusement. It’s mocking the money grab, even though it’s still engaging in it. It attempts to get you to kick in some cash for the golden items to speed through these segments, but at the same time makes you feel like you’re getting some entertainment out of not paying to play. The first mission is conventional, as involves feeding the horse carrots, but each one amps up the weirdness. Choosing to go ahead and see My Horse Prince through means the horse does things like run on treadmills, chop leeks, use a pickaxe for construction work, play electric guitars, and surfing.
Of course, My Horse Prince will never be as good as Hatoful Boyfriend. But, it does a good job of following that formula without completely mimicking it. You can tell that it’s playing off of mobile otome games and their conventions, cleverly lampooning them, and giving us a silly experience to enjoy. The ridiculous scenarios, all of which are rather self contained, do a good job of offering bites of amusement whenever people have the patience to press through the clicker segments.
My Horse Prince is available for Apple iOS and Android devices. It costs $0.99 to remove ads.