Hot Springs Story is a spa management game that’s a little too relaxed in terms of gameplay
I’m going to spend a good chunk of this review comparing Hot Springs Story to Game Dev Story, mostly because the games are pretty similar, and are both made by the same company. Sadly the main place these two games are different is in the fun department, and after playing a lot of Game Dev Story, I’m sad to report that Hot Springs Story just doesn’t provide the same compelling experience.
In Hot Springs Story you’ll be building a managing a Japanese Spa (as a big fan of Japanese culture, this setup interested me greatly). You’ll do this by placing Tatami rooms for people to stay in and Baths for them to relax and spend money in. As time goes by you’ll get additional rooms to put into your spa (vending or pachinko machines, restaurants, etc) to bring in more money or certain type of clients. Make money, then spend it on making the spa better to make more money. Lather, rinse and repeat.
The main goal of the game it seems is to build a good enough spa to be listed high up in various spa publications. To do this you’ll target certain types of clients, like business women or antique dealers that all expect different things from their spa experience. If they’re happy with your business they’ll vote for you in the magazine. Periodically the magazine releases a list of its favorite places, and if you’re on it you win more money and fame!
One of the things I don’t really understand about the game is the main way they have you expand your client base. Often people come in with investment proposals like “help me open a garden” or “invest in my game company” and if you do that then they’ll frequent your shop. I don’t get the spa house as investment business (as opposed to oh I don’t know.. a bank.) Maybe it’s a Japanese thing, but it really just doesn’t fit. Seems there are other more applicable ways to do this (lots of advertising options perhaps).
The real issue with Hot Springs Story is that you spend way too much time watching the game play itself. You build some stuff, click a few menu options then watch the game run for minutes at a time with zero interaction from you. Now typically games like this have this element to them, even the aforementioned and excellent Game Dev Story. The problem here is that it’s just never broken up by enough interaction. I’ve had the game running here next to my laptop now for over 30 minutes while I write this review and it’s only forced me to interact with it twice. Not exactly compelling.
This lack of interactivity and interesting things to do really hurts Hot Springs Story. In Game Dev Story I was matching up genres and game systems, assigning and hiring staff, trying to match up the right team to make a bestselling game. Here, I plant a few trees and build a few rooms and the game just plays itself. At one point while I was “playing” it I actually dozed off, and that’s honestly the lasting impression the game left me with.