Okay, so this is going to be a bit of an odd one… but I felt like a variety of different Halloween-related things for this month might be enjoyable. Halloween Otome is an older dating sim by Synokoria that is available through itch.io that uses a lot of what we are used to from dating sims but with its own unique story and characters.
In it, you play the main character (MC), who wins a radio contest to attend a Halloween event hosted by a famous actor. She is unsure about going, having only entered because of her friend and roommate because she is not really impressed or comfortable with that glitzy glam lifestyle. Still, she is talked into it and arrives to find that the Halloween event centers around a game each year. The MC gets teamed up with 3 unknown men, everybody keeping their identity a secret, to solve various puzzles and games and hopefully win the contest. Of course, while you are at it, you can also pursue a romantic relationship with one of your teammates.
This game is a bit difficult to review because of the nature of it. It’s a free game, put together by a small team, and shows a bit of its indie nature at times. There are a few spelling errors, some of the dialogue could be polished, and the music is… at times, not good, just to be blunt. However, and this is a big however, there is a lot of great things happening with it too.
Your MC, despite being shy, is confident in herself, which I really appreciate. She is also funny and has some great interactions with each of the characters around her. The romantic relationships are also well done. This game skips over the too often “problematic” romance path that shows up in many dating sims. Your worst option is someone who is just a bit rude at times but ultimately is also self-aware and does seem to want to be better. The others are also well-developed and interesting characters, and while the game does flirt a little with tropes, it manages to be distinct enough that you don’t feel like you are being bogged down in them.
Each story, depending on who you are pursuing or not, is well written and developed. They are also unique enough that playing all three is worthwhile because it’s the best way to paint the full picture of who the MC is. I also like that she doesn’t completely change based on your path; more you just get different snippets of what makes her, her.
The game is a visual novel, so you’ll be doing a lot of reading and then making choices, however, you will also play minigames to help actually build towards winning the contest. For those uninterested, you can turn the minigames off and just focus on the straight visual novel elements. I personally like them being there to break it up a little.
As for “Halloween,” it’s mostly not. The characters are in costume, and of course, it takes place around Halloween, but that often fades into the backdrop. Except, of course, one part which is pretty awesome and leans more into the horror elements of the season.
In the end, this is not the most technically polished game; it’s downright rough at times. However, it is so enjoyable with a great story that it ultimately overrides all that.
So bottom line? If you don’t like dating sims, I don’t think this will be the one to make you a believer. However, if you like fun and more light dating sims, this game is free, so there is really no reason not to give it a try. It’s fun, looks decent, and it’s easy to ignore the flaws in favor of all it does right. You really should check it out!