I sincerely wanted to like Hot Pot For One. The first time I’d heard about it was during the Wholesome Direct, which, admittedly had me all amped up after a slew of fantastic game announcements. Once the event had finished, I scurried over to Steam and picked this one up. I didn’t really know what to expect, outside of the stated and obvious, but I was hyped nonetheless. However, now that I’ve finished playing it, I have to admit that I’m not all that impressed. I genuinely take no pride nor joy in saying this, but Hot Pot For One somehow managed to let me down.
“Unfortunately, to get anything out of Hot Pot For One, it feels as if you have to have experienced the act of being far away from home already.”
Hot Pot For One is about a person in a foreign country who is spending Christmas alone. While all your friends are out having a good time, you’re stuck making a hot pot for one. Hence the title. There is nothing inherently wrong with this premise. In fact, I find it rather interesting and packed full of potential for an emotionally charged and evocative experience. The whole game is even based upon the developer’s experiences as international students. So, I fully expected it to make me cry.
And, for someone who has been through a similar experience, it might very well do that for you. As someone who is rarely more than a few hours train ride from his mother’s home, I can’t really sympathise. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m predisposed to feel nothing for the game’s central themes. If the game had conveyed these feelings of sorrow and a longing for the nostalgic comforts of home successfully, I probably would have loved it. Unfortunately, to get anything out of Hot Pot For One, it feels as if you have to have experienced the act of being far away from home already.
“However, while its narrative fell a little flat for me personally, I feel that its charm and good-natured humour more than make up for it.”
This is, in part, due to the fact that the game is barely 20 minutes long. I have no issue with shorter experiences. In fact, one of my favourite games is Rainy Season, a phenomenal narrative experience that lasts not much longer than Hot Pot For One. But, where Rainy Season manages to evoke the whimsy of being a child successfully, Hot Pot For One fails to convey the sadness and disparity of being alone on Christmas, never mind being thousands of miles away from home.
However, while its narrative fell flat, I feel that its charm and good-natured humour more than made up for it. Each text box is adorned with adorable hand-drawn emojis that bring a sense of personality to a mute protagonist. The background music and wailing sirens help create a sense of immersion within the cramped space you’re given. For the brief time, I existed within Hot Pot For One’s world, I did truly feel immersed.
“Overall, Hot Pot For One is a hodgepodge of phenomenal ideas and poor execution.”
There are also a series of fun memories scattered around the room for you to find. They’re all tied to various objects and did help to further hit home the game’s overall themes. While they don’t fully convey a sense of nostalgia, they help make the game’s world feel a little more believable. It’s also a nice touch that each piece of food you eat has a memory attached to it. It makes the overall cooking experience feel a little more special.
Overall, Hot Pot For One is a hodgepodge of phenomenal ideas and poor execution. I did find that the visually stunning environment filled with personality and character is a joy to exist within. Unfortunately, Hot Pot For One’s narrative doesn’t further the entire experience in the way that I had hoped. However, I must stress that I feel for someone who has been in a similar situation to that of the game’s main character, you’re likely to get much more out of the experience than I did. For only US$2.99/£2.09 Hot Pot For One is worth a try, even if all you get out of its brief 20 minute run time is a few laughs and some culinary ideas.