Homunculus Hotel (2022)
Developer: Team SolEtude
Disclaimer: I received this game for free from the developer.
It's been a little while since I've reviewed a developer-submitted game, as I've had my submissions on and off in the last few months. Homunculus Hotel actually didn't have any Steam Deck verification, but I gave it a shot on there anyway. Aside from a weird script message running right when I opened the game, it ran perfectly! Psst, developers, I highly recommend trying to get that verification since you're awfully close already. Homunculus Hotel is a visual novel about a woman in an unusual hotel where she meets with the guests to help them understand their dream and move on from it. Homunculus Hotel is beautiful and melancholy, the choices you make don't make a big difference but the stories themselves feel heavy and real regardless.
You play as Isabelle, a woman staying at the Homunculus Hotel, an unusual hotel which shows its guests a a very vivid dream inside of their own rooms. Isabelle is unable to see her own "dream" despite having spent much time here, but in the meantime she helps other guests understand and process their dreams. When she enters the room of the guests she consults, she enters their dream as well. Some of these guests have a good understanding of what they are to learn from it, while others are more combative. You, as Isabelle, must figure out the right questions to ask them to help them understand and be at peace. Outside of these appointments, Isabelle gets lost in her own memories of lost love, frustrated that she still cannot experience any of it through a dream like everyone else.
The music in Homunculus Hotel consists of moody, slow rock ballads from different artists. I couldn't find a published soundtrack or album for the game, but I was able to track down the song that most stuck with me, To Here Never Come. From what I could find, a good bit of the music used was by Japanese artists, which I thought was especially interesting since this game was created by a small studio in Italy. The art consisted of hand-drawn, watercolor-like profiles of the hotel and the characters. It seemed quite simple at first, but in more emotional scenes they used these drawings and colors in abstract ways to portray the feeling of the moment, giving us a very close-up into them and their reactions.
Each of the guests that Isabelle consults have a different approach to her. In the end, though, they do all understand that it is time for them to move on. This game's plot did feel al little familiar to me - if you strip away the cute animals and crafting from Spiritfarer and add moody rock music, you get Homunculus Hotel. Jokes aside, they are quite different as games and as storytelling devices, but evoke a somewhat similar feeling of closure. However, to this game's credit, I felt they did an excellent job of also letting us understand the protagonist's journey and letting them have their moment of understanding as well. Her story wasn't as straightforward as I expected. This story of queer love and heartbreak felt very complex, authentic, and heart-wrenching. It's one of the best relationship stories I've seen depicted in a game.
Homunculus Hotel is a an authentic and pensive piece of art. It's short and simple, but it conveys a lot of feelings in that short time. It acknowledges the struggle of just existing and being ourselves in world that may not accept us, while also addressing pain of letting go of that same world. It's about love, grief, and acceptance. If you're a fan of thoughtful visual novels (especially ones with great music), I recommend this game. I'd also recommend it if you really liked Spiritfarer and want to explore a very different type of game with similar themes.
Homunculus Hotel is available on PC
Played on: PC (Steam Deck)
Playtime: 1 hr