LifeisXbox’s Onsen Master review | If you’re a fan of games such as Overcooked, Moving Out, KeyWe, and Bake ‘n Switch, I’ve got just the game for you. Developed by Waking Oni and published by Whitethorn, I present to you: Onsen Master, a brand new hot spring customer management game. Yes, you read that correctly: you’ll be in charge of putting people in baths. Packed in a Japanese theme, Onsen Master aims to provide a fun single-player story mode or an evening of fun with competitive couch multiplayer. Does it succeed in doing so? Well, yes and no actually. Let’s walk through all the pros and cons of Onsen Master!
Most Memorable Moment
My most memorable moment was definitely seeing that 0% of players had gotten the achievement for defeating the final boss. This really encouraged me to go for it. My friend and I went all in, ready to be the first players that defeated the final boss (which seemed kind of odd as this is a short game, but we were too hyped to care). Due to bad coordination, it took a few tries to defeat the final boss, but then it finally happened. We got our strategy all worked out, ready to dive in… and we defeated the boss! And then nothing happened. No achievement thing popped up. And that was that. A memorable moment, albeit in a negative way.
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer.
What we Liked!
- Chaotic gameplay | If you’ve ever played games like Overcooked, you know things can get quite chaotic. In the best possible way, of course. Onsen Master is basically the same idea, except you’re preparing hot baths for customers. There are six different areas to play through, each containing three levels. The first level starts off the easiest and by the third level, there is a boss to defeat in order to continue to the next area. Now, for the gameplay itself, it’s pretty straightforward. Customers line up, wanting to take a bath. They all have specific preferences, so you’ll have to prepare baths using five ingredients: calm root (red), curashell (white), merryseed (blue), peacesprout (yellow), and wellberry (green). You’ll need to prepare these ingredients and then put them in a bathtub. Then you can take customers by the hand and guide them towards the baths (there is a limited amount of people that can go in a bath). After a while, baths get dirty so cleaning them is something you must tend to as well. And don’t forget to clean your floors and they get wet and dirty as well. It all sounds pretty easy, and that would be the case if it wasn’t for all kinds of difficult customers (yokai), like turtle-like Kappa, big blobs called Bozu, foxy Kitsune, and wooden Sudama. Each of these special customers requires a different approach and keeping an eye on them is quite important as they tend to ruin things for other customers. At the boss level, a giant yokai appears that will need to be defeated.
- Different playstyles | As is the case with most of these games, there are different playstyles provided. You can either follow the story in story mode or completely skip it and play in arcade mode. When you’re choosing to play the story, you can either go solo or play with a friend in co-op mode. The arcade mode offers a third, even more chaotic option: versus. I found that the co-op mode was my favorite. Working together with my friend was very much chaotic but also ended up being a lot of fun. Trying to coordinate our moves didn’t go smoothly in the beginning, but the more we played, the better we got. Usually. Let’s just say it included a lot of yelling and laughing. Of course, there are also easy, medium, and hard options to choose from.
- Charming art style and soundtrack | The art style in which Onsen Master was made, is quite compelling. The areas all have a different look and feel, and the characters/customers you encounter do too. I quite enjoyed the way the game looked and the dialogue also turned out pretty great with various animations (a lot of crying from the main character Mu was included though). Add to this a fairytale-like soundtrack with uplifting vibes and you get a good package artsy-wise.
- Basic story | In Onsen Master, we follow a young girl named Mu who lives on the island of Izajima. A dark cloud has sprung over the island and it’s negatively affecting the inhabitants. To make things worse, some mischievous spirits (so-called yokai) have made their way to the island, causing problems in the various hot springs (onsen) on the island. It’s now up to Mu to fill the shoes of her missing sensei, the great Onsen Master, and restore the once peaceful balance. And what happened to the great Onsen Master? You’re all about to find out in this story. A story I honestly did not care for that much. It was fun, but my focus was mainly on the gameplay. And it was honestly quite annoying that, if you failed a level, or wanted to replay a level, you have to go through the dialogue that starts off each level. It would’ve been nice to have a skip button rather than doing click click click until the dialogue was over.
- Short gameplay | As I mentioned above, there are six areas to clear, each containing three sublevels. Now, getting through all of these levels will probably only take you two hours and can be done in one sitting. This makes Onsen Master quite a short game. Of course, there is some degree of replayability as each level has three stars you can gain. But then again, getting a three-star rating on a level wasn’t that difficult so you will most likely achieve three stars on your first or second try. Then there are the different game modes (co-op and versus, story and arcade) but you’re left with only six different areas so you grow tired of them quickly. I feel like more content would’ve been nice.
What we Disliked
- Chunky controls | The biggest downside of this game is definitely the imperfect controls. If you want to play a game where you feel like you are not in control of your character half the time, this is your go-to game. The controls felt slow and unresponsive a lot of the time, not allowing precise moves. When I walked in a certain direction, my character just continued in that direction until they could go no more. Honestly quite annoying as you’re on a clock! As I tested Onsen Master on the Xbox Series X, I used a controller. I saw that the game is also available on PC, and I honestly cannot imagine how much worse it must be like with a keyboard and mouse.
- Bugs | Unfortunately, Onsen Master fell prey to some irritating bugs. At one point, our level started but our characters were, I don’t know, invisible. They basically disappeared. We could easily start over the level, but still, it’s not something you want to encounter. It was also too easy to lose track of your character, in my opinion. Some clients or items on the map blocked your view too much and you ended up losing sight of your playable character. Which sucked, as you’re working with a timer and often cannot afford to waste that time. And then there are the achievements. According to the log, I unlocked 4 out of 33 achievements. However, when I scrolled through the achievements, I saw that we were supposed to have unlocked many more. For example, there is an achievement if you beat a boss. We defeated every boss and didn’t get a single achievement. Now, I’m not known as an achievement hunter but I foolishly thought literally no one had beaten the Oni boss yet (the final boss) because it said 0.00% unlocked this achievement. Of course, this didn’t turn out to be the case and the tracking it just broken.
How long to beat the story | 2 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 2 to 4 hours
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Head of PC team. PC, Switch, and Xbox game reviewer. Also a marketeer, concert and animal lover, and photographer in training 🙂