Onsen Master is a place where people gather to unwind, but you will not be the one doing the relaxing. He is seen mixing ingredients, guiding customers, and handling tricky yokai.
Since discovering myself hypnotised and enchanted by the mock-game sections in the Wednesday Campanellas Diablo music video, Onsen Master captures the same magic, keeping me completely immersed in its complex little world.
The fantastic sense of synergy and style that is displayed throughout is first to strike; the music is excellent, highlighting traditional sounds that perfectly encapsulate the environment, and the overworld map that you select levels is both charming and elegant, paying tribute to stunning Japanese ukiyo-e artwork.
This vivacious sense of style is carried throughout, with funky character art in visual novel style cutscenes, and a selection of beautifully crafted onsens to manage. In docked mode, certain sprites may look a bit rough around the edges, but the gameplay is undeniably well-thought-out, and there is a palpable sense of love in its execution, from the small details of the bathhouses to the exploration of myths.
The Onsen Masters story is light and fun, focusing on Mu and his new-found-friend, a one-eyed yokai named Hitotsume, who Mu discovered hiding in the bathhouse. In response, Mu and Hitotsume decide to go on a journey, visiting every Onsen on the island and healing the ailing yokai.
Mu is an adorable little cinnamon roll that always sets out to excel at his best, and I loved Hitotsumes' company and the exploration of the conflict between the yokai and humans. Despite each character's only few expressions, the character art for the story sections is delightful and enthralling.
Onsen Master's story is simple but well-written, establishing the narrative while without overstaying its value. You may skip it (by pressing the + button on the Switch), but it's short and very engaging, so I recommend trying the story mode and sitting through the dialogue on your first playthrough.
Although the gameplay is fairly simple and shares many similarities to Overcooked, Onsen Masters' style and worldbuilding really make it stand out, as well as a great variety of unique challenges that keep things fresh.
As you get used to the controls, you have to keep your eyes on the ball, stay alert, and get used to them as soon as you get used to them. The next level is bound to keep you on your toes by introducing a new feature.
Each level has its own drawbacks, from established customers who dip straight into a bath and demand a specific ingredient, to a swarm of skeletons who enjoy yeeting you around the onsen if you don't serve them in time.
The kitsune who has a knack for engulfing you until you remove it with a bath of the right type was especially enjoyable (and frustrated me eternally). The final level of each location always features a boss battle, which is easily the game's highlight.
With a little practice, the onsen experience can certainly be a bit rough at times. Plus, there's a co-op mode if you need an extra assistant to ensure the smooth running of your onsen. This certainly cuts the edge off, making the game much more enjoyable.
Plus, upon completion of specific story missions for the first time, you unlock specific models in the arcade mode, which is a nice touch. There is also a PVP mode, but that's not my style, so I didn't test it out much personally. What I did find enjoyable
Onsen Masters isnt without its flaws, although it is capable of handling a few collision issues throughout. It can also be a bit clunky when it comes to specific ingredients or customers, especially when standing close together.
The number of times I have accidentally grabbed a fistfull of fruit instead of a customer's hand is humbling. And dont get me started on how many times Ive slid off surfaces and been unable to reappear them before my lovely bath mixture has vanished into thin air.
Despite this, I enjoy hoisting customers and yokai over my head with both hands in order to rinse them out of the bath, and found the overall control scheme to be intuitive and intuitive. Additionally, the representation of traditional folklore and magical creatures, including tengu, oni, and more, is treated with genuine respect for both the culture and the source material.
Onsen Master makes it your job to get them to heaven by visiting the bathhouse, whether it's young or old. I'll happily return to this virtual onsen again and again, both alone and with friends, for many years to come.
Onsen Master Switch review
Onsen Master is an enchanting, memento-like experience, with a beautiful aesthetic and plenty of madcap fun to be had. There are also plenty of cooperative and PVP modes to keep the gameplay fresh.