“Good luck superchamp”. These are the words of encouragement the hot wings salesman echoes as you leave his shop in D20Neography’s strange and wacky Hotwing Simulator. You will be needing lots of luck to succeed in the “experience”, let alone understand it. But herein lies the beauty of this game. Arriving on the itch page you are presented with nothing but a looping patterned background of the game map and the “Run Experience” button with the embedded player. No instructions, no info about the game, even the attribution data that usually hangs on the bottom of every itch game page is hard to parse thanks to clever choices in the layout. Intentionally cryptic, you’ll need to learn about the “game” by playing it, which also makes this a hard game to spotlight. To get the true Hotwing Simulator experience, stop reading this article and go play it right now with no preconceptions. Once you’ve had a taste of those fiery morsels, come back and read the rest of this article. You may want to start on easy.
Okay, you’ve either played through as much as you can, started and given up, or was compelled to keep reading against my warning. Either way, here’s my impression of Hotwing Simulator.
The game opens with the image of a hazmat adorned man with glowing eyes staring at you beside some lab equipment. He asks what difficulty you want to play, and if you want hints in the game, then it starts. The hints themselves are sparse if you choose to use them, coming at what feels like random timing and it’s very much possible to progress quite far before learning some of the main mechanics with them. Your character can explore the city (which feels mostly like a post-apocalyptic wasteland) and either attack trash cans or interact with animated entities to collect coupons. The coupons can be exchanged for hot wings at the local shop, the building which has smoke/steam billowing out in front of it. Head up onto the roof of the shop, and you can use the ‘B’ button to consume a wing.
Eating a wing will offer you the option to increase one of three attributes: size, strength or speed. You might be tempted to just eat all your wings and get buffed out or increase your speed right away, but be careful – hunger will strike at random while travelling the city and you will be forced to eat a wing. If you are all out of wings and at the smallest size, you will die of hunger and the simulation will be over. Increasing your size is one way to prevent death from hunger, as it will instead shrink your size. There are other moments in the game where you might want to be bulked up in size though, so this comes with risks too.
You start off with 3 wings, and each attribute can be increased twice. Once you are fully satiated, additional wings consumed turn into “rare” wings. These can be exchanged for special items or information in the game. Entering the different buildings will meet you with strange and unusual characters besides the hot wing salesmen, and it’ll be up to you to decide which ones to trust. There is also an arena directly in front of where you first start the simulation. Defeating trash cans here will award you wings directly, but these trash cans fight back. There have been many playthroughs of mine where entering the arena has ended my run tragically short. Also, you will not be allowed to fight if you are any larger than the smallest size.
So therein lies the basic gameplay loop of Hotwing Simulator: fight trash and explore to find coupons, exchange for wings, get buffed, find rare wings and earn… well, that’s also kind of cryptic. I’ve spent hours on this game trying to find enough rare wings and earn everything, but there are still mysteries to be discovered. Its quirky presentation and main gameplay loop is enough to keep me motivated to search out these secrets, even with a relatively small map (it’s only four screens that loop) and the random nature of the rewards.
While this game may not have an in depth battle system (press A to attack, and that’s it), and a somewhat repetitive gameplay loop, the nature of the risk/reward system, the progression of the rewards and the zaniness of it all has kept me hooked and is a great study in how setting up a game in a certain way can engage players.
You can check out the game on the Hotwings Simulator itch page. At this point it is only available to play embedded on the itch webpage and can’t be downloaded as a ROM, but D20Neography has informed me of their intention to release a ROM of the game at a later date. Follow them on itch to be notified when it’s released if you’re interested.
Audio Engineer, Mac Technologist and Video Game Developer. Managing Editor of GBStudio Central. (he/him)