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I can't exactly relate to the problem that Hot Pot Panic presents, but it convinces me that it's a fun problem to have. If you've ever gone out to eat with friends simply for the food and not the "friendship" part, maybe you've attempted to eat as much as you can while trying to keep up with the conversation. That's exactly what Hot Pot Panic is all about.
Hot Pot Panic is developed by Keane Ng, and he presents this strange mix between a cooking simulator and visual novel. It's not quite either, because the cooking isn't complex by any means, and there are no significant choices to be made.
The premise is that you are invited out to eat with your unnamed friend. Your goal is to stuff your face with as much food as possible while trying to keep track of your friend's conversation. Normally, at restaurants you're served your already-cooked food, but this game takes place within a "hot pot" restaurant. This is something I've never wanted to experience until now. With my limited knowledge on the subject, that means you'll be plopping food into your own cooking pot.
Hot Pot Panic starts out deceptively simple. You'll be initiating conversation with three standard question prompts. Your friend will respond, and it's up to you to answer correctly without seeming like you aren't listening. Chances are, you'll only hear half of what she has to say, as your goal is also to fill your stomach full of delicious food. This food can burn if you don't keep track of it, which means it'll be inedible. Once the bread, tofu and other food becomes a tasty golden color, that's when you can frantically stuff your face.
There's three levels total, so the game isn't long, but it does become progressively more difficult. Cooking the food isn't hard by any means, since you just need to wait until you hear the sound indicating that it's done. You can't see both your friend's chat bubbles and food at the same time, so you need to decide if you want to check on your food or listen to what your friend says.
Eventually, the friend will ask you what you think on what she just said, and if you choose the wrong prompt then she might get a little suspicious. Choose the wrong prompt twice, and she knows that you're just in it for the food. Your friend will tell her story with more words each level, so it becomes harder to choose an answer correctly as there is more information to deal with.
Since college, I've mastered the art of skimming over text, so it wasn't overly difficult. I felt a bit of panic because I become invested in the game, but it isn't by any means stressful. In fact, with the simple, upbeat music and charming conversations, it's a great game to relax to if you're looking to unwind. The conversations are enough to keep me interested too. I learned that my friend saw someone drive into a dumpster one day. Another day, she talked about the ingenuity of holding a hot dog in your pocket. I'm not so convinced that's a good idea, but it was still funny to read.
Hot Pot Panic is a great example of the kind of titles you can find on itch.io. It's an original concept that's short and leaves you in a good mood. Sometimes I want to get away from the gory, hardcore games I usually lean to - Hot Pot Panic is a nice little palate cleanser that's definitely worth an hour of your time.
You can get Hot Pot Panic for free on itch.io.