'Hot Pot Panic' Is a Charming Fake Friendship Simulator

Reflect on the horrors of socializing while cooking up some delicious video game food.

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Nov 8 2018, 6:28pm

courtesy of Keane Ng

Free Play is a place where we write about interesting, entertaining, or enlightening free games you can play right now.

You’ve been there. You’re walking down the street, minding your own damn business, enjoying your own damn life when suddenly, someone yells out your name in a surprised, yet unbelievably excited tone. You pause for a moment, a moment in which a thousand thoughts flood your mind—“It’s my fault for walking by campus,” “Did they notice I saw them first and didn’t say hi,” and “Oh god I hope we don’t do the thing everyone does and say, ‘Let’s go to lunch sometime!’”

You turn around. “Ohmygod heyyy!! Wow I can’t believe how long it’s been!” You try to resist but—oh god here it comes, and somehow, you manage to make it worse, “We should go to lunch sometime!! And, let’s not just say we will and never do it—let’s actually do it.”

A few weeks later, you’re sitting at said lunch. After two cancellations, the raincheck was finally cashed. And now you’re stuck here at a restaurant, filled with hunger, anger, and obligation.

A lone woman of indeterminate age begins an anecdote saying

This is Hot Pot Panic, a game developed by Keane Ng, featuring the music/sound stylings of Michael Berto. You and a friend are at an all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant, and somehow, you must manage a conversation on top of filling your belly with yummy foods.

Over the course of three rounds, you are tasked with cooking your hot pot ingredients to sparkly perfection, while staying attentive to your poor friend who just hasn’t seen you in so long and wow I guess there’s a whole lot to catch up on.

In real life, there are options for survival here—like, choosing your favorite restaurant and skipping breakfast, just so you can spend the whole time avoiding small talk by munching on all the deliciousness you can order. However, in Hot Pot Panic, you are forced to pay attention.

The game will prompt you to ask your friend questions, taking your dedication away from the bubbling goodness in front of you. They answer, and you’re given three choices to respond with. If you choose wrong, you offend said friend, and after two incorrect responses, the friend will leave. All this time, you must look back and forth between your food and your friend to make sure you’re catching just enough of the conversation you need to answer correctly, while making sure nothing’s burning in your hot pot.

Here’s the thing, a best friend, hell even a good friend, would understand just how wonderful all-you-can-eat hot pot truly is, and would probably eat alongside you in silence until finally, with full bellies and knowing smiles, you both say, “That was great, we should definitely do that again.” That is the ideal sharing-a-meal-together friend.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. Instead, we live in the world of Hot Pot Panic, in which sometimes, because of needless social obligations, we must get lunch with someone we have no desire to get lunch with. And because we are good people, we don’t want to ruin these relationships; rather, we’d like them to continue on the mediocre terms we’ve set out for them...so, we awkwardly lunch.

This game scratches two very important itches for me: time management mechanics, and the aesthetics of delicious animated food. Also, it’s a great excuse out of any friend dates you may have coming up...just saying.

You can download Hot Pot Panic for Windows and macOS on its itch.io page.

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