Sometimes, I feel like I have no idea what is happening in Million Onion Hotel. Other times, I am in complete control. These two states can, oddly enough, overlap. How? Why? Well, in a madcap game where controlling the board and ramping up a score trump all else, it can become necessary to toss out logic and reason.
Million Onion Hotel is a game from Yoshiro Kimura, the man responsible for Chulip, Little King’s Story and Dandy Dungeon. Like all of these titles, it is an incredibly creative game with a story that only just barely makes sense. In Hennokokora, a fictional continent fraught with all sorts of troubles, a man named Doctor Peace runs a hotel. It is renowned for its onion soup. Between vignettes showing its various guests, players pluck its onions and claim territory.
Said onions all have faces, by the way. As do all of the other creatures you will pluck from the ground and destroy. So I suppose you could say that this is a special soup made from things that appear to be onions?
Your goal in Million Onion Hotel is to accomplish as much as possible before time runs out. There are no definite markers of success, beyond a score. Onions and other items pop out of the ground. Some disappear with one tap, while others require multiple hits. Removing one causes the square it was in to turn red. When a whole row of five is red, you get points, the board clears, power ups appear and things get more frantic. Keep doing this in succession, and you will see different characters. Boss fights might even appear, which are framed as incredible attacks with Onion Knights (no relation to the ones from Final Fantasy) being plucked and thrust upon colossal foes who attempt to steal your valuable time.
Sometimes, I think the whole “time stealing” thing is a metaphor, because that is exactly what Million Onion Hotel does. It steals your time.
Between runs, brief story segments appear. These are often quite graphic. Or, that is, as graphic as a pixelated game can be. There is suggested gore, murder, sex and violence here. Not to mention soup. Somehow, this hotel is a hotbed for controversy, and at some point during its scenes you will see that famous onion soup tying it all together. They all tie together, eventually? Though, I still can’t seem to grasp what is happening. Perhaps it is because I haven’t earned all of the secret character cards or beaten 46,000 onions to see the good ending? I don’t know, really. I just don’t know.
Million Onion Hotel is a fever dream of a game. Whenever I open it up, I find myself frantically pawing at my screen to eliminate any and all obstacles in my way. I send onions and knights to fight inconceivable creatures. I observe the lives of people who probably aren’t very good people. Nothing makes sense, yet at the same time I do have a singular goal that is perfectly logical. I need to clear away the onions in perfect lines to dominate the board and earn points. By the time it is all over, I have spent more time tapping away at this game and have the distinct sensation that I enjoyed myself while I did.
I wonder why there are occasionally cows and stars. It probably does not matter. Or maybe it matters all too much? I shouldn’t overthink it. Trust me when I say no good can come from thinking too hard about the events of Million Onion Hotel.
There are three things of which I am certain. One is that Million Onion Hotel is an extraordinarily silly game. Things happen there that are nonsensical and unexpected. The other is that it is somehow quite addictive. Perhaps it is because it requires you to focus so intensely on a task that is seemingly simple, but also doesn’t often seem to make much sense. The third is that I quite enjoy playing it, perhaps because it is one of the quirkiest games I have seen in quite some time. This is a peculiar oddity with more layers than people might expect, and the opportunity to indulge in that whimsy is intoxicating.