The player assumes control of the protagonist, a teenage human girl.As the game follows a branching plot line with multiple endings, at various points during gameplay the player is allowed to make choices that determine which character's romance route the player will encounter.These documents can be viewed at any time in the game's archive feature, which is accessed from the title screen.After obtaining the four specific endings required to trigger it, the player is given a new prompt to either "fulfill the promise" or live "a normal life" upon starting a new game.In a departure from the generally lighthearted romantic routes, Bad Boys Love is presented as a murder mystery psychological thriller, and is significantly longer than any other route in Hatoful Boyfriend, making up most of the game's actual length.There are several changes to gameplay and the way text is displayed during Bad Boys Love in the original version of the game: saving is disabled except at certain points in the story, the function to skip dialogue and interactions is removed, and plot-important dialogue and narrative are highlighted with colored text; usually yellow, though text of particularly critical importance is highlighted in red.
In both versions, the game's interface and controls change from that of a standard visual novel to similar to that of a '90s-era turn-based role-playing game during certain segments of the narrative.
The in-game date is shown in the top left, and the arrow button in the top right allows the player to skip dialogue.
Hatoful Boyfriend is an interactive text-based visual novel that follows a branching plot line, with the player's decisions determining which of the game's multiple endings they receive.
The title is a pun on the wasei-eigo word hātofuru, as the game features pigeons and other birds as major characters.
The game is set in a version of Earth populated by sapient birds, and its main story follows the player character and protagonist—the only human attending St.