I Played a Whole Bunch of HuniePop
Here’s my in-depth review I guess?
HuniePop is a weird thing that exists. And I kind of love it.
It’s a fusion of dating sim, visual novel, RPG grinding, and Bejeweled-esque match three puzzling.
Kind of like Puzzle Quest then, but with Sexy Anime Ladies(tm). And the quest is to hook up with the ladies. By solving puzzles. And buying them presents. And building up your stats.
The game was birthed on Kickstarter, where it earned a little over 50 grand. It’s more…lascivious angles were the main focus of the pitch. HuniePop features lots o’ adult content. Swearing. Frank discussion of sex. “Sex Scenes” which are really just match three puzzles with anime girl moaning. Half-naked anime ladies…or fully naked anime ladies if you buy the uncensored version which is available in many places that aren’t Steam.
Here’s the thing: the anime lady stuff is, by far, the worst part of this game. And not just because it’s often gross fanservice. Rather, it’s because this side of the game can’t decide whether it’s a spoof or the very thing it’s spoofing.
But I’ll get back to that. I played over 12 hours of this game, because the core mechanics are great.
Some real work went into the design of the actual game parts of the game. The match three mechanic is a hybrid of Bejeweled and Puzzle and Dragons. You can select a piece, then drag it as far as you want to the left or the right, or up and down, but only in the row or column it started in. There’s a limited number of moves during the main puzzles, and you’re trying to hit a certain score threshold. Different bonus icons on the playfield can give you extra moves when matched, or build a multiplier, or give you points to spend on special one-time-per-puzzle abilities, which you unlock by finding loot items. Each girl has icon matches they prefer and loathe, which affects scoring bonuses accordingly.
It’s a brilliantly-designed puzzle game, complex and thoughtful in its execution. The RPG elements keep you going, playing more puzzles to get more points to get more stuff to stay ahead of the ever-increasing difficulty curve of the puzzles. I got way into this gameplay loop, and I had to get better at the game to keep progressing. There are no major penalties for losing either, so it offers the perfect balance of challenge and fun.
The rest of the game, sadly, is all over the place. By the rest of the game, I mostly mean the presentation layer/sexy anime girl stuff. Let’s cover the good things first. The production values are incredible for such a low-budget low-brow game. The music is quite fantastic, with a huge list of original tracks that perfectly accentuate all the locations you visit, although its stereo mixing is a little lacking. (The standalone soundtrack on Steam sounds a little better in this regard, but it’s still mostly mono.) There’s a ton of fully voiced dialogue in the game, and the actresses used are really good. The artwork is well-done, and the characters animate well when they talk. The main character can be either male or female, and separate scripts were written to address the player properly, which was probably a huge amount of work. Impressive for such a small game.
However, it’s ultimately the writing that lets this game down. Hard.
Half of it is fun, and doofy, and quite intelligent. It’s full of smart jokes about the nature of fanservice-y anime stuff and dating sim games.
The other half of it is just lewd nonsense, peppered with light racism, needless swearing, and winking nods to how horrible the very things its conveying are.
This latter thing is the lamest form of parody. It’s not a spoof to just say “Hey look at this common trope and how silly it is!” and then turn around and just do that thing. HuniePop does that over and over again, right next to genuinely good writing. Writing which tries to flesh out the characters…only to turn around and make an offensive joke to try and be “edgy.”
It feels like two different people wrote this game, and never talked at all about what the tone of the game was going to be. One of them was making a clever examination of lewd dating sims…and the other one was making a lewd dating sim.
But man, the game parts of this game are really incredible.
So…I don’t know where I stand on this. Should you play this? Definitely not if you’ll be offended by the sight of half-naked anime ladies and sometimes tasteless humor. Similarly, if you’re just in this for anime fanservice, this is probably too much of a game for you, filled with great mechanics and game design. I don’t know who this thing is for. But it was a weird, interesting, and kind of frustrating adventure to go on. I don’t at all regret my time with it, even though I felt a little skeezy and creeped out during several moments.
Maybe just play a Puzzle Quest game. Now that I’ve finished HuniePop, that’s exactly what I’m going to do! There’s a hard mode and a bunch of obnoxious achievements in this game after you’ve finished it, if that’s your thing. But I’m moving on.