HuniePop: A Review

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It would be a lie if I said that the prospect of seeing some cartoon titties didn’t pique my interest, but what actually got me to play the game was the praise for the writing of the characters and the challenging match 3 game that is a big part of HuniePop.

Most, if not all, dating sims revolve around a shy boy or girl that gets plopped into a situation surrounded by attractive but archetypical characters and they must woo, bed, and fall in love with as many as they can. This is done by chatting them up, learning more about them, choosing the correct dialogue options, and remembering facts about each character such as their favorite ice cream flavor, blood type, and history. If you choose incorrectly when you are eventually quizzed on your knowledge, they won’t like you as much. Kind of like real dating.

Where HuniePop takes a turn, is that in addition to the standard formula, a match 3 game determines the success of a date. It is pretty simple at first, until you get to the NG+ / Hard difficulty, where the game gets increasingly more difficult each time you play regardless if you win or not. The game is the standard slide candy/blocks/tokens/things around to match 3 or more of them together. However, there are a lot of different tokens to slide around in this game than usual.

There are 4 blocks that represent 4 things that impress the characters: Sexuality, Flirtation, Talent, and Romance. Each girl likes one and dislikes one, meaning you get a lot of points for the one she prefers, and just a few points for the one she dislikes. The goal of the game is to accumulate a certain number of points with a limited number of turns to successfully conclude the date.

In addition, there are sentiment tokens which open up one time power-ups you can use, broken hearts which sets your point total back and the girl scold you for being a jerk, bell tokens which can give you extra turns, and passion tokens which increase the passion level, giving each other token a boost in the score it gives you. There is a lot, and it has a slight resource management level on top of its match 3 mechanics, where your priorities constantly shift to make sure you have the best chance of reaching your goal.

 

The power-ups also open the game up to different strategies and play styles, and whereas the game was not terribly challenging at first (on easy), when I switched to hard I started feeling a drive to master these mechanics, a drive which I haven’t felt in a puzzle-ish game in years. And this is coming from someone who plays a fair amount of mobile games, many of which have similar mechanics.

The girls you meet in the game are generally well written and half of them are foul mouthed. You start the game as a loser nerd boy or girl, who meets a love fairy (or something). She makes it her mission to reform you and teach you how to get girls. The girls follow a bunch of archetypes but in general, half of them are not terribly attractive personality-wise, which is kind of the fun, hearing the exaggerated and rather paper thin characterization of them. This is done on purpose and in jest, and generally shows that the game does not take itself seriously. In addition, the game seems to make it a point that you are a loser by constantly having many of the girls berate and tease you.

 

There was a bit of a storm when the game was released on Steam, as it had to be censored due to a few images of naked girls. Before everyone runs for their pitchforks or calls me a perv, I am aware that most actual dating sims get a bad rap for “rewarding” the player with erotic images after successfully wooing the character, but in reality they are much less sexual or misogynistic than games such as GTA or The Witcher series.

Dating sims, including HuniePop, generally feed the player with images as they successfully progress through the game. The images start off being innocent ones (like you would get tagged in on Facebook), to playful ones (like you would get sent privately on Facebook), to more naughty ones (like you would get on Snapchat) to explicit ones (like you would keep locked away on your phone.) The idea here is twofold. One, is to provide further motivation to the player to continue, as most games do in one form or another, and two, attempt to build a rapport with the player to cultivate some sort of feelings rather than just sexual lust. In many ways, a dating sim’s progression through courtship is a simplified version of real life. We slowly get to knoweach other, which makes the relationship become stronger and in turn more intimate. Compared to Bioware’s Dragon Age series, which boils romance down to some correct dialogue choices, some gift giving, and then choosing the “hey, let’s fuck” dialogue option. Or the Witcher and God of War series, which just goes “Hey Boobies!”, HuniePop and other dating sims give us a more realistic way of experiencing romance in a game. Not perfect, or anything close to it, but better.

Although most of the women in the game give you a hard time for playing it, for sure.

 

Dating sims are still distilled, gamey attempts at depicting romance, but in some ways, they are, generally, the best depictions we have of it in gaming. HuniePop goes about it in a crass, satirical manner. There is very little actual romance here but that is also part of the fun. It makes fun of itself, the people who play these types of games, and the whole dating sim genre, while at the same time having a great and engaging match three game (that I would play with or without boobies.)

 

 

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