Honesty first: I purchased HuniePop for myself during the Steam Summer Sale. I was also silly in not doing any research on the game before purchasing. Money was burning a hole in my wallet and that had to be handled. So, when I saw a manga art styled match-three puzzle game (which can be fun) mixed with relationship building (something I really enjoyed in my all-time favorite game, Persona 4), I snatched it up. Now, I have people I like and respect on my friends list, people who can see what I am up to. I really need to figure out how to hide my activity from them because this is shameful.
Our hero wakes up from a dream and finds himself introduced to Kyu, a love fairy who has taken it upon herself to take the protagonist from virgin to syphilitic in as quick a fashion as possible. To accomplish this, she takes our soon-to-be-herpes-ridden friend out on the town where he comes across a variety of females. Whispering the best way to approach the romantic conquest, she set us on our way to woo. And woo we shall. (I like the word “woo.”) Each of the potential partners has varying personalities, based on commonly accepted tropes. These range from the college attending cheerleader to the hopelessly obnoxious brat thing. (Audrey, you are exactly the type of person who should be drowned in a pool of your own bile.) To earn upgrade points, to make the match three puzzle portion easier, the hero must give acceptable gifts as well as talk to the female. In doing this, we are either provided the opportunity to ask and answer background questions, and prove that you remember the character’s information. (Why these women are okay with telling a complete stranger their cup size and then get upset if they do not remember is beyond me.)
Then there is actually dating the women. This is done via a match three puzzle system. Each potential partner has specific likes and dislikes that correspond with a colored piece on the board. For example, Kyu is all about the red, which is for sexuality. Therefore, matching pieces that they like woos the woman more effectively, filling up the bar at the bottom of the board. When the bar is filled, the date is successful. If the player is not able to do it in the allotted amount of turns, she expresses disappointment. Of course, there is always the next day…
So, it’s like Puzzle Quest.
After three successful dates, completing the woman’s arc requires one last date at night. Successful completion of this date leads to a revisit to the heroes room for one last, stress-free board match to simulate the act of making sweet, sweet matches. It climaxes with a very risque shot of the female post-coitus. The first one of these absolutely caught me by surprise, though in retrospect, I don’t know what I should have expected.
You’ll notice that I have spent most of my review describing the gameplay with some snarky asides. That is because I have a hard (HA!) time deciding how I feel about this. Most of the women are cardboard cut-outs in the personality description department, but the dialogue is mostly amusing. I particularly liked Kyu, the bro-talking fairy. That said, in order to properly progress, the player must tell the woman what they want to hear as opposed to being honest. I can separate playing a game from reality, but this still left me feeling off. This might simply be because I have been working through TellTale’s Game of Thrones series with the wife, where the player’s decisions reflect in the world. Coming from that into this could be the reason “lying” to the women actually stuck with me.
The puzzle part is where the fun is really at. Lining up combos while avoiding matching broken heart pieces works as an analogue for a date. (Editor’s note: The author has been with his wife since high school. He knows nothing of dating.) The art direction is bright, and colorful, and features character designs that were conceived and executed with great care. It looks good.
The only gameplay related complaint I have is during the late game portion. Once all the abilities are maxed out, there isn’t much reason to continue speaking to the ladies. This is doubled due to the fact that the conversations repeat fairly often. So, if you are trying to close the deal with a specific woman, you will need to jump back and forth between characters, with a load time in between each switch, until it is the correct time of day. And then, you better hope the woman isn’t out of town or sleeping. I spent far too much time doing this to finish up the end.
When it comes to how “hot” this is, I must confess that I am not a good judge. While I can appreciate the art and design, these are still just drawings. “2D” just doesn’t do it for me. If you do like this type of thing, I’m not judging. I will warn you that you will have to put in some work to get the reward. So, hmm, that’s actually kind of a feminist design there… I will also let you know that there is an easily obtainable patch that can be added to get the “full” game. This just adds or removes art layers to make the game a hard AO, including “buttermilk.” So that’s a thing that I came across playing a game.
If I am being honest with myself, I actually enjoyed my time with HuniePop. It’s a great game to use for relaxing. The puzzles can become challenging later in the game, but the player can take as much time as needed to chart the best moves, and the game itself is nice to look at. I would not have bought it if I actually knew what it included due to public shaming, but I am still kind of glad I did. My recommendation breaks down like this: If you liked Puzzle Quest and want more of that and can deal with the soul-crushing ridicule that you will endure when your wife walks in as you are playing , give it a shot. If you haven’t played Puzzle Quest, play Puzzle Quest.