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HuniePop (PC) artwork

HuniePop (PC) review

"Scoff if you like, but this game contains some of the best digital dating action you're likely to ever find."

HuniePop is a dating simulation title from Ryan Koons, an industry veteran with experience working for a number of established developers. It's not the sort of output you would expect any of those larger studios to produce--ever--so he launched a Kickstarter project to try to raise the $20,000 it would take to make his game possible. The crowdfunding effort wound up raising more than $50,000 by the time it finished, and the result finally arrived early this year.

If you've played "dating simulation" titles in the past, particularly those developed in Japan and localized for North America, you know that generally the idea is to make cartoon girls happy enough that they'll sleep with you. In HuniePop, this feat is accomplished by scoring sufficient points in match-3 puzzles that stand in for actual dates. If you manage four successful excursions with the lady of your choice and the last one of those ends late in the evening, you can bed her. And then you can seek out other hotties, because you are a total player.

HuniePop (PC) image

The game begins by having you choose between a male and a female protagonist. That individual is never actually seen, and the resulting differences are very slight. Occasional bits of dialogue refer to you as either a girl or a boy, but the flow of the game is otherwise identical, as are most of the conversations (aside from a word or two). In theory, this means the game is appropriate for heterosexual guys, homosexual gals and other folks who defy conventional labels, but I would imagine it's members of the first group who serve as the primary audience. Basically, you have to be okay with lots of girls wearing very little and eventually nothing because you are a sexual phenomenon.

Speaking of attire: the Steam version of the game is censored, which is not immediately evident. Each of the first four times you have a successful date with one of the available vixens, she'll send you an increasingly provocative photo. Whether you're playing the uncensored version (available elsewhere, or by dropping a simple file into the appropriate folder on your PC) or the one you get from Valve, you'll see breasts but that's about it. The pure version, on the other hand, portrays sticky body fluids and genitalia.

I'm not sure what the point was in censoring the game, honestly, except that Steam must have certain standards. And that's fine. If panties and a lack of semen are the line in the sand, so be it. Still, it feels a little bit silly when you play your cards right on that fourth night and the girl is moaning and demanding "more" and then you get a shot of her in lingerie. I can't imagine most parents will say "Okay, yeah, the panties make it okay," and most adults who might give the game a shot probably want to see everything or nothing.

HuniePop (PC) image

But you know, maybe there are people who are playing this game for its true sim elements and for the puzzle action. That's not as silly a notion as it might seem, since those aspects actually go a fair bit deeper than one might reasonably suppose. Yes, the basic goal is sexual conquest, with assistance from a "love fairy" who encourages you to score at every available opportunity. But getting in each girls' good graces will take some genuine effort, thanks to the solid game mechanics that lie beneath the well-drawn surface.

Generally speaking, every successful date (regardless of the girl who accompanies you to one of the available venues) will ratchet up the difficulty level. On an excursion, you are provided an initial 20 turns with which to match enough tiles that you meet the rising score requirements. To succeed in the long-term, you'll need to bring along "date gifts," and it's also a good idea to enhance your character capabilities. Mostly, this means talking to the girls and answering multiple choice questions in a way that suits their personality. For example, one might ask you what you think about girls who smoke. She's a wild party animal, so responding that cigarettes are disgusting probably isn't going to win you any serious points. Another girl, an introvert, wants to know what you think of parties. Suggest that you don't really care for the fake people who attend them and that will please her mightily.

As you talk to the girls, you'll learn their vital stats, including height, weight, cup size, age, and birthday, among other things. Then as you chat with them after that, they will sometimes quiz you, to make sure that you were paying attention. There's genuine motivation to answer correctly, since you'll have an easier time unlocking character upgrades that make future dates go more smoothly, so the various elements tie together quite nicely.

HuniePop (PC) image

The game also is oddly addictive, particularly if you're a completionist. Spend time with the girls and you'll start unlocking different hairstyles and costumes, which lets you change how they appear when you meet them at their favorite hangouts. Even after you have "done the deed" with a particular lady, you can continue taking her on dates at various times during the day, and at a few different locations. You'll need to experiment if you want access to every one of her costumes.

Decking out each girl in her cutest outfit is quite rewarding. The ladies are all drawn with surprising detail, and the color work is very good. The still images you access after each successful date look very nice, and the generic models shown in other interactions are also very attractive, with slight animation when prompted by conversation. Voice work is included all over the place, and the actresses responsible did a terrific job delivering their lines in a way that lends additional personality to each character. Some surprisingly good compositions provide background music, as well, with the end result being a package that's definitely a cut above average.

Obviously, dating sim titles aren't for everyone, and match-3 puzzle games are a dime a dozen, but HuniePop finds engaging ways to combine the two genres and produce a whole that is better than the sum of its parts. This isn't a game you'd want to buy for your kids, but it's a surprisingly satisfying time waster once you put aside any objections you might have to the thought of cute cartoon girls going on an endless series of dates with a guy or girl who talks to a magical love fairy. So yes, there's obviously a very specific audience for this one, but it's one that in the end should come away quite satisfied. It looks like Mr. Koons knew what he was doing...


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (December 29, 2015)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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