Good morning, few readers that I have at present! Welcome to a new segment, if you will, that I am calling Circus Reviews, in which I review random games, almost like a professional! (Almost.)
To start things off, I will be covering one of my most recent purchases, a game I was not expecting to enjoy nearly as much as I did: HuniePop.
I started seeing HuniePop everywhere when it came out a few weeks ago, and was curious. My Internet inquiries revealed that it was basically a dating sim and a match-three game put together. Well, I happen to like both of those things...So why not? I hopped on both sides of the fence for a bit, and then I got my federal tax return, threw my hands up in the air, and bought a few games, with HuniePop among them.
HuniePop is, at its core, a dating sim. You start out as a hapless male or female with no romantic experience whatsoever, but luckily for you, a loudmouthed, porn-obsessed love fairy named Kyu descends from on high to set you on the path to romance...or, more accurately, the path to getting laid. She then shows you one half of the game, the not-quite-Bejeweled "date grid". When going on dates, you have a limited number of moves to make enough matches to fill a girl's affection meter. Each girl has matches they prefer over others, and there are also matches that give you extra moves, extra affection, or the ability to use power-ups called date gifts. Whether you succeed or fail at a date, you are given Munie, a currency that you use to purchase food, drinks, and gifts for the girls. You get more if you succeed, though, and filling a girl's affection meter is the only way to raise her heart level, which is the only way you'll be able to (eventually) take her home with you. Since each date increases the number of points you need to get to succeed but doesn't increase the allotted amount of moves, the game actually gets fairly challenging and starts to require a good amount of strategy if you want to pass.
You are introduced to eight different girls (with four "secret" characters unlockable later on), each with their own personalities, likes, and dislikes. To progress in the dating sim portion of the game, you talk to the girls, trading opinions or asking then questions about themselves - and make sure that you remember their answers, because they will quiz you on them later. Making a girl happy in conversation by telling them something they like hearing or remembering a personal fact they've told you previously awards you Hunie, the other of the two in-game currencies. Hunie is used to purchase upgrades for the aforementioned match-three game, upgrades that you'll need pretty badly before too long, since each date you go on gets progressively harder. You can also get Hunie by buying a gift for a girl; the more expensive the gift, the more Hunie you get.
So, if you hadn't already figured it out, the goal of this game is basically to get every girl in bed. And as you might expect from such a game, the whole thing has a certain aura of sleaziness about it. Special mention goes to the HunieBee, which is a PDA-like device that you receive fairly early on. It allows you to track a girl's location, keeps track of her stats, tells you what she likes and dislikes...The real life implications of this are perhaps a bit troubling, to say the least. Then there's the fact that Kyu, your personal love fairy companion, kind of pushes you on this quest against your will in the first place; she stalks you to your bedroom after meeting you in a bar one night and refuses to let you alone until you agree that yes, your hopelessly virginal self is in desperate need of her help. And the way the dating sim is set up leaves no room for silly things like monogamy or actually caring about a girl; if you want to get anywhere, you're going to need to tell the girls what they want to hear whether you actually believe it or not. And you can only take a girl on a date once per day, so trying to focus on one girl at a time is made ridiculously impractical. Paradoxically, you also have a lot of stats to remember for each girl, and you're not allowed to look up the answers in-game while a girl is asking you to recall the information; trying to do so only gets you the message, "Nice try, cheater!" (Of course, there isn't anything stopping you from opening an Internet browser to look the stuff up...)
The girls themselves are carefully designed to encompass a wide variety of tropes, from the introverted gamer girl to the outgoing college cheerleader. They do have well-developed personalities, the character art is high quality, and the voice acting in particular was clearly given a lot of attention (I personally found the voice of Jessie, the "adult film star," to be very fitting). But it feels a lot like you're just fulfilling a list of fantasies, and not anything really new.
All that said, HuniePop's writing is amazing. Offensive and terrible, but hilariously so. The love fairy talks about the girls like they're meat candy; the porn star calls you "daddy" with a completely straight face; the cat girl adopts you as her master and means it exactly like you think she means it. It's so obviously meant to be insulting that I couldn't help but laugh. You could take the whole project at face value and be wounded by it, or you could take it as a laughable parody and have some fun with it.
The biggest complaint I'd have to give the game is its lack of a strong finish (har har har). Once you get a girl in bed, they don't really treat you any differently aside from one flirty comment the morning after, and outside of unlocking the four secret characters, the post-game is non-existent. You will probably max out your trait upgrades before completing the game, and once you do that and get all the girls in bed, there isn't really much else to do; the game just kind of keeps going indefinitely. You could always try to buy every girl every possible gift, or make sure that you've asked them every question about themselves you can, but grinding on these tasks gets tedious rather quickly, and with your in-game currency maxed out it doesn't serve much purpose.
Another issue I have is that despite the well-developed characters, their relationships outside of you aren't really explored. You meet each girl by catching sight of them during your introduction to another girl, but outside of these first interactions, the girls' friendships away from you don't get much attention. You even find out that two of the girls are an estranged mother and daughter, but that relationship isn't delved into either.
Now, at time of writing, the developer has mentioned a planned patch for the game that will add some more post-game content, so my concerns above may well be addressed in the near future. As it stands, it's a fun little game that contains some hours of enjoyment, but ultimately fizzles out at the end.
Whether or not you enjoy this game depends entirely on your ability to take it with a grain of salt. It's not everyone's cup of tea, and I can see why people are offended by it. But keep it mind, it was made with a certain purpose and for a certain target audience. If you're really that upset by it, then don't worry; it wasn't made for you. And besides, it's only ten bucks for some match-three games, dirty pictures, factoid memorization, and bonus orgasm mini-games. The complete package right there!
HuniePop is available on Steam, MangaGamer, or directly from the developer. The Steam version is censored; the MangaGamer and developer versions are uncensored, and purchasing either also provides you with a Steam key.
Final verdict: An amusing game with high production value that is a good buy if you aren't offended by some of its more unfortunate implications. Hurt by a lack of content outside the main goal, but fun while it lasts.
HuniePop is developed by HuniePot. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.