A Paladin’s Review: Huniepop. The Review that will Doom My Credibility Forever.

Dating Sim + Match Three Puzzle Game for All Platforms.

Dating Sim + Match Three Puzzle Game for All Platforms.

Yup, this is exactly what you think it is.

There was a lot of personal struggle on whether I should post this review or not. It will doubtless concern/tick plenty of people off that I’m even playing this game, let alone doing a full review on it. But then, if I cared about what people thought, I wouldn’t operate A Paladin the way that I do. So, I decided it was time to own up to what I’ve fought for in the past. I’ve made the argument more than once that videogames can have mature content in them. That the Adults-only rating shouldn’t be restricted to the darkest corners of the Internet. We can all be reasonable adults about this and Huniepop is mature in how it uses the sexual content. Which is more than I can say for other notable AAA titles. Is it still very sexual and titillating at times? Yes. It isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. However, I ask that you have an open mind about this.

Oh and while there’s no nudity in this post, this is a sexually explicit game so standard warning about avoiding this post if that sort of thing bothers you or the people around you. 

Read and rate the review on Steam.

A Paladin’s Review: Huniepop. The Review that will Doom My Credibility Forever.

  • Genre: Tactical Match-3 Puzzle Anime Dating Sim
  • Developed & Published by: Huniepot
  • Platform Support: Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Business Model: Base Game
  • Copy gifted by a friend

Preamble

I started the series A Paladin’s Journey Through Steam earlier this year which was a series that features interesting new releases on Steam. One of the earliest and notable titles I ran across was Huniepop. A game that I wrote off quickly and cynically. To me, all I saw was another lazily made anime game designed for lonely nerds who just wanted boobies to look at. I even got some pretty amusing comments about it. (Though I’m quite bemused that a friend called this review. Curses.). However, I was linked to Jesse Cox’s look at the game in that thread and gave it a look. I figured that all I would lose is some time and maybe a few laughs at its expense. What I saw instead, surprised me. Not only did I notice that the game was not simply a cheap or poorly developed game, but a game with voice acting, narrative and in-depth mechanics. That took me aback and I knew then that I had to review it. Even if that meant I would eat some crow today.

Anime and animated TV/Movies has been a part of my life for a long time. However, it’s only recently that I’ve explored the genres of anime visual novels and more exotic titles such as Huniepop. I do enjoy it even if I am quick to poke fun at it at times. This review is a good reminder that I shouldn’t be so quick to judge. So here it is, my review of Huniepop.

Overall Gameplay Thoughts

Huniepop is a part dating sim and part match-three puzzle game. The dating sim part is where you’ll converse and interact with one of the eight women in the game. Each containing their own distinctive personality, preferences and voice actor. The match-three puzzle section is a board of affection blocks that you must match effectively in 20 turns. For the most part, Huniepop is focused on game mechanics than the story, expecting players to build their own narrative as the game goes on. Though granted the most narrative you’ll build is just how great/terrible you are with the ladies. There aren’t any men to date so if you’re into guys, well, this isn’t the game for you. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a review of a match-three game and it’s bemusing to me that it’s another genre-mixer that gets me interested in talking about it again. The combination of dating sim and match-three puzzles is weird and it does require you to accept that this is just how the game works. Even if it’s rather silly if you sit and think about it. That said, the mixing works and gives the game a natural rhythm and pace that I quite enjoyed.

One of the first "cutscenes".

One of the first “cutscenes”.

The Dating Game

Every day is separated by four time blocks: morning, afternoon, evening and night. The different times of day will affect where the women are, where they’ll go for a date and what they’re wearing. During each block you’ll have limited resources. Resources are Hunie and Munie. Hunie is used to improve your traits (which improves your match-three affection bonuses) and Munie is used for purchasing food and gifts. Food increases their energy, allowing you to talk with them and go on dates. They’ll need at least one unit of energy before they’ll go on a date. Gifts give you more hunie as well as unlock different outfits and hairstyles. Generally you want to talk with them as much as possible, give them appropriate gifts and take them on dates every session. But you’ll have an unlimited amount of tries to figure it out. So, if you mess up, it’s no big deal. You’ll just need to try again.

The general “campaign” is to take the women on five successful dates. Date them at night for the fifth successful date and you’ll get a bonus round where you *cough* have sex via a bonus match-three session where you get them to…climax by matching affection tiles as quickly as possible. Yes, you get a photograph of…what…happens. It’s as sexually driven as you probably think it is. While five dates doesn’t seem like a lot (or maybe it is), there’s some work to be done. You’ll need to figure out date gifts and make the right moves in the match-three section. Sometimes, the RNG is a cruel mistress and you’ll fail due to bad luck. Which you’ll then get accosted by the women for failing but oh well, not much you can do about it.

Some of the conversations.

I’m not going to say that Nikki talks like me at times…but sometimes she does.

I am willing to say that Huniepop is one of the better attempts at making sure the player is involved with every step of dating women. Of course, it’s far from what I’d like to see gaming accomplish when it comes to realistic relationships. It’s impossible to fail completely. It’s fairly one-sided even though the women will ask you questions about yourself and what you know of them. Furthermore, the worst thing that will happen when you mess up is a strong scolding or retort. There isn’t a game-ending consequence in Huniepop. If you fail the date, you can just start over the next day. Which, granted, means taking more time to woo her. However, the handling of dating and the eventual climactic finish is more involved than a lot of “dating” that I’ve seen in RPGs. You have to actually get to know these girls, remember facts about themselves and change your approach to each one depending on their preferences. You can’t simply can’t just say nice things to them until they get into your bedroom. A few of them actually respond to someone who’s a little more caustic or just as perverse as they are. There’s a reasonable amount of work involved in order to succeed at dating and conversation. Which, if you’re anything like myself, you’ll often fail dates and conversations early on. Making you look like an utter doofus just like in real life. Oh well.

There's some interesting characters to be found...

Audrey is a….honest young woman.

Match-3 Mechanics

How it essentially works is that you have to get to a certain level of affection with 20 turns/plays. You accomplish this by matching color blocks together and using date gifts at the right times. At first, the game is fairly forgiving of mistakes but as time goes on, you have to optimize each turn to gain the most amount of affection. The match-3 board has a few different twists from traditional games. First off, you’re able to move blocks around as far as you want in horizontal or vertical directions, giving you a little bit more flexibility in matching tiles together. Secondly, the game has date gifts (up to six available at any one time) which change how the board acts, give you additional turns, allow for scoring combos and much more. The date gifts give you several different ways to play in the puzzle sessions and it’ll be up to you to figure out winning combos. There’s a nice amount of variety with some combinations being risky while others safer though potentially can be screwed by the RNG. It creates a very tactical match-three experience that I really didn’t expect. Each move can potentially be the difference between winning and losing.

The Match-Three Portion

The Match-Three Portion

There are five different colored affection tiles and three unique tiles. The bell tiles give you additional turns when matched, the blue tears give you sentiment points which you’ll need for playing gifts and then there’s broken heart tiles which will cost affection if matched. Since you’re only given 20 turns every dating session, you need to find the most optimal plays in combination with the right usage of dating gifts in order to generate enough affection every date. It’s surprisingly challenging very time mostly thanks to that 20 turn limit. Even if you do make an accidental matching of broken hearts, it is possible to recover but sometimes that can be date-ending. If you find the regular difficulty too easy, there is hard and “alpha” mode which creates an additional and more punishing challenge. Overall, it’s a lot of fun and kept me engaged despite it being basically the same board.

Story Thoughts

The story is about, well, you. A player who’s extremely awkward when it comes to interacting with women. To the point that they need the help of a mythical magical Love Fairy, Kyu, to help them out. You know, Huniepop may not be wrong. I might just need a Love Fairy to assist in my dating life woes. After a short discussion in your bedroom about going out there and meeting women, which Kyu will refuse to accept your pessimistic view on your love life (I know, I really tried), you’re given a few dates to learn the ropes and get some advice. Then Kyu will send you out into the world to succeed with a device called a Huniebee. Said device allows you to buy gifts, track where the girls are and stores information that will be important for you to remember. This game’s story stands on the line of being either charming and funny or creepy and stalkery. Though I’m pretty sure it knows that.

I really tried to avoid this game...guess I forgot I could just close it.

I really tried to be pessimistic. She wouldn’t accept it.

Make no mistake. While Huniepop will take itself seriously often, it knows what it is and will own it. There’s plenty of fourth-wall breaking jokes and winks to the player that I found amusing and disturbingly accurate at times. Besides, if you can’t have fun at your expense for playing this game, you’re cold as ice. Overall, it’s just enough to create the game’s narrative and not much. It definitely wasn’t the focus of Huniepop. It instead focuses on the dating and creating a narrative in your head. Of how many different times you can fail or succeed to win women over.

Despite the game’s quality writing and voice acting, it does fall have same problem a lot of these games have: running out of lines. In Huniepop, it runs out around mid-way through the game with many of the same lines getting repeated. The story itself peters out after a fairly decent opening with the “plot” falling to the wayside. You don’t get to see the women interact with each other after the initial beginning nor get to see them doing things other than dating you. I will grant that we only interact with them in one time block per day so it’s not like you’ll see them 24/7. (I will additionally grant that if some of them knew you were dating so many women at the same time, they’d doubtless be furious with you.). Once you’ve “completed” a few women, there isn’t much of a storyline outside of the secret women you can unlock and a final talk with Kyu again. Who basically acknowledges your achievements and congratulates you, wishing you luck in the future. Huniepop will then let you keep on dating the same girls until the end of time. Or you can start over and try to get some of the more interesting/difficult achievements. If that’s your thing.

Probably the most annoying voice in the game. Still cute though.

Yeah….there’s this girl. Probably the most annoying voice in the game.

The Eight Women (and Secret Characters)

As mentioned before, there are eight different girls as well as some secret ones that you’re able to date. Each with their own different personality, preferences and mannerisms. From the shy gamer Nikki, to the self-centered Audrey, to the cougar Jessie, to the introspective Beli, the variety of personalities ensures that you’ll probably find someone interesting. For the most part, they follow their stereotypes but have a decent amount of character depth to keep them from being dull. There are also secret characters which let you date more…striking…girls including a cat girl, alien and even a goddess of love. When you’re conversing with each one, they’ll also quiz you with information they consider relevant. Whether that’s questions about your spirituality, to your sex life or whether you believe aliens exist. Celeste, the alien, will ask questions about the solar system and Kyanna, the achiever, will ask how often you work out. It adds a nice amount of flavor to each one and make them seem more realistic, even if it has been pre-recorded. Kudos to Huniepop but they’ve got a great variety of personalities.

Yea, we all know what this is in reference to.

Yea, we all know what this is in reference to.

I don’t like talking about this but I feel the need to bring up. That’s the physique of the women. They’re all basically built with thin bodies. The only real physical changes you’ll notice are their respective bust sizes and at least there’s a wide variety of sizes. Hey, don’t give me that look. The game points it out more than once. I understand that this was an intentional design to make them this way, but I’d like to see a game in the future craft as wide a range of physiques as Huniepop does personalities. I think that only be fair to everyone.

PC Settings and Audio/Visual

Huniepop has a decent but still lacking settings menu. There’s fullscreen and windowed mode but with no resolution options. There’s a particle slider for when you complete matches in the puzzle game and that’s it for visual settings. Huniepop does have good audio control settings though. You can change the background music, sound effects and voice-over volume sliders. You can even use boops instead of the voice acting for when characters talk to you. Which is nice because lines are often repeated ad-nauseam and people can find this annoying rather quickly.

This is an anime game so of course it’s got the expected anime style. Which is very well done I should say. The women and background are well designed and consistent. Their faces can also display a variety of emotions and their lip flaps move well with the voice acting. The CGI-photo cards are just as impressive. The soundtrack is a laid-back, almost elevator style of various styles that will get old sooner rather than later. Probably about the same time as you’ll get tired of the repeated lines.

Final Thoughts

While I had initially wrote off Huniepop as a lazy anime dating sim, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was something more than that. Yes, it’s an anime dating game. Yes, it has all that you would expect from this genre (silly plot, sexuality, etc) and I’m clearly the demographic for it. It also doesn’t have any way of failing outside of achievement hunting. However, the mechanical depth that Huniepop is impressive. To the point that it has keeps what could have been a lazy boobs+match3 game and turns it into a title that’s genuinely enjoyable and amusing. It’s a dating game that isn’t just about being nice to every single woman you meet until they show up in your bedroom. You’ll have to get to know them and change your approach to win them over. Whether you choose to take it seriously or not, the match three portion is quite good as well, featuring some unique ideas and challenging, tactical gameplay to ensure that complacency will be punished. Overall, a well crafted dating sim and puzzle game worth considering, even if the sexual content doesn’t interest you.

Places to Buy:

GOG Link

GOG Link

Buy directly from the developers via Humble.

Buy directly from the developers via Humble.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I have plenty of other reviews to read if you’re interested. Until then,

-KingIsaacLinksr

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