Sometimes I do things that I'm embarrassed by. It happens to all of us.
One of the things I'm most recently embarrassed by is the fact that I played, and beat, a game called Huniepop within the span of two evenings. I felt deeply humiliated by willingly doing such a thing the entire time, but it didn't stop me from coming back to play for six more hours.
Huniepop, you see, is a “western dating sim.” You may have heard the term 'dating sim' applied to various Japanese games featuring shy anime girls who want absolutely nothing to do with you until you figure out, and say, the exact phrases they want to hear.
Dating sims, as many of you might know, are “for losers,” sitting in their basement and practicing all their sweetest lines on anime girls that they can eventually win over if they look up the correct answers on the internet. These were the stereotypes I was immediately willing to impress upon myself when I started downloading Huniepop, but y'know what, f*** it, it looked fun. If I'm not gonna let other people peer pressure me into stuff, I'm definitely not gonna do it to my own self.
So, despite my embarrassment and self-ridicule, I installed the game (based on watching some of a Let's Play online) and went off on an adventure to win over those anime girls whether they liked it or not.
I probably could have phrased that better.
Eh, I stand by it. I still consider the entire Momo storyline to be a bit on the rapey side anyway.
Anyway, let's get into the meat of this dark, evil thing I've been calling Huniepop.
Huniepop is, as I said, a dating simulator, in which you can play as a straight male or lesbian. This doesn't affect gameplay in any way besides small snippets of dialogue (“attagirl” rather than “attaboy,” etc.), and your protagonist is totally faceless, as is to be expected. Still a nice touch though. Anyway, you start the game with an unwinnable scenario in which your character attempts, and fails, to seduce Kyu – who turns out to be a love fairy. Deeming you a lost cause, she takes you under her wing (heh, I'm funny) and teaches you how to pick up chicks.
Picking up chicks, in this case, involves all of the normal dating sim stuff. You have to gauge personalities in order to give the correct answers to various questions, learn factoids about the girls, and remember them. Correctly remembering birthdays and whatnot earns you something called “hunie,” a point system with which you can purchase upgrades to your stats (talent, passion, luck, flirtation, etc.) – and yes, I always pronounce it “hyoo-nee” in my head. Different girls have different preferences for stats (this one likes sexuality but doesn't like romance, this one likes romance but doesn't like talent, etc.), but these stats aren't used for dialogue options or whatnot. Nope... they're used for something far more sinister.
The date minigame.
When I first came across this I was... a little unsure, to say the least. The minigame is a standard housewife puzzle-game, akin to Bejeweled or Candy Crush. As a human being that has a life involving doing things, I've never been a fan of these types of games – though Huniepop's version is, surprisingly, both more complex and more challenging. Between the preferred token types, the stat increases, the passion tokens (which increase the effectiveness of other tokens), the sentiment tokens (which allow the use of special items), and the non-stop increase in difficulty, this game was actually relatively stimulating, and sets Huniepop a good deal above other dating sims/visual novels that have no gameplay aspect at all.
Each girl has to be taken on four successful dates (the last of which must be at night), for you to seal the deal and put a notch on your post. This brings me to a certain... dividing line.
Huniepop has two different modes: a clean mode, and a... non-clean mode. The dirty version is a bit more adult, as the girls will sext you increasingly naughty pictures of themselves as you rack up those stars.
And by “increasingly,” yes, this game does have graphic nudity towards the end. In fact, the “adult” nature of Huniepop is one of its two greatest selling points – though I'll admit, with only four images per girl (only two of which will be sexually explicit), I feel like it could have capitalized on this note a little more efficiently.
The other selling point (which I obviously had to mention at some point so I'm just gonna go ahead and do it now) is the dialogue. All of the characters are fully voice-acted, with variably nuanced personalities, a lot of really fun dialogue, and some really, really vulgar ladies out there. Audrey's character-establishing moment shows her calling Kyanna a “f***ing w****-a** b****,” for no apparent reason beyond getting an unsatisfactory haircut from her (her hair, of course, looks just fine). All of the characters are a bit vulgar, but Audrey and Kyu easily take the cake when it comes to the trash their motor-mouths churn out.
While some may consider this “unladylike,” I, as a foul-mouthed woman myself, find it both realistic and endearing.
The characters fit into a comfortable combo of “relatively-developed” and “fetish-oriented.” Even characters that very clearly exist to fill a kink quota (such as the resident MILF character, Jessie) also show a surprising amount of backstory once they're delved into (using the same example, Jessie has deep-set regrets over her relationship with her estranged daughter, Tiffany, who you can also have sex with).
In addition to the eight human characters, there are also four hidden characters featuring various levels of hidden-ness. The first you'll find automatically. Another can only be unlocked once you've “conquered” all eight humans. Momo, the catgirl, can be found if you're extremely alert (like extremely alert), or look her up on the internet. My personal favorite is so ridiculously stupid-hard to find she may as well be a Legend of Zelda puzzle. You'll never, ever get her without looking it up, so I suggest you do so because she's awesome.
Now, while I did really enjoy this game, it's not perfect, and I did have a few issues with it. I'll go into those now.
1. Lack of content: As I said, I beat Huniepop in two evenings, and while I didn't get 100% completion (can't be assed to find every outfit), I did get every girl to five stars and acquire all of their personal information. A patch was released on Valentine's Day that was supposed to help with this, but really didn't – it unlocked Alpha Mode, which allows you to keep playing, only super extra double mega hard... which brings me to my second issue.
2. Stupidly hard end-game: As you ask questions, remember facts, and give gifts, you rack up hunie which allows you to increase your stats. These stats, however, have caps, and can't go past those caps no matter what you do, limiting your ability to get better at the mini-game. Thing is, with each successful date, the minigame gets harder. No matter what. It will progress beyond your ability to keep up with, and by the time you've finished the human girls you'll find yourself sitting on 99,999 hunie with absolutely nothing to do with it, as the minigame just gets harder and harder and harder. I was playing on easy, and towards the end of the game I basically only won the minigame by luck.
3. Not enough pictures: I mentioned this earlier. Four images per girl is really not enough for a game that counts those among its main selling points.
4. Missed potential: There are certain plot points that are left hanging and really could use to be looked at. The jealous girls never find out you're in the sack with eleven others. The mother and daughter never acknowledge or meet each other in any way, and won't even notice when you have their parent/child's panties hanging up on your bedpost. Several friendships are brought up in opening scenes, only to never be addressed again. Just little things like that.
5. The music: This is actually my biggest problem with the game. The music played during the minigame (where you'll spend a lot of your time in Huniepop) is kind of, well... kinda sucks. It does vary by location, but most of the tracks are extremely similar and resemble a cross between a lullaby and a Christmas carol. These get annoying pretty quickly, so you might want to keep a music tab open while you play. Castlevania, this game is not.
So, more or less, that's Huniepop, and... yeah, I liked it. It wasn't perfect, and it leaves me thinking of the ways it could have been made better. It's a little too short and feels a bit shrinkwrapped, but as an experience, the game was a lot of fun for me. The dialogue keeps it alive, the game has almost no lulls or downtime, and the girls are pretty cool too (a lot of them sound like Zone-tan, but I'm pretty okay with that). If you have ten bucks to spare and want a cute game to dally in, I can recommend Huniepop if you think it's for you.
For more reviews by me, check out the Joy Reviewz Library!