“Oh my god, it’s worse than I thought, isn’t it? Alright, grab your shit, we’re going on a date, right now.” – Kyu
STOP. I see you looking at the comments, all your snarky comments bubbling to the top of your brain. They write themselves at this state. Not only did Jack play a dating sim, not only does he admit it, not only is he about to write a detailed review on it, but the evidence is engraved here on the internet for the rest of time. Have I no shame?
I’m going to follow that by saying something that no one is going to believe: I did not play this game for the nudie pics. Believe me, if I wanted porn I could find more of it for less trouble at the snap of my fingers with one Google search. No, I played Hunie Pop because out of curiosity, I watched a Let’s Player play the first ten minutes or so, and I was blown away by the quality of writing in it. In those first few moments, this game told me that it was funny, witty, and classy. I had to play it just to see what it had to offer.
Hunie Pop is probably the best known dating sim out there at the moment. Perhaps there are some of you out there who don’t know what a dating sim is, so against my better judgement I’ll do my best to do a description of it.
As the name implies, these types of games “simulate” a “date” with a “girl/boy” (best get used to these air quotes because you’ll be seeing them quite a few more times throughout this review). You give her gifts, you talk to her, learn her interests, go on a date with her, and then you find out what type of dating sim you’re playing. Some dating sims are made with the purest intentions of just telling a romantic story and maybe end with a kiss or something to that effect. Then the other 99% of dating sims end in sex and naked pictures of girls. Yeah, most guys just play this stuff for the sexy pics. The most famous one is known as “LovePlus” and is huge in Japan. That one is actually in the first category and doesn’t have any nudity in it; frequented by lonely individuals who want some companionship.
Hunie Pop is absolutely in the latter category, but it’s kind of a middle ground in terms of how raunchy it is. The most you ever see is boobs, though it pushes that card about as far as they can without going to the next level. While there is technically “sex” in the game, you hardly see anything and… uh, well, we’ll get to what it entails in a bit.
Anyways, the story is that you’re a socially awkward nerdy man or woman who is visited by a “Love Fairy” named Kyu. Kyu tells the player that she’s visiting the player to help them meet girls and form a connection and probably have some sex on top of that. She gives you a device that helps store information on girls such as their name, age, birthday, likes… other more private information, ect, and instructs the player on how to go about getting these girls.
So I’ve beat around the bush enough, what is the main gameplay mechanic of Hunie Pop? It can’t JUST be talking to girls, right? Well in any other dating sim that might be the case, but not in Hunie Pop. When you take a girl on a date, you determine if the date is successful by—and you might what to sit down for this one—playing Bejewled. Seriously. Not that Bejewled is a bad game, it just feels completely out of place. Each icon relates to certain stats, such as acting sexy or kind or what have you, other icons give you additional turns to play, and some give you points with which to activate special abilities, and there’s one that also penalizes you if you match it. The puzzle game here is fine; it’s functional at least and deep enough to be able to hold your attention through the eight hours or so that it took me to finish this one, but not one that you’ll think of when you think of great puzzle games or even a good puzzle game. Like I said, it’s just a take on Bejewled, which itself might be a better puzzle game than what we got here.
On these dates, you’ll earn Hunie and Munnie. You spend Hunie on permanent upgrades for the Bejewled game, and you spend Munnie on gifts for your girls. Certain gifts for them will give you special “date gifts” that you can then use in the Bejewled game to make it easier to win. You can also give the girls food and alcoholic drinks, which will also make the Bejewled game easier if they’re not hungry and drunk when you do it. I have no idea what kind of message that’s trying to send and I refuse to look into it any further than that.
This puzzle game also carries over to the… uh… the “sex scenes.” Yeah, after your fifth successful date with each girl, you’ll take them back to your place for the *ahem* “festivities.” At that point the game becomes a very simplified and sped up version of bejeweled in which your companion will disrobe and… make noises until the scene ends. Again, you never see anything more than boobs, and there is not technically sex in the game since all you get are a few photos of each girl and the “sound effects” during the game.
That’s basically it for the gameplay. There is a sort of “endless mode” called Alpha Mode that unlocks once you manage to, er, “clear” every girl in the game (counting the hidden ones), but that’s hardly worth mentioning. It’s just seeing how many games of Bejewled you can win in a row. If you want that, just go buy Bejewled on that app store for $0.99; it’s hardly a selling point here.
Now, I mentioned I was interested for the characters, right? So jumping right in, Kyu is really funny. She’s a no-nonsense mentor who breaks the fourth wall, constantly pokes fun at you and is pretty fun to be around. There are eight girls total to date (along with four secret girls to unlock), and as I met them my hopes continued to soar. In each of their intro scenes you get to know each of them, you have a laugh together, and I honestly felt a small bond with each character there at the beginning. These were interesting characters that I wanted to get to know! On top of that, in their intro scenes they were seen interacting with another girl, be it as a friend, student to teacher, enemies bickering, or what have you. This also gave me hope for story where you’d learn more about the relationships between these girls and watch them develop.
Okay, now notice that I sad “at the beginning.” After those initial scenes when you first meet them, you basically never again get any real story about these girls. You’ll get a few texts from each of them (usually just for them to send you a picture of varying levels of… modesty), there’s a small advance in the story at a few points when you unlock new girls, but these are some of the most stale, non-devlopmental characters I’ve ever seen in a game (I’d call them flat characters but… well, that’s just not true if you catch my drift. Okay, I’ll stop). You can pick up a few hints of backstory with the girls here and there, but nothing major. When you talk to them, you’ll run down learning the list of facts about them (Birthday, age, favorite snack, blah, blah, blah), but it’s never anything substantial, which is what I really wanted. It feels like someone was writing a story here and just kind of… stopped.
While the characters are fun at first, without much variation in their dialogue on the dates, they quickly lose their charm and you start to see the stereotypes in front of you. You have the sporty girl, the nerdy girl, the black girl, the Indian girl, the sexy teacher, the sexy student, the MILF, and the bitch (and the four hidden characters. I suppose those four aren’t technically “stereotypes,” but only because they’re so strange in their own right. Some of them are also damn near impossible to unlock without a guide, requiring weirdly specific actions at weirdly specific places with weirdly specific items). It’s actually almost comical how far they went with these stereotypes; you can probably tell from the above images who is who just based on my descriptions. The teacher (who is Asian) likes… wait for it… Asian gifts. Like rice balls and shit. It’s at this stage that you’ll start to realize that the game is pretty fucking racist. How racist? I mean, it can’t get any worse than that last example, can it? Well one of the sporty girl’s (who is Latino) preferred gifts is, no shit, a fucking sombrero. Go ahead, give a Latino girl a sombrero as a romantic gift and see how it works out for you.
On the upside, the game is very easy on the eyes (no, not for that reason, stop snickering). It’s colorful, vibrant, the characters are well-drawn, the backgrounds are beautiful, and all of the bright, bombastic Bejewled effects manage to capture your attention for long enough. The voice acting is well done (Kyu’s actress in particular did a wonderful job), and the game even manages to have a pretty decent soundtrack. Each track gets a little repetitive (there’s only one track per location and you’re going to be backtracking A LOT), but they’re good enough that they don’t grate like in a game like Recettear.
So that leaves us with a game that’s barely a game, which I can be okay with if the story is great, and a story that starts strong before grinding to a halt in favor of softcore Bejewled pornography. I’ll be honest, I actually played this game back in March and writing a review for it kind of fell off my plate, but I was still able to write a pretty thorough review, only needing to check the wiki a few times for a character’s name or something. That sounds like the game is memorable (but with a theme like it has, I’d be pretty fucking shocked if it WEREN’T memorable), but what it really means is that the game is so shallow, simple, and empty that I could just rattle off the information from whatever sketchy memory I have left of it.
Shallow really is the perfect word for it. The characters are shallow, the plot is shallow, the gameplay is somehow even shallower still, and it all manages to justify it because of boobs. And this is why the sexualization culture is ruining media. “Nah, we don’t need deep, interesting characters, we just have to show cleavage once in a while and the faults with our product will disappear!” Not only is it disrespectful to women, but it’s disrespectful to every consumer who picks it up.
But hey, there is a sequel, right? Maybe the developer learned his lesson and really knuckled down to give us some truly satisfying content in… what’s that? It’s a game where you play as a glorified pimp managing the girls as sex-cam workers? Well, on the bright side, at least the internet has more fap material, because we all know it was hurting for that.
I give Hunie Pop a 2 out of 5.