HuniePop is a Disappointing Dating Sim, but a Good Match 3 Game
If you happen to be a normal person, you have probably never touched a dating sim in your life. The genre, while spanning thousands of titles, has rarely made it outside of Japan sans a few off-the-wall entries and the odd Western-made release.
HuniePop is the latest dating sim to come from the West, and stands in a sort of an odd spot for me personally. On one hand, its puzzle gameplay is pretty fun -- on the other hand, the rest of the game is disappointingly simple.
I have a long history with dating sims and eroges (erotic games), having played several English and Japanese titles in both genres since the late '90s. The Tokimeki Memorial series has a special place in my heart, as do numerous other single-entry games. And while HuniePop stands unique from them all in its own way, it leaves me feeling a bit empty. I may have chosen a waifu from those presented, but I don't believe I'll remember her in a few months' time. I had a hard enough time remembering her name.
Before I continue, I want to say that I do like the game for what it is.
My issue lies in that it perhaps could have been more -- though that may be due to its relatively low $53,000 budget. Even so, I would like to speak a bit about what has bothered me in HuniePop, as a fan of the genre and someone hoping to see a more fleshed out sequel in the future.
I'll be speaking about the dating sim aspects here, as opposed to the dating and bedroom scenes. The match 3 segments are fun in their own right and will get no complaints from me. How they tied girls' liked and disliked traits was a nice touch, as well as the gift system.
My qualms with HuniePop lie in how simple the girls' personalities are, and how easy it is to woo them.
My qualms with HuniePop lie in how simple the girls' personalities are, and how easy it is to woo them. Though this, and the emphasis on the puzzle sections, makes the game easier for newcomers to the genre to enjoy, it may be difficult for those newcomers to move onto more personality-heavy dating sims -- and may disappoint longtime fans such as myself.
For the above reasons, this is not a review.
Simplicity of mechanics outside of the match 3
Perhaps the biggest letdown in HuniePop was the lack of flexibility outside of the match 3 gameplay found in the dates and bedroom scenes.
Here's what talking to a girl entails:
- Buying and giving any unique or standard gifts to her to boost the Hunie you get from her conversation
- Checking her profile to remind yourself of her traits
- Asking and answering questions
- Going on a date
Now, sure -- you could get her some food or buy her some drinks (provided it's night time, and you're at the bar), but why bother? There is no time limit and hence no sense of urgency. You can follow the above pattern all the way to having slept with all of the girls -- including the unlockable girls -- and finish your time with the game.
Following the above, you will get enough Hunie to upgrade your traits as you need them (you get this currency simply by talking to the girls). If you successfully complete dates, you will have more than enough money to get all the gifts you need at all times.
To add to the simplicity of each encounter outside the dates themselves are how boring your conversations with the girls are and how easy their questions are to answer.
The girls do have much in the way of unique dialogue outside of questions, nor do they throw questions at you that would be hard to guess the correct answer. The exception to this lies in their questions about things you've already talked about; the difficulty found here can be easily circumvented by simply taking a look at their profiles before talking to them to remember their traits.
This, above all else, creates to an overall uncompelling experience for someone who has played dating sims in the past. I expected more from something labeling itself a dating sim. The genre has a lot of variation in it, but the successful games still retain some form of cohesive story and innate difficulty in getting the girls to like you.
I can understand that the puzzles are meant to be the difficulty here in HuniePop, but in a way it feels like that detracted from the rest of the game... especially because the girls themselves are just so predictable.
A lack of personality among personalities
One can claim that the types of personalities seen in HuniePop are a breath of fresh air in comparison to the genre's Japanese counterparts, and that is something I cannot argue with. There is diversity. However, I can say I am not fond of the crystal-clear personalities the girls have.
I mentioned above how easy it was to correctly answer the questions the girls ask (though I will admit is at least one hard question in each girl's repertoire). My biggest issue lies in the overall lack of dialogue.
Yeah, some people don't like dialogue; but it's hard to feel like you're getting to know the girls when all you're really doing is studying how they feel about certain topics, their hobbies, where they work, and their physical traits. It's worth noting that none of this has any real use except to answer some questions correctly.
What interesting background you have! Too bad I have no incentive to learn the rest.
And yes, I know you're being helped by Kyu. That doesn't mean I don't want to know more about the girls I'm talking to! The short questions and answers just don't cut it for me, nor do the small dialogue snippets.
Where are the events making some days a little different? Where are the girls interacting with one another outside of their introductions? In the end, it feels like you're going through the motions just to sleep with them, and then after that just to do the puzzles.
The lack of depth in getting to know the girls makes HuniePop feel more like a "meet and fuck" with arbitrary background to the characters and a puzzle minigame, which is sorely disappointing. This very well may be the creators' intention, but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth as a fan of the genre. It bothers me: I want to know more about these girls, but all we are given is a bunch of basic data and some padding dialogue.
All around the game does its job, especially for newcomers to dating sims, but feels lacking. The match 3 gameplay is fine on its own, but I can't get over what the rest could have been.
What was wrong with the older style of dating sim where one had to raise their traits by studying, exercising, etc.? Why does the protagonist of HuniePop just go from one girl to the next with no life of his/her own?
In the end, HuniePop is a shallow experience. If there is a sequel, I hope that it fleshes out characterization and in-game systems outside of the puzzles. I like the game, I do, but it could have been so much more that a glorified match 3 game.