HuniePop (pronounced honey-pop and known by some as “Candy Crush: Hentai Edition”) is a dating sim about wooing beautiful women with the power of your Bejeweled skills.
You are a nameless virgin protagonist (either male or female, you can pick but it doesn’t really matter) with abysmal dating skills living in a normal modern city. One night you meet a beautiful woman named Kyu at a bar, and after a horrible round of flirting you go home in disgrace. Later that night, Kyu pops up in your bedroom and reveals herself to be a love fairy, determined to get you laid for the sheer challenge of it. She barely gives you a moment to argue before she leads you around town to meet 8 eligible women at the gym, beach, mall and several other locations. After giving you a bit of initial advice on how to approach each girl, she leaves you on your own to try dating, and the rest of the game is yours to control.
Dating the women is a rather straightforward system, focused on playing a match-3 game as well as acquiring “munie” and “hunie.” During a date, you match different romantic elements (talent, flirtation, romance, etc) to get a set amount of affection points within a set number of moves (you know, basic Bejeweled rules). Regardless of whether you have a successful date or not, you earn munie from the encounters, which can be used to buy gifts for the girls. Giving them gifts they like, as well as talking to them and remembering facts about them like their job or favorite season, earns you hunie. Hunie can be used at a different shop to buy bonuses to get you more points for matching certain elements on a date, which of course gets you more munie and a better relationship with the girls. The difficulty goes up for each progressive date you go on, and if you don’t manage your resources carefully you will lose again and again before finally stumbling into a strategy that works. It’s a pretty straightforward and rather addicting system, if you’re a fan of matching games like I am.
I also appreciate the overall message that dating is a lot easier than people make it out to be. As long as you go into it with a bit of confidence, try to talk to a woman like she’s a person and act like you care about her, things tend to go pretty well. Some people just need a push in the right direction, and maybe a little initial advice, like “don’t act like a drama queen” or “don’t take any crap from her.” Because you’re a nameless protagonist with no real personality, it feels like the girls become attracted to the care and interest you show them, rather than anything inherently special about your character (and frankly, you eventually learn and remember as much about these women as you do with real girls that you’re trying to date). It’s fun, and with little in the way of actual story to the game you never get bored or annoyed with your character either.
That said, HuniePop is one of those games that leaves me feeling rather conflicted because many of the same elements that make it enjoyable can also be seen as rather offensive. HuniePop allows you to romance every woman at the same time, so you never have to worry about restarting your game for each potential route like you do in other dating sims. On the other hand, you only bother to tell one or two of these women that you’re romancing other ladies at the same time that you’re going out with them, so it’s questionable whether or not this would go over well with some of the girls if they ever found out.
HuniePop also features a small cellphone-like device that Kyu gives you at the start of the game, called the HunieBee. This allows you to keep track of where all the girls are, what they do and don’t like, what presents you have and haven’t given them yet, and other valuable information. On one hand, it makes the game easier to always know where the women are and what gifts you still need to get them, but on the other hand, it’s frankly very creepy to build a game mostly around a tool for stalking women and meticulously storing personal information on them to use to your advantage on dates. I can understand why it’s so necessary in a game like HuniePop where you’re trying to romance multiple women at once who all have vastly different traits and favorite things, but that doesn’t make it any less sleazy.
There’s a plethora of choices for romance in this game as well. A lot of dating sims will give you a choice between 4-8 romance partners, but there are a total of 12 women that you can date throughout HuniePop: 8 that are immediately available, 2 more that unlock through normal progression of the game, and a final 2 that are unlocked by doing special actions that honestly I don’t think anyone could have figured out without looking up a guide. All the potential partners are well drawn, the voice acting is quite good, their age and races are varied, and each woman has a well-defined personality and fairly clear backstory. Frankly, it can be hard to pick just one that you really like. However, since you can date all the women at the same time, and all of them are so very different, you’re often lying to them about your interests or how you feel about a certain situation (which admittedly you do in some other dating sims, but doing it to 12 different women all at once upped the scumbag factor a bit for me). And because you have to spend so much energy running around and getting dates or giving presents, there is no overarching story outside of your quest to get laid. You don’t have any emotional moments with the girls, no life-changing revelations, and no final scene of you making out with your favorite girl as the sun sets in the background. They’re just well-crafted things to date with no potential to have a more fleshed-out story.
Finally, the dating portion of HuniePop. The matching game is fun and challenging, especially once you get up to higher levels and have to start getting 4 or 5 orb matches and using extra items on the dates just to try and get enough points to pass. If you succeed with your date, you’ll start to earn increasingly sexy CGs from the girls for each successful date. Going on dates to different places unlocks different outfits for the girls, and getting them certain gifts unlocks more hairstyles so you can change their appearance at will. On the fourth date, if you take them out at night and succeed at your date, you can take them back to your place and match-3 them to orgasm, earning a fourth and final sexy CG along with a pair of their panties. Now aside from the odd need to only take them back to your place and only have sex at night, there’s something a little weird about playing dressup with these girls to suit your personal preferences instead of liking them as they are, and of course it feels incredibly slimy to be collecting women’s underwear as trophies from your conquests.
So, my overall impression of the game is mixed. The art and voice acting is good, the music is ok (but after about 10 hours of playing I muted it and put on other music in the background). The matching game is addictive, and every time you fail a date you want to jump back in and try again. The girls, while liking any real story, feel like well-made characters that are all distinct from one another. So in those respects, this is a very enjoyable dating sim. On the other hand, the simultaneous dating of 12 women (most of whom are unaware of the multiple relationships), stalking them with a magic phone, and collecting both sexy pictures and underwear from them is all very creepy. Some of the dialogue is frankly offensive (I don’t particularly want to hear about Kyu’s “chocolate love” or “yellow fever” when you’re first stalking the girls, whom she calls “broads”), and there is no endgame. I was hoping for maybe a final cutscene or a hint of a sequel once I’d romanced all the girls, maxed out my abilities and gotten all of them all the gifts they wanted, but there was nothing. Just an endless game where time has no meaning as you continue to talk to your favorite girls and take them out on dates.
The game is available for $10 on Steam as well as on the official HuniePop website. Personally I’d recommend buying from the latter, because Steam only sells the censored version of the game, and frankly if you’re buying HuniePop you’re not doing it for the plot, so get the version with everything exposed. If you’re a fan of matching games or simple dating sims, pick it up some time. And if you end up hoping for a sequel or maybe some new content, they’re currently developing a cam girl management sim that’s already been Greenlit, so we’ll likely be seeing that within the next year. No doubt it will be just as sleazy, and no doubt I will pick it up on release.