Hunie Pop is a Dating Sim and Puzzle game in one and comes after a successfully funded kickstarter.
Merging two genres together, Hunie Pop begins with choosing your own gender - very unusual in a genre that usually caters to one sex or the other - and then a simple tutorial from the Love Fairy named Kyu. She explains that while you will be doing the things typical to a Dating Sim - saying the right thing, etc - you will also be playing a gem matching game during dates in order to increase a girl's affection level and to gain Munie. Matching gems by sliding them horizontally or vertically in any direction will fill up the gauge directly underneath the puzzle area; failing to meet this goal will cause a failure and that girl's affection for you will not go up.
While the puzzle section of the game appears to be similar to a game like Puzzle Quest, it does differ in a number of ways. First of all, players cannot just match as many as they can and hope to win; each girl has a specific trait (represented by a color) that she prefers and not taking advantage of that will cause failure more often than not. There is also a limit on the amount of moves you are allowed to take in a single date. Changing the difficulty setting in the options will change how many moves you have available and what gems you get.
There are also some special gems that appear during play. These are: the bell, the heart, the teardrop and the broken heart. The bells will give you an extra turn, the heart adds passion which increases the mutiplier for matches, the broken heart takes a percentage off of the meter and the teardrops add up and allow players to use items. Items are unlocked during play and then equipped; once you build up enough sentiment to use them, they will have varying effects detailed when hovering over top. One of the best effects to get involves either removing or changing the broken hearts into something else as those can cause a complete failure in a nearly-won game.
As mentioned earlier, the Dating Sim elements basically boil down to answering questions with the right answers and giving gifts that the girls like. This builds up your Hunie count, which allows you to purchase skill upgrades to help you complete the date portions. The unfortunate part of this is that the characters don't change very much; you learn the relevant information and get them to come back with you to your place but there isn't much more. There weren't long cutscenes with more information about the girl or the world and there wasn't any real character progression. This is certainly a disappointment in a genre that is very text-driven.
Leveling up affection levels tends to come along with unlocking more items and getting texted increasingly racy photos from the girl in question. Once you get someone to come home with you, you are required to complete a faster-paced puzzle and then are treated to another racy photo (note: these are censored in the Steam version of the game.) These unlocked CGs are then available to view at any time you wish and denote how much of the game you have completed.
As a fun aside, progressing through the game slowly unlocks costumes and hairstyles for each character that you can set at any time. Doing so will make them appear that way any time you speak to them but they will generally be changed during dates.
Since both gameplay elements of the game are fairly simple, and with frequent automatic saves, this is the perfect game to fire up and play casually - even if you're not typically a fan of the genre. The easy-to-play style also lends itself very well to a strange addictiveness that can lead to numerous hours of play without even intending to.
Visually the game is very appealing, with an anime-like aesthetic. Every member of the cast looks unique and has a personality all to herself. Differentiating itself from many other games in this genre is the fact that there is a diverse group of nationalities represented, including Indian, Mexican and more. There are even a few secret, unlockable characters to find during the course of the game. With quite a range represented, there will certainly be a favorite that appeals to almost everyone.
Lastly we have the sound which includes fully voiced dialogue. The voice acting was above average for an indie project, however some of the voices were grating and hearing some of the same lines was annoying. Thankfully, the game offers the option to turn the voices off and replaces them with a low-key text blipping sound. The music itself was good but nothing particularly standout except for the music that plays when girls come home with you; it sounds exactly like what you'd expect in an adult movie without the heavy saxophone. It's a goofy little tongue-in-cheek touch that makes the game seem especially self aware.
Overall Hunie Pop was a fun little romp with some cute girls and addicting gameplay. The lack of fully fleshed out characters and setting definitely hurt it, but it's still worth a look for anyone wanting their puzzles with some dating (or vice versa), regardless if they are a fan of the genre or not.
Hunie Pop was provided by the developer for the author to play. The full game can be purchased on the official website and Mangagamer and is intended for ADULTS ONLY. The censored version of the game is available on Steam.