Question: How do you get a guy like me to play Bejeweled?
Better question: How do you get a guy like me to play Bejeweled for hours?
Answer: Promise me boobs at the end of it. And make it fun.
I’m not averse to puzzle games on principle, or being forced to endure brain teasers in survival horror or point-and-click adventures. I’m just rarely in the right mood for them. Whenever my wife and I are playing games together, she’ll be working on Candy Crush while I murder zombies.
Then along comes HuniePop, a hybrid game that’s part flirting sim and part match-3 puzzle. Suddenly I’m putting away my guns to log an embarrassing amount of time on my Steam account. How is that possible? Again, boobs, but also ingenious engineering on the part of the designers behind it.
The story, if one can call it that, rests on a simple premise. You play a hapless virgin straight guy or lesbian girl, depending on which gender you pick. Your faceless, nameless identity is approached by a mystical Love Fairy whose job is to get you bangin. She becomes your wingman on an apprentice pickup artist’s quest for nay-nay, giving you tips on how to approach hot women and explaining the match-three puzzles that make up the actual ‘dating.’
From there, you are turned loose to play on every pretty female in your town. They are: an Asian math professor, a porn actress MILF, her virtuous co-ed daughter, an introverted gamer, an adventurous black airline stewardess, a Mexican single parent, an Indian Yoga instructor, a stuck up party bitch, a cat girl, an alien bounty hunter, the fairy, and the Goddess of Love.
In flirt mode, your modus operandi is analyzing the girls’ personalities and relationships to bullshit them into bed. You tell them exactly what they want to hear, i.e. Tiffany has fallen out with her mom, Kyanna and Audrey hate each other, and Lola is goal-oriented. You commit personality traits like their birth dates, cup sizes and favorite seasons to memory (or write them down) for when they quiz your attention span. The alien likes to ask third grade space questions and the cat girl checks how versed you are in feline trivia.
Correctly answering the girls’ questions earns you magical currency called ‘Hunie,’ which is used to level up your character’s various attributes, such as flirting skill, sex appeal, and charisma. This is important because in match-3 mode each girl likes a specific type of token match, and the puzzles get harder with each successful date. Unless you’re hellbent on getting the ‘never upgrade’ Achievement, ubering up to a Don Juan is essential to oat sowing. You also get ‘Munie’ at the end of every date (regardless of passing or failing), that is needed to buy gifts, food and alcohol.
After winning each date, the girl will text you an increasingly explicit selfie; my favorite was when Kyu (the fairy) discovered my washing machine. When four dates are completed you gain the opportunity to take a girl on a ‘Night Date,’ after which she’ll get horny and follow you back to your bedroom. There you’re presented with match-3 again, where this time the goal is to line up tokens as fast as possible to knock the date’s clothes off and make her orgasm, whereupon your reward is a hentai pic for the gallery/spank bank. The naughty bits are censored on Steam per community guidelines, but this is remedied via a patch provided by HuniePot.
There’s no plot to speak of except stories I might make up in my head. For instance, my dilemma between Tiffany and Jessie could be a Graduate-style triangle, except in this case I get off on sleeping with the daughter and then taking her mom on a date without showering first. Or maybe I’m at a point where my needs and wants are confused: rough sex with a mean girl like Audrey, awkward lovemaking with a nice girl like Nikki, or just a casual friend-with-benefits in my pocket like Aiko?
One downside is that there is no real ending. Unlike other dating sims I’ve played, you don’t get to pick which of the twelve girls to spend happily ever after with. Instead you are doomed (blessed?) to forever sail from port to port, taking home whichever member of your harem suits you that evening. The girls are never aware of your sleaziness, and if so never mention it. Maybe a jealousy mechanic would have turned up the tension, but the game is challenging and engaging enough anyway.
What really makes the HuniePop work is how well-balanced the two modes are. In titles where there are varying gameplay styles it’s often the case that at least one will be boring or unpolished. HuniePop has two, inside date puzzles and outside date flirting, and they are equally fun. Racking up Hunie with gifts and trivia challenges feels is a pleasurable, dare I say orgasmic shock to the brain’s reward system. The puzzles are addictive as hell too. They have me promising my procrastinating self “I’ll do one more date” with the same electronic cocaine as Sid Meier’s turn-based strategy games.
By the way, HuniePop is not at all politically correct, in case that wasn’t obvious enough. It revels in irony as it exploits every archetype us dirty people fantasize over. From the racially associated Unique Gifts to revealing outfits at the water park, the game takes any opportunity to ignore demands for social change. You can even feed your girls gallons of alcohol in the evenings. It won’t get you laid quicker, but you’ll net more Hunie. Classy.
This a sticky gem rarely seen: smut crafted with love and care. It’s not suited for the prude or easily offended crusader. For those among us who laugh at crude humor or ironically buy oppai mousepads, HuniePop is worth its small price in fun and obnoxiousness.
FINAL GRADE: A-