**WARNING: WHILE THIS ARTICLE IS SAFE-FOR-WORK, THE FOLLOWING REVIEWED GAME IS INTENDED ONLY FOR PLAYERS 18 AND OLDER. READER'S DISCRETION IS ADVISED**

There was a time when games like Candy Crush Saga and Scurvy Scalliwags had me hypnotized into playing their puzzles, almost to the point of making me want to fork over the extra cash to get the power-ups needed to move onto the next level. I say "almost" because it was then and there where I knew I had to stop playing these kinds of titles, as the addiction levels they have could spell disaster in the long run. It was after that where I swore I'd never play another "match three" puzzle game, as I feared that nothing good can come from such creations.

And then HuniePop came along and changed everything.

Originally funded on Kickstarter HuniePop combines the recent puzzle game fad with that of the dating-sim genre. You play a hapless loser (male or female, take your pick), as you wake up one morning to the sight of Kyu, a pink fairy who is there to help you find your mojo. The task is not so simple: you must date all the hot girls in town, to the point where they want to come home with you to get some dirty deeds done under the covers.

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In order to better your chances your character must chat with the girls, asking and answering questions to their liking. Do it right, and you'll earn Hunie that can be used to level up such traits as Romance, Talent, and Sexuality. You can also given them gifts, food, and liquor to help you earn more Hunie each time, although as you have the chance to meet up with four girls each day it is best that you spend your Munies wisely. If who you are chatting with is not hungry, you can then ask them out on a date, which can range from going to the carnival and having a dinner to a hot springs trip and some figure skating.

It's on these dates when you are then prompted to the puzzle aspect of HuniePop. Here you are tasked to match at least three of the same items, with the points given out determined by the kind of traits your date really likes. If your girl is more into romance than talent, then the former will give out more points than the latter. However the game can get tricky when broken hearts are on the board, as matching three of those can lead to losing a certain percentage of points currently earned.

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As you progress through the game you can earn some charms that can be used to your advantage during dates. These charms can rid the board of broken hearts or turn them into passion ones (which, in return, can up the point amount given per match). Win each round, and a heart will be added onto your date; lose, and you'll have to wait until the next day to try again. If your date receives her fifth heart during a night date, she'll want to go home with you for some heavy petting.

It's obvious that HuniePop has no shame in having its more pornographic aspects help sell this game, but in an industry where these kind of tile-matching titles are a dime-a-dozen it's very refreshing to see someone take the concept and make it all the more interesting. Yes, it's gimmicky, but it surprisingly works. HuniePot also needs to be given credit for taking something like a dating-sim title and -- instead of the usual visual novel route -- actually adding a challenging gameplay mechanic that keeps the story moving along without it feeling like it's dragging. (Another upcoming visual novel, Sukeban Games' VA-11 HALL-A, is taking a similar approach by using bartending skills to keep its narrative going.)

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The ladies that you come across, from the geeky barista and the college professor to the yoga instructor and some other secret characters, are all drawn beautifully. For an American game it does a fantastic job with mimicking the anime visual novel look, from the expressive eyes to the way they react if you either get a question wrong or accidentally link up three broken hearts in puzzle mode. Its industry-quality voice-acting helps to truly flush out these characters, with a very fun story that will have you snickering with joy. (Just don't attempt to try any of these tricks in real-life, as it might leave you with a slap in the face rather than a couple new digits.)

Completing the main objective of HuniePop can take about 10 hours. Once all the girls have been conquered you'll then have the option to unlock Alpha Mode, which boots the difficulty to full-blown proportions. Buying the physical version of the game will also give you some excellent goodies, from some exclusive art to the game's terrific soundtrack from World of Wandag.

PROS:

  • Puzzle & dating-sim elements mesh well together
  • Great voice-acting, cute characters
  • Fun story, pretty humorous

CONS:

  • Does get a little addicting the more you dive into it
  • Skills learned won't help you in the real dating world

FINAL THOUGHTS:

HuniePop is a surprisingly engaging and entertaining dating-sim puzzler. With a dozen girls to swoon over and gameplay that gets challenging the deeper you go there's a lot of fun to be had for adult gamers everywhere (well...gamers who are straight men, lesbians, or bisexuals, but I'm sure the other demographics may get a kick out of it if they have an open mind.) In short: HuniePop is more fun and enjoyable than I initially gave it credit for. If more games like this come along, then the Candy Crush Sagas of the world will have something big to worry about.

FINAL GRADE: 8.8 (out of ten)

HuniePop is available on MangaGamer, the official site, and on Steam (less-explicit version only)

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