HuniePop is a weird mix of Visual Novel combined with Puzzle game. Like seriously weird.
Okay, so I got introduced to this game during the recent furore over it when an "ex"-Nazi sympathiser went all torches and pitchforks on this game for some reason. Plus the game happened to be on sale on Steam at the same time, so I picked it up.
What is Huniepop? Huniepop was a kickstartered game (link) which was funded in 2013 and just recently came out this month. It's; as I described, a crazy mix of a dating simulation and puzzle game that may very well be the first of its kind. Or at least I don't remember any games like this before. And it seems to have worked out pretty well if the sales charts are anything to go by.
At first glance, there are very obvious tells that this is an American made dating simulation. For one instance, just look at the language. Now my knowledge/experience of dating sims is rusty, but I certainly don't remember any Japanese dating sim characters calling other characters whores or talking about hurting their whore feelings. Certainly, the 'outspokenness' of the characters is decidedly American.
The characters at least don't fit the stereotypical moe roles that are present in so many Japanese dating novels at least (girl next door, childhood friend, class president etc). Instead you have archetypes such as bitch (pictured aboved), single mom (also pictured above), porn actress etc. They are fairly quirky; and thus refreshing, characters in a sea of Japanese archetypes.
Then there's the puzzle element of the game and how it differs slightly for each girl. You only get to play the puzzle element when you choose to take a girl out on a date; and please note, puzzles get MORE difficult the more puzzles you play, irregardless of whether you beat the puzzle or not. There is an affection meter at the bottom (47/150) that you have to fill up to beat the puzzle. As I said above, it gets harder and harder to beat the puzzles as time goes on. The first puzzle could require a score of 150 to beat while the 2nd requires 175 and the 3rd 225 or so. Also, note the different icons in the puzzle? Each girl values different icon types differently, so for example, one girl may get +7 affection from the star icon while another girl may only get +2 or so.
There's also a levelling system of sorts in the game, where you can increase your statistics and so on, which would help you beat the puzzles. Or at least make it easier. You upgrade your stats with hunie, which you get by talking to the girls and making them have a positive impression of you.
If there are a few complaints I have about the game, it's the fact that there really isn't much interaction with the female characters. In fact it's very lite on the dating sim elements and focuses a lot more on the puzzle elements. The problem is that the girls only have so many possible ways to interact with you, with most of the interaction being the PC asking them questions; such as how tall they are, how heavy they are, their bust sizes.... Then there are times when the females will quiz you on their vital stats, or will ask you certain questions like "What do you feel about politics" etc. The problem is that the questions are pretty few in number so after a while, it just becomes very repetitive. The characters are quirky enough that you want to be able to interact more with them but you can't. I guess they're a victim of their own success in this regard.
The art is also pretty decent and in a lot of ways, I don't think it would really lose to Japanese visual novels. Overall, I enjoyed this game although I found it to be too lite on the visual novel features but it was still pretty interesting. Would I recommend it to everyone though? Not really as it's still a pretty niche genre game but for those who like puzzle games or dating sims, it's certainly worth giving this a spin.