Gingy's Corner

Huniepop 2

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Before I start this review, let me ask you something.  Do you remember that specific brand of vulgar blue comedy which was oddly popular in the early to mid 2000s?  How shows on MTV or Comedy Central (Drawn Together comes to mind) made exaggerated jokes about race/sex/periods/broken families that were branded as peak humor, but (then and now) were horrifically cringey and tasteless?  Huniepop 2 seems like something written, drawn, and programmed within that microcosm of human history and unfortunately allowed to run loose on commercial release in 2021.

Huniepop 2 opens with a dramatic cutscene explaining (with a tone so serious I can only assume it was for comedic effect) that the Earth is about to be destroyed.  Specifically, it’s fated to be wrecked by two hot aliens known as the Nymphojinn, who are set to obliterate the galaxy in a wrathful fit of PMS.  Apparently the only way to stop this destruction is to wake them up before their periods can begin and have someone engage them in a threesome so good it knocks them right out for another ten thousand years, periods be damned.  Is this the worst porn logic in a visual novel I’ve ever heard of?  Certainly not.  Did I particularly want to start the game with a, “lol, angry women on their periods!” joke?  No.  No I did not.

Long story short, Kyu the instructional sex fairy from the first game finds the unnamed protagonist from last time and relates the basic details of this situation to him.  The problem (and I use that term very loosely here) is that our protagonist has only been having unprotected sex one-on-one, and thus requires threesome training before the aliens can be woken up.  Ergo, we have to fly to the island of Inna de Poona and try to coerce enough women there into morally dubious threesomes until we’ve generated sufficient fairy wings to set off the volcano, which will awaken the aliens and allow us to fuck them into galactic salvation.

It was at this point I began to deeply regret the multiple inches of snow and ice beyond my door preventing me from going to the store for hooch, because no one should be expected to play a game such as this whilst stone-cold sober. 

Worse yet, this porn-logic introductory stage offered the best writing I was going to see through the game.  To be clear, this series has never been about finding a moral high ground and setting up camp there, I knew that and made peace with this going in.  I recall how in the first Huniepop, you made a number of questionable life choices and Kyu made a number of very questionable comments about some of the girls, which I covered in my review several years back.  But overall, these felt more like small missteps rather than core elements of the game, and so I was able to move past them and still enjoy other aspects of Huniepop 1.  Even some of the more reprehensible acts you could engage in were both slowly exposed and crafted so that you could easily back out of them.  For example, in the first game you encounter two potential partners named Jessie and Tiffany.  By talking to the two of them over the course of the game, you gradually realize that Jessie is Tiffany’s mother (there’s a little drama between the two of them, basically Jessie likely had a kid too early) and it’s rather concerning that you’re attempting to have sex with both of them.  Fortunately, you as the player can just choose not to keep pursuing one or both of them, and if your panty collection remains incomplete for it, well, at least you could sleep at night.  Huniepop 2 has no such scruples, and in fact seems to actively relish in dragging the player through uncomfortable, exploitative, and offensive sexual scenarios.

First meetings with the women of Huniepop 2 almost always entail a few lines of information that should let a normal, healthy adult know that none of what the game is offering right now suggests pursuing a sexual relationship is a good choice.  You’ve got kissing cousins (not blood relations, so it’s fine!), a girl who claims that visions brought her to the island to have sex with you whenever and how ever you desire, and a married woman who owns the island and came here specifically to cheat on her husband (and brought a weebo paramour with her to accomplish this goal).  There’s a Japanophile who sees one of the local Polynesian workers and immediately assumes that because she’s Asian, she must be Japanese.  There’s a Middle Eastern airport worker (after this scene always dressed to accommodate fetishizing Orientalist tastes) who keeps getting into trouble for performing too many cavity searches on passengers, because she’s a sex addict and apparently sexual assault is funny again.  There’s a Latina character who is both a maid that steals from the rooms she cleans in the hotel and the cocaine dealer for local sex workers.  The list goes on.

I’m assuming that half of these character traits were things the writers found humorous for reasons that escape me entirely, and half were offensive caricatures the writers had no problems putting into their game because they assumed whatever buyers wanted to purchase Huniepop 2 would excuse the casual racism and xenophobia as something you shouldn’t take seriously, because this is a funny game.  After all, who wouldn’t laugh at the concept of a trans character with genitals you can toggle at the start of the game by saying whether you want Polly to be an innie or an outie? (Good god, I wish from the bottom of my heart I was making that up).

Overall, it feels like the writers leaned in far too hard on shock value and no one stopped to consider that there needs to be substance beneath that shock, and at least a cursory attempt at coherent tone.  For example, your character attempts to have a moment of conscious by implying he’s not entirely comfortable having sex with a married woman, and Kyo brushes this off by saying he’s already slept with a mother and her daughter (Jessie and Tiffany) so he’s clearly lost the moral high ground entirely and may as well completely give in to debauchery.  Huniepop 2 has established a world with comedy based on the audience being caught off-guard and nervously laughing as they say, “wow that’s bad.”  But then the game immediately asks you to discard that shock and focus purely on the notion of banging as many women as possible, regardless of any personal feelings you may have about the situation.  You’re only meant to be upset for as long as the joke takes to land, like moral scruples are something to be flipped on and off as the narrative requires.

This disdain for deeper analysis about the presentation and treatment of the women obviously sits poorly with me, in part because Huniepop 2 seems to actively work against you trying to learn anything about these women on a deeper level, meaning this initial presentation becomes the bulk of what you see and know about the characters.  One of the main mechanics of the original game was collecting Hunny, either by playing the matching game or talking to the women about their interests.  You only become stronger in Huniepop 1 by taking the time to learn about these ladies’ hobbies and likes/dislikes, and it felt as though you were actually building up a decent relationship with most of them (as seen by the friendly way the returning characters treat you when you reunite on the island in the sequel).  Huniepop 2, on the other hand, consistently punishes conversation and any activities which might steal time away from dates/threesomes.

In Huniepop 2, all dates are carried out between you and two women, both of whom have a limited amount of stamina.  You need to constantly switch between them during the date (mimicking the idea of balancing your attention between the women) as each move you make will deplete a bar of stamina.  You know what else depletes stamina?  Talking to them prior to the date.  It’s a holdover from the first game, but Huniepop 1 never factored in stamina when you were matching orbs during the game portion so it wasn’t an issue.  Here, asking about a girl’s favorite TV show without immediately cramming some oysters down her throat afterwards can (and does) handicap your gameplay.  On top of this, the more you talk with a woman the more she opens up to you, which according to the game logic means you’ll get “baggage,” I guess because all sexually available women must be broken in some way.  These are handicaps unique to a certain woman based on her personal/medical history, and they almost invariably make the matching game harder.  Leveling up your base skills is best done not by talking with women to earn Hunny, which can net baggage penalties, but rather farming as many dates as you can (pass or fail) to earn currency to buy smoothies that level up romance/sexuality/talent fields bit by bit.  That’s right, I’ll have a better chance of getting successfully laid in Huniepop 2 not by bonding with these women as people, but rather by chucking all my money at fairy-made smoothies and cramming them down these ladies’ gullets with a funnel.

But perhaps none of this has really put you off from Huniepop 2 yet.  Perhaps you are the sort of degenerate who proudly smashed your moral compass upon a bedrock of depravity years ago and will happily overlook these various failings in basic human decency for the sake of a fun puzzle game.  In that case, I’m here to tell you that they’ve overhauled the Match 3 system for this new installment in the franchise, and it sucks.

The biggest problem with the new puzzle system is that it never allows the player to generate significant momentum.  Remember that stamina problem I mentioned earlier?  This is where that detractor comes into play.  Let’s say that I decide to take A and B on a date.  At the start, A might have 3 bars of stamina and B has 5.  Each round that I play with A, B earns back 1 bar of stamina, so as long as I switch back and forth regularly it’s all good, right?  Wrong.  A Match 3 only takes 1 bar of stamina, but match-4 takes 2, and match-5 requires a whopping 3 bars.  Given you only have 6 bars of stamina (and depleting it completely locks that woman until you’ve restored ⅔ of her stamina bar), this isn’t much to work with.  You can’t simply cheer and click away when you find a potential match-5 this time around, you have to make sure that at least one woman on the date has sufficient energy to make that match.  Besides which, each woman has an element they like and dislike, so even if B has enough stamina to complete the play, her dislike for say, flirtation, means that you won’t net nearly as many points as if you’d had A make the match.  And this is all excluding the mess of date presents and the fact that you still have a limited number of turns to complete the date in, which can be nerfed rather regularly by your date’s baggage.

Let’s be honest, part of the joy of a Match 3 game is the mindlessness of it.  You can turn off part of your mind and simply swipe colorful orbs around the screen over and over and over, sinking in hours that feel like mere minutes.  But there’s so much stop-and-think to the puzzles in Huniepop 2 that you never really sink into that mindless space, always having to verify that your date has sufficient stamina, this move won’t trigger a negative effect of baggage, how many moves do we have left, etc etc.  And your reward for all this effort is just a money shot CG the first time you complete the threesome and a few seeds (this game’s take on Hunny) to buy more smoothies or shoes for the women, because those are the only things worth purchasing.  Why bother?

I quit Huniepop 2 probably less than halfway through, because the game just feels so gross and frustrating.  If I’m not enjoying your puzzles and have no incentive to learn about the characters, where is the appeal?  The threesomes in theory require you to take different permutations of women on dates together to see if they’re compatible, but apparently the core requirement for compatibility is eye contact because I never saw a combo that didn’t result in the potential for a threesome.  In the first game the women at least looked like normal humans put through an anime filter, but the art this time around is even more male-gazey and typically has them all dressed in outfits you’d pick up from the clearance section of a Spencer’s or Halloween Express.  The humor is tasteless, and the writing somehow hinges on an even weaker premise than the original’s, “let’s teach you how to pick up girls!”  It’s a disappointment all the way through.

Games, Gingy's Corner, Review