HuniePop 2 is bad, and that makes me sad.
I’ve talked before about how HuniePop 2’s cast is 25% intentionally grating and pathetic, which gave me an uneasy sense that this game is made for people who are both horny for and contemptuous of women. I get the impression the creators were nudged into this – the greater plot is about sexing some sex demons into satisfaction so that they don’t destroy the galaxy, and this “only your dick can bring satisfaction to the gods” set up is very straight-male-centered, sure, but that’s not a bad thing for HuniePop to be. It’s not Mass Effect or…I dunno, whatever’s currently popular in AAA, I haven’t really given a fuck for like five years, but these huge tent poles need as broad an audience as possible to make back their massive costs, and thus they aspire to saturate gaming culture for at least a few weeks following their release. Companies that make the pitch that every gamer should be playing or at least talking about their game are inherently making decisions about who “every gamer” is and can be held accountable for that. HuniePop isn’t like that. It’s a niche indie game, and should be leaning into that niche. HuniePop 1 was, despite a token option to play a woman, just as laser focused on the straight male experience as HuniePop 2, and I liked HuniePop 1.
But now that they’re making a cast based on fan feedback and requests, HuniePot has churned out a game that, at least partly, views women as annoying and pathetic. Now, it’s still less than half of all the cast who’s like this – I think Abia’s nymphomania is annoying, but the game doesn’t seem to be trying to push her as a nuisance the way Lilian and Suki are clearly intended to be grating and Candace is very intentionally a moron. Lola’s new outfit (she’s a returning character from HuniePop 1) is badly a mismatch for her personality, but her personality has survived and her sense of initiative and ambition have always made her one of my favorites. Nora’s doing what she has to in order to scrape by and her resilience (cartoonishly one-note though it is) is admirable. Ashley’s unashamed hedonism is fun.
But it’s also got a bunch of annoying little shits, and you are supposed to date and ultimately fuck all of them in order to win. Lilian in particular is not only a nuisance, but also feels like the fantasy of an extremely divorced man who dreams of dating teenagers in spite or even because of the huge gap in maturity.
The game’s advancement system is also much worse, even more so than I realized in my original post on the subject. Having 4 different types of XP to juggle mostly just adds annoying busywork – you can never run out of time (unless you’re going for a specific achievement, which the game doesn’t even let you track without manually counting the game days), so you can always go and farm up the specific type of XP you’re lacking. But also, all XP expenditures are now tied to the random items that appear in the shop. This means that whether or not you’re able to upgrade a specific stat depends on whether or not relevant items have spawned and in what numbers, but nothing stops you from blasting through a day to reset the shops if you really want to upgrade one specific stat and the shop didn’t give you anything (or not enough of a thing) to advance it.
The date gift system is also much worse because now gifts are attached to specific girls rather than being tied to your inventory. On the one hand, different girls respond better to different token types, so it makes sense to create a build for each girl that targets the token types they get bonus points for and ignores the tokens they give reduced points for. If this was a system that allowed you to assign a specific build to each girl and load it in automatically when on a date with that girl, it’d be an improvement. But assigning a gift to one girl means you can’t then assign the same gift to another girl (and it’s not like this is a realism thing – these gifts are bought with magic love fairy XP and can be regifted to the same girl any number of times because we’re playing fucking HuniePop, not anything with pretensions of being a remotely grounded relationship sim). So in order to have reliable access to gifts that do broadly useful things, you have to wait for twelve copies of them to come out of the roulette machine and give one of them to each of the twelve girls in the game.
And my entire build in HuniePop 1 was built on early gifts that produce a ton of sentiment (used to activate gifts) followed by later gifts that produce extra turns or affection (the score used to determine if you win). About a quarter of the way in, and HuniePop 2 definitely seems to demand similarly optimized gift builds, but assembling such a build is far more tedious because you either have to do tons of busywork swapping the appropriate gifts out of one girl’s inventory and into another’s for every date (and you have to remember to steal all your important gifts back before you leave a date, because you can only access the inventories of girls in the same location as you), or else you have to buy a dozen copies of all the relevant gifts. And some of the more powerful gifts don’t seem to exist anymore. Maybe the game is trying to push players away from a broadly effective omni-build like multiplier-maximization followed by a gift that trades your multiplier in for raw points, the latter of which can be deployed on your last turn for 25%-ish of the points needed, which is frequently enough to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
But since the cast is so dense with annoying characters, I don’t care enough to play long enough to find out. Cook Serve Delicious 2 switched up the way its recipes worked in order to add new features while simultaneously removing the upgrade system that made learning new recipes fun, and that made getting to grips with its new systems a frustrating slog, but CSD 2 was still a fun game with a fun theme so I put up with it long enough to get good at the new systems. But HuniePop 2 is a game driven by dialogue and match three games, and a big chunk of its cast have miserable dialogue and I don’t want to relearn how to do whatever new strategies are supposed to be the key to success for its match three. The game has been officially banished to Regrets.
It makes me sad. As horny as HuniePop 1 is, it’s weirdly kind of wholesome about it. Your goal is to take ten to twelve (depending on how many secret characters you unlock) women on amazing dates until they fling their clothes off out of overwhelming lust at your match three skills. It’s ridiculous and it knows it’s ridiculous and your progress towards victory is marked by the increasingly less-clothed pics the girls text you, but the primary means of interacting with the game world is to show people an absolutely enchanting time and that’s adorable and cozy. HuniePop 2 being bad is like if a Stardew Valley sequel came out and not only were the mechanics about 20% more frustrating for no reason, but it also had weird blood and soil undertones that read like the developer is trying to court a fascist segment of the audience without being so overt about it that they lose everyone else.