Let’s not beat around the bush: Passion Puzzle is not your average puzzle game. While most of them have themes relating to sweets, or gems, or farming, or magic spells, this one is all about cultivating a network of women to flirt with and get into bed. In fact, it’s more dating sim than puzzler.
As such, it won’t be for everyone. Children will obviously have to steer clear, and feminists will probably struggle to look past the whole seduction side of the game, which reflects a certain type of male perspective on what women want and how they behave.
But in raw gameplay terms, Passion Puzzle is a surprisingly innovative and involved take on the genre.
Let’s start with the seduction. The overall goal in Passion Puzzle is to seduce as many women as you can. You find these women at a series of locations, including the airport, the square, the hotel, the mall, the nightclub, and the beach – all internationally recognized pickup spots.
There are two main ways to interact with a woman: talking and dating. The talking involves choosing from three conversational options – the better your choice, the more money you make out of the exchange.
These conversations require a certain amount of lascivious confidence. For example, at one point Emilia asks whether you like her new hairstyle. The “correct” response is to ask her whether she’s talking about the hair on her head or the hair on another part of her body. Quite.
Elsewhere you’ll be upbraided for being too boring, or needy, or forward. You have to hit just the right note of suggestive confidence.
Just wanna do something special…
Each of the women you unlock has her own personality profile, including likes, dislikes, and a range of upgradeable characteristics like sexuality, humor, and intellect. Levelling these up increases the effectiveness of various gems during the puzzle sessions.
Which brings us neatly onto puzzling. Every time you go on a date you have to complete a puzzle, while your scantily clad date says titillating things at the top of the screen.
The puzzle mechanics are simple but effective. You’re presented with a hex grid covered in tiles of different colors. Each color has its own points value, and you get boosters for clearing more than a certain number. These clear a whole column at once, destroy all tiles within a certain radius, and so on.
You only get a certain number of moves, and for every successfully completed puzzle you get gold.
Every conversation and date costs energy, and you run out of this pretty quickly. You can only store 20 energy from the outset, and a date costs 4, while each statement or question during a chat costs 1. Once you’re out, you have to wait for your energy to recharge – though it recharges fairly quickly.
That means you’re only likely to fit in a handful of puzzles per session, so you want to make them count. But it becomes difficult to make them count quite early in the game, as you’ll struggle to finish puzzles without running out of moves. Passion Puzzle is no pushover.
…for all the ladies in the world
To help you along are various skills that you can buy with the money you earn. These are all upgradeable at an escalating cost, and they generally improve your chances during puzzles.
For instance, buying a Humor upgrade increases the destructiveness of humor gems, while Passion increases your maximum passion level and your maximum point multiplier. The overall effect of these skills is to make you a more competent, and therefore profitable, dater.
As a dating sim, Passion Puzzle has everything you’d expect from the genre, including polished artwork, a decent narrative, a cast of interesting and distinctive characters, and the all-important extra stuff like text messages and selfies to flesh out the experience and create a mood of globetrotting romantic conquest.
If that’s the kind of game you’re in the market for, you’ll have a blast. More importantly, you’ll be having a blast for a long time to come, since making progress in Passion Puzzle requires a strategic approach and an awful lot of patience.