The hunt for a good adult game continues.
Pantsu Hunter: Back to the 90s is not shy about what it is. In this point-and-click adventure/visual novel you play as Kenji, a young single man whose hobby is stealing panties from women so that he can evaluate them to get a better idea of the woman’s personality. Using his status as a “jack of all trades,” he talks his way into a girl’s home so that he can look around for her underwear and take them for his collection when she isn’t looking.
I have to admit I was actually intrigued when I first saw the game listed as coming to Switch despite its oddly depraved sexual nature. I’ve long believed that this kind of subject matter that would turn most people away doesn’t guarantee that a game is going to be bad, and I’m often on the lookout for games with taboo subject matter such as this that look like they have the potential to be good. Between Pantsu Hunter’s retro throwback art—heavily entrenched in a 90s anime aesthetic—and an Indiegogo campaign led by a passionate team, I was hoping that this would be one such game. Overall that style is pulled off very well; Pantsu Hunter’s art really sells the feeling of a classic anime series and combines well with relaxing music to create a distinct aesthetic mood.
Sadly, I was pretty disappointed when I finally sat down to play Pantsu Hunter. For the majority of the story, the flow of the game resembles a classic point-and-click puzzle game where you must piece together different items in the world to achieve your goals. One puzzle in the first chapter involves stealing a pair of panties out of a washing machine. To do this, you first need to turn off the washing machine by reaching into the cabinet beneath the sink and unplugging it. Then you need to use a bucket to catch the water that flows out of the washing machine to prevent it from spilling all over the bathroom and getting you caught in the act.
Solving the puzzles to find different panties is an exercise in trial and error. In the shower there’s what the game describes as a chair (though it looks more like a stool than anything). Clicking on the chair causes you to slip and fall, dying instantly and restarting the chapter entirely. There’s no indication that this can happen, and there are a lot of death triggers like this. When unplugging the washing machine, you can accidentally unplug the bathroom light and hit your head on the way up. Stepping in the full bathtub can lead down a series of events that end with you being arrested. Simply sitting in the living room chair can cause sudden instant death from— and this is true—a malicious curse that is only explained in a bonus scene unlocked by having the curse kill you.
The trial-and-error puzzles do little except artificially extend the game’s extremely short runtime. I didn’t enjoy my time solving the puzzles in the first chapter at all, so I found a walkthrough online to guide me through the story. By following the walkthrough, I finished the entire game in under an hour—and that counts the time I spent legitimately figuring out the puzzles in the first chapter. This gets even stranger when you unlock the fourth and final chapter that switches up the gameplay entirely into something more like a traditional visual novel where you’re earning affinity points with the different girls in order to get a paired ending with one of them. I actually enjoyed this chapter the most because it was the only one that was relatively relaxing, mostly because of its total lack of point-and-click puzzles.
Funnily enough, the odd and off-putting premise of Kenji trying to discern women’s personalities through their underwear is actually the most entertaining part of the game. Since Pantsu Hunter is fully committed to its premise without shame, it’s honestly entertaining to see the kind of trouble Kenji gets himself into. Even that weird cursed chair was pretty funny to see explained after the fact; I just wish it wasn’t so intrinsically linked to some really frustrating and boring puzzles. If Pantsu Hunter had fully committed to being a visual novel like its final chapter instead, I’d probably like it a lot more. Unfortunately as it is, it relies too much on extending its runtime through cheap instant death puzzles without clear solutions to make me feel like I could appreciate the few things it does right.