Have you ever wanted to fill the shoes of a deeply misogynistic man who hides his sexual fetish for panties by pretending he can deduce all he needs to know about a woman by the kind of underwear she chooses? WELL YOU’RE IN LUCK! ‘Pantsu Hunter: Back To The 90s’ has you well and truly covered.
Things start out suspiciously when a caution message appears before you’ve even begun the game, warning you that “strange things are about to happen”. Asking you to be patient and careful due to the lack of manual saving, it was soon clear to me that this was not the only reason to be cautious when approaching this game. As the opening menu loaded up, it proudly boasted a ‘Panties Collection’ option, presumably allowing players to come back and sniff, or rather gaze longingly at, the underwear they had stolen in game.
Yes, as the title alludes, this is a game that revolves around the main character’s need to steal panties from women he visits, under the cover of being a handyman (or as he puts it, a “jack of all trades”). This is a character so unashamedly sexist and perverted that the developer attempts to make the player feel some kind of sympathy for him in the prologue by having him tell us that he suffers “from deformed legs” (that’s an actual quote), and that he has thus far been quite unlucky in love because his partners turn out to be not quite what he expected. This leads our intrepid ‘hero’ to devise a theory that he can gauge all he needs to know about a woman from what panties they wear. Of course, these women won’t willingly give over their knickers to the strange man they’ve hired to fix the VCR, so he has no choice but to sneak around their apartments and swipe as many pairs as he can. Don’t worry though, he plans to return them later once he’s had a chance to… ‘study’ them in depth, so he’s not THAT bad. Right?!
So how does one go about this task, I hear you wondering? ‘Pantsu Hunter’ is a point and click game at it’s heart, requiring the player to find and interact with items, solve puzzles, and initiate conversations with your target to get to know them better – or more accurately to throw them off the scent of your true deviant intentions, since the main character usually couldn’t care less what his victim has to say. The controls are pretty fiddly, with it sometimes taking a few attempts to click on the object you want to take a look at, even using the touch screen. The game does try to help you out by revealing interactive objects in the room when you click on the Y button. In this mode you can flit from item to item using the analog stick, rather than having to move a pointer into position. The game highlights interactive objects in this view with a panty symbol – that’s real commitment to the theme!
Just like in a standard point and click game, you can pick up certain items to use later on in order to solve a puzzle of some kind. An early example tasks you with picking up a bottle of glass cleaner in order to clean mud from a mirror, revealing a number. I won’t spoil what that number is, but given the highly sexualised nature of the game, it wouldn’t take a genius to work it out. Often these moments are posited more as comedy, and I would occasionally let out a chuckle at an innuendo or a ridiculous situation. The vast majority of the time though, these moments would come across as flat-out creepy. One of your very first interactions with a woman is as you step through her front door, and are asked to choose your greeting from either a simple “hello” or “wow, you look better in your photo”. Choosing the latter ends the game as the annoyed home-owner slams the door in your face, and rightly so. However, the game simply tells you that “before trying to get your way into a girl’s panties, you need to find the best way to approach her’, before letting you have another stab at that introduction. Objectification and creepy comments like this are rife throughout the experience, and they range from eye-rollingly stupid to rage-inducingly offensive.
Another issue here is linked to that warning message given at the very start of the game. This is essentially a puzzle game, verging on an escape room experience, in which you must complete all puzzles in order to be able to finish. There is an order to these puzzles too, each of which are designed to secure you another set of panties for your collection, meaning that you need to advance the situation in a very particular way. This formula is so rigid that you can fail the very first ‘story’ for being too slow. There isn’t a timer, this is actually tied to a very particular puzzle (which I won’t spoil, for those of you who go and buy this regardless of all the red flags thus far), which seems to be intended to be solved last. You therefore are expected to fail a multitude of times, coming back again and again with a little bit more knowledge each time, allowing you to eventually complete the entire thing ‘correctly’. But hey, the game did warn you this could be frustrating!
At times it feels like the developer is actively trying to mess with you, not for your amusement but for their own. There are multiple ways to fail, and the game lays them out like achievements, which in itself is not a bad thing. However, they have also thrown in ways to fail that are just for bizarre, for example a seat which you can sit on that kills you. I’m not even joking. By simply choosing to sit down the game ends and informs you that you died. There is more than one chair in the apartment too, but only one brings about this particular ending, whisking you back to the very start to try your luck at raiding an innocent woman’s house for undergarments yet again.
To sum up, it’s hard to find much to like about this game. There are several scenarios to play through, each with multiple ways of failing as well as many pairs of panties to find. The voice acting is serviceable, and the graphical styling is pure 90s anime, as you would expect given the games subtitle. None of that matters though, as the game is just too problematic, in so many ways.
Perhaps if the developers had lent into the creepy and perverted angle of their subject matter more heavily, angling this as more of a trip into the psyche of a deeply disturbed individual whose atypical desires compel him to hunt underwear from unsuspecting victims, the misogyny and overall unsettling feeling would make some kind of twisted sense. As it stands, this is advertised as a rather light-hearted game about objectifying anime girls and finding hidden objects, but you’re soon hit square in the face by a game eager to force you down it’s very particular path, whether you like it or not. At it’s very core, this is a game that says it’s okay to treat women as a puzzle to be solved only to satisfy your own sexual gratification, so long as you put on a veneer of civility. Who wants to play THAT game?