Does anything say PlayStation Vita more than, Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors? It’s weird as all hell (no pun intended), is awash with ‘unique’ touch controls and is about as niche an experience as you are likely to find. Ok, so the Vita hasn’t got all that much to do with S&M, but you get the idea.
A follow-up to the equally absurd original, Nippon Ichi Software’s, Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is every bit the sequel to the first game – it’s a JRPG dungeon crawler, it’s still centred around a group of imprisoned girls who require ‘reforming’, yes, it still has those rather uncomfortable mini games, and besides its uncompromising lewdness, remains a largely enjoyable game.
Sure, it’s hardly a classic and still suffers from many of the same pitfalls that Invite Only did, but this is a more polished version of what was already a surprisingly competent and somewhat progressive dungeon crawler.
Oh, just to be clear, when I say, ‘progressive’, I am very much referring to its mechanics rather than its tone or themes. Some might argue that its boundary pushing exploits are good for the industry, but for most people, much of the content will prove either uncomfortable or downright offensive.
The fact of the matter is, regardless of how good the dungeon crawling aspects of the game might be (and they really are the crux of the experience here), it’s hard not to talk about those mini-games. They’re back, and the animations are better than ever – that’s not even a joke; remove content from the conversation, and there is no arguing with the fact that all of the girls are all beautifully drawn, but then, removing the content is easier said than done when it comes to a game like this. As gorgeous as they are to look at, what you are looking at are young girls being tortured….and by you no less.
Whether it be tickling, electric shocks, spanking or whipping, literally ‘poking’ and ‘rubbing’ the girls on-screen into submission is a somewhat odd experience. Needless to say, it’s not one for the train journey to work.
Still, as odd and as sexually charged as it might be, these mini-games and all of their odd torture techniques have been smartly implemented into the more traditional aspects of the gameplay. Rather than learning new skills, your crew of reluctant criminals need to be coerced into using their existing powers by whipping, shocking and, errr, tickling them into shape. It’s sexist, it’ll be rather offensive to many, but honestly, it’s all so silly that I, just like in the case of the first game, found it all a tad too dopey to get offended by any of it. The game knows it’s absurd, and because it leans into that tone, it somehow manages to get away with many of its more questionable artistic choices.
Like the first game, once you’ve completed your torturous mini-game duties, you are left with a relatively standard JRPG dungeon crawler that successfully sets itself apart by its distinctive cast of characters (this is a totally new set of delinquent girls), the unique bonding mechanics and the suggested attack patterns based upon the ‘motivational techniques’ undertaken before the battle.
With each girls’ abilities unlocked via motivation, you are then left with a selection of fixed abilities that can be taken into battle. It’s hardly revelatory, but this somewhat unique approach to battle does ensure that you need to take a distinct approach to each encounter and can’t fall back on the same set of reliable moves over and over again. It’s a shame that the relatively pedestrian difficulty rarely requires a great deal of imagination, but with a few tricky boss battles along the way, there are a few occasions in which you’ll be asked to make the most of the games’ surprisingly robust turn-based battle mechanics.
Equally, the bonding system, while a good idea on paper, is rarely used as effectively as it really could have been. The abilities unlocked by building up relationships in the games’ numerous scenes of dialogue are certainly worthwhile, but with a rather flattened level of difficulty, the benefits of these bonds are only felt at certain key points of the adventure. It’s a good addition all the same, and along with the more traditional aspects of the dungeon-crawling gameplay, combine to create a solid, if relatively forgetful dungeon crawler.
It would help of course if the characters or narrative were particularly compelling, but while there is nothing particularly wrong with any facet of the games’ presentation, it rarely does enough to overcome its now signature mechanic. It might be a very solid dungeon crawler at its heart, but it’s nowhere near good enough for the conversation to be about anything other than all that poking and rubbing that you’ll be doing. Perhaps the lack of underlying quality is the reason why all that S&M stuff is there, but whatever the reason might actually be, Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors struggles to overcome its decidedly seedy tone.
It won’t be for everyone, and it certainly won’t change the mind of those put off by the original, but if you’re willing to overlook / live with some of the game’s more questionable design choices, you’ll be treated to a very solid dungeon crawler that feels perfectly at home on the increasingly niche PlayStation Vita. It’s inevitably difficult to look beyond its more adult oriented content, but the Criminal Girls series is about much more than its resolutely questionable mini-games would suggest.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation Vita code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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