The Soapiest Scrub
HIGH The cast is charming and the combat is pleasantly unconventional
LOW The leveling-up minigames. All of them.
WTF The “slime fling” is basically bukkake.
Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is a perfect example of a great game that’s brought down by its gimmick. In this case, it’s a pleasantly breezy, dungeon-crawling, turn-based JRPG that’s perfectly suited for the Vita, but the ‘hook’ — S&M-themed minigames — is both questionable and annoying.
The premise of Party Favors is that the player is a man in hell (with amnesia, of course!) in charge of seven girls who were about to commit heinous acts in life. Thanks to pre-emptive happenstance, they were sent to hell before committing wrongdoings and are in the player’s charge so that he can ‘reform’ them before they’re doomed for eternity.
This spiritual cleansing is done not by prayer or ethics lessons, but via brief minigames in which the girls are posed in compromising positions. The player will then rub, tap, stroke, or otherwise interface with them via the touchscreen to get them back on the right path.
At this point in my writeup, it should be obvious that the content in Criminal Girls 2 is Not For Everybody – and in general, that’s totally okay. I’m a firm believer that not all content is right for all people whether it be games, movies, books, or anything else. That said, Criminal Girls 2 went a little further than I was personally comfortable with, and the ‘discipline’ was both tedious and annoying.
The problem with this aspect of Criminal Girls 2 is that rather than simply putting EXP points into a stat or making choices on a menu, it gets incredibly tiresome to perform inane touchscreen tasks to level the girls up. Any potential titillation wears off almost immediately, and then it’s just repeating the same tap-tap or swipe-swipe motions over and over again. It’s possible to map the functions to the Vita’s sticks, but they don’t work as well and are clearly meant to be done via touch.
There are different types of discipline methods ranging from “scrubbing” the girls with soap (don’t forget those dirty nipples!) to one where the player is throwing globs of goo onto them. I’m not sure how getting pelted bukkake-style would reform anybody, but it sure is embarrassing to explain when someone walks by and catches a look at the screen.
So I found the ‘sexy’ aspect of Criminal Girls 2 to be problematic on a few levels, but as for the rest of it? Surprisingly, it’s actually quite good.
Players walk around simple dungeons collecting treasure and looking for the next exit, and random battles occur long the way. Fairly boilerplate so far, but when a fight breaks out the player goes to a different screen where their team of four girls (three stay back in reserve) take positions, one in each corner of the Vita’s display. Then, rather than the player assigning actions from a menu, each girl will ‘suggest’ what she wants to do. One girl might want to attack, one might want to defend, one may ask to heal, and so on.
I found this system fascinatingly novel. At the beginning the girls are low-level and want to hide or give up, but after a stretch of killing monsters and leveling up with discipline, they’re soon offering to do triple attacks and magically-charged combos. This system vaguely ties into the S&M theme (in reverse!) by making the player submit to the demands of the girls, but it also adds an unusual strategic layer – it’s impossible to spam the most powerful attacks or keep the party at full health when the characters capable of doing so don’t want to execute. However, it ends up as a pleasant challenge rather than being a problem.
I also want to give credit to the script. Despite being so preloaded with innuendo, the writing was well-done (if a bit verbose) and each of the seven girls had a distinct personality. They spend a satisfactory amount of time talking about their situation and what it means to be in the underworld rehab program, and I appreciated that. There’s also a bit of intrigue since it’s later revealed that one of the seven is actually an imposter. Paranoia ensues! Despite seeming like cheap exploitation software on the surface, the developers didn’t take shortcuts on the game design or narrative. It was a cut above what I expected, for sure.
Apart from the discipline minigames, my only criticism is that it gets a little grindy at times. It’s not egregious, but the best design is when characters are an appropriate level to fight the next boss by the time they get there. In Criminal Girls 2, I usually had to farm EXP for a while before a big fight. Not a dealbreaker, but a minor downer. Otherwise, there are brief delays when selecting actions during combat, and I wanted the fights to run more quickly. Although a one or two second delay after choosing an action doesn’t seem like much at first, it adds up.
There’s a lot going for Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors. The characters are likable, the writing is solid, the combat is fresh, and it feels like a great fit for the Vita. However, it’s embarrassing to level up when others are around, and the ‘sexy’ minigames wore out their welcome in a hurry. It’s a thumbs up when all is said and done, but I’d love to see a sequel that dials back on the touchscreen S&M – despite being the ostensible hook, it was the weakest part of the experience.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Nippon Ichi. It is currently available on Vita. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Vita. Approximately 22 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes. The violence consists of harmless-looking sword swipes and magic fireballs, and the language is super tame. However, this one is 100% not for the kiddies… During the level-up process, the girls are in all sorts of kinky positions and the player needs to touch/spank/slime them in the minigames. It’s pretty over-the-top, so steer little ones clear!
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue is subtitled and there are no audio cues needed for gameplay. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
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