Recently I reviewed a game about tearing others clothes off, and now I’m reviewing one about spanking girls so that they’ll be stronger in battle. This may or may not say a lot about my taste in games.
Criminal Girls: Invite Only won’t be for everybody, but it was for me. I’m no stranger to a good dungeon-crawler and fan-service, and Criminal Girls delivers that in spades. It has a constantly progressing story with plenty of dialogue, characters who you’ll quickly grow accustomed to with their quirks and a solid gameplay system. The story is simple – you’ve taken on a job to help a group of girls earn salvation so they don’t have to remain in Hell, and that’s about it. You’ll team up with them to defeat the four trials you’ve been given, and it’ll be down to you to motivate them via spanking, and some other methods, to ensure that they learn new abilities and become more powerful.
The characters aren’t particularly fleshed out or complex, and all of them want to escape Hell. Some of them begrudge having to follow your orders, as you are the sole man around, but through listening to them and granting their wishes – which are essentially side-quests – you can gain their trust and appreciation. It’s sweet, more so because they weren’t criminals when they were alive, but apparently were all going to commit criminal acts before their untimely demise; they’re essentially innocent and I really wanted to help them.
The gameplay is addictive and challenging and if there’s one thing I found myself really, really liking about Criminal Girls it’s this one thing – the encounter rate was just perfect. I’ve played so many JRPG’s where the encounter rate spikes so high that I can barely walk without being attacked, but Criminal Girls nailed down a perfect balance. Anyway, you’ll have four girls in your party who’ll all have different abilities, so one might focus on physical attacks, one on healing and one on magic, but you can switch any of the girls out once per turn to utilise everything you’ve got – you can do this if one of your characters has fallen too, saving you a revival item. Another note to gush about is that even if you aren’t using one of the girls in battle, they’ll still earn EXP and so all of them will roughly be similar levels at all times.
Motivation and your ability to do well in battle go hand in hand, as each time a girl earns enough points via motivation, she’ll learn a new skill including the awesome ability to attack with your entire current team of four as part of one turn. The motivation system is what may make it or break it for some people though, as it’s risque and you might not feel comfortable doing it.
So, motivating the girls includes putting them in skimpy outfits and then doing a variety of things to the monstrous temptations that pick up, which usually take the form of blobs, which includes spanking, electrocuting, etc, and the girls will react to these even if you’re not hitting them directly – you’re essentially beating the bad out of them. I found it fun although I wouldn’t do such a thing in real life (you know, outside of trying to rescue girls from Hell), but it’s a game and even though the outfits aren’t explained, you’re removing the bad from them so that they won’t remain trapped in Hell. Plus, it’s already been made clear that I’m a fan of fan-service, and this game is servicing the fans, alright.
Criminal Girls is a primarily 2D game, with 2D battles, characters and animations, and dungeon-crawling. Whilst character portraits, the motivation mini-game, enemies and battles are clean and highly-detailed, navigating opts for a more chibi, retro jagged look which is reminiscent of dungeon-crawlers of old. I love the character design, particularly how every girl is in standard prison attire but each is given something unique, such as a skirt, that reflects their personality; Kisaragi has a ruffly skirt as she grew up in a wealthy family and likes aesthetically-pleasing things. Battles consist of static images that change slightly when they attack, so there’s not much to say there bar how nice they look. There were worries about censoring in the motivation scenes, but there’s a pink fog which mostly clears up by the end and reveals pretty much everything, but some of the more sexual noises have been edited out – it really doesn’t change anything worth worrying about.
There’s only Japanese voice-acting available (I can’t say I expected this to get the dub treatment!) but it does a good job, and the subtitles do a good job during character conversations. A weird thing I noticed is that when girls talk outside of battle, so at random points during dungeon-crawling, the subtitles appear and seem to lack spacing a lot of the time, making me have to look twice to make sense of the sentence – I’m not sure why this is, but it seems like somebody’s spacebar broke during translating. The music is good but repetitive, and it doesn’t sound as if there are many tracks in the game as it is, but they do the job well even if I do wish there was more variety.
Criminal Girls is a lengthy game, I cleared the first proper dungeon around seven hours in, and the second around fifteen hours in, and each dungeon only got progressively longer after that. Whilst it’s pretty well-balanced overall, I did have to spend a few hours grinding to beat the dungeons end bosses, although I found the mini-bosses to be easy – motivating all of the girls helps a lot as you can switch them in on the fly an many characters have special moves that can only be done with certain girls.
Criminal Girls isn’t a game for everybody, but if you enjoy solid gameplay with a healthy dash (more than a dash) of fan-service, then this is your game. I’m glad that it got localised as I spoke with Chris King, the Marketing Coordinator at NIS America, and he explained that without the slight censorship, they wouldn’t have been able to localise the game. When asked about the issue, he said, “It really came down to, 1) If we don’t edit this game, it can’t come out in NA/EU, 2) If we edit this game, it can come out in NA/EU. The reasons of the edits are mostly from rating boards with concerns of the content revolving around the “motivation” scenes. It’s something we just had to do, and I really understand how people feel about it, but yeah, it’s just the way it had to be.” I stress again that the censorship doesn’t negatively affect the gameplay, and it’s hardly noticeable.
I really enjoyed Criminal Girls: Invite Only and whilst I can’t recommend it to everybody, I know that people who share similar tastes as me will absolutely love this game, and it’ll keep you glued to your Vita for dozens of hours.