In an era where more studios are opening all around the world, many are losing touch with the original games, such as one of the pioneers of the genre, Japan. Japan has been the origin of many beloved games which had distinctive characteristics, mostly the famed JRPGs which are now a staple format in game development. Apart from excellent elements, Japanese games may also feature controversial or weird themes to their games, and one such example is Criminal Girls.
Originally made for the PSP and now adapted for the PS Vita and imported by NIS America, Criminal Girls: Invite Only tells the tale of seven girls who have to reclaim their life from eternal damnation in hell. These girls are deemed to be very likely to commit a crime but before they could ever do these crimes they have been trapped in prison cells awaiting their fate, a Reformation Program which should take them back to the good ways. Here comes in your role. You are tasked to take care of these girls, even though initially your character thinks he is going to act as a zookeeper. After realizing that three of the seven captives have escaped, you are informed that there are four trials awaiting you, and the aim of the game is to beat all the trials and return the girls to their freedom.
These trials take place one after the other, in different environments. The game reminisces the famous Pokemon games due to the occasional encountering of enemies while randomly running about. It also reminds me of Pokemon Yellow where you have Pikachu running after you, but here you have four girls following you. Basically, the game revolves around you killing enemies upon enemies, going about finding chests and killing even more enemies. Battles follow a turn based system but with random action. This means that you do not choose whatever you want in battles but out of a pre-set selection of four actions. Actions may include attacking, healing or supporting abilities. Attacking can be done also by more characters than one, since upon unlocking the ability with more girls you will be able to attack with two, three or even four characters in one turn.
The most defining and perhaps awkward part of the game lies in its core mechanic: motivation. Along your travels you will find Infirmaries where you may heal your girls and save, but also motivate them. This motivation takes place by pleasuring these girls, literally. By using a whip and subsequently further toys which you find on the floor, you get to play with your followers. Initially a pink mist will fog a lot of the visuals in earlier stages of each toy but as you level up the abilities, to a maximum of four for each motivator, the image gets clearer, and one has to say, dirtier. Playing with the girls obviously is not an innocent session of play ball or something regular, but instead a lot of these motivations are explicit sexual scenes, making these little minigames absolutely NSFW, as well as out of the reach of jealous girlfriends. Trust me, I know. The girls do not seem to like this motivation, with a lot of them showing discomfort or uneasiness but later on in the game they seem to start liking it, which becomes pretty awkward. The motivation, which is also called maintenance for some weird reason, grants new abilities to the girls, which may vary from physical attacks to magic attacks or special abilities. To motivate these girls one needs CM, which is obtained by defeating enemies and can also be found in chests spread around each level floor. CM requirements starts very low but rises very quickly and becomes quite high as you make progress in the game, and having quite a series of characters to level up will have you making strategic choices as to who to motivate. Different areas will feature different enemies, and thus enemies have different weaknesses of their own. These weaknesses are explained on sign posts placed around the levels, and due to having the possibility of browsing through all the possible upgrades which can be unlocked for the girls, selecting the abilities which make the best combinations or feature the elemental weakness of the enemies on the floor is the key for success.
Visually, the game is as ordinary as can be, and that is not a bad thing. Characters are well drawn and all have some particular feature which distinguishes them from each other. All the girls have their own personality which gives an identity to each and every one of them, be it the greedy but passionate Kisaragi or the defensive Ran. It really gives a sense of welcome difference throughout, and with the girls bonding as the adventure progresses these characters come out even more. The music in the game is fairly standard as well, with generic themes playing while running about a level and more intense music when battling enemies.
Taking all the factors in consideration, Criminal Girls will surely not appeal to everyone due to its naughty scenes. It is a shame since the game should be praised because of its originality and setting, as well as the great gameplay and role playing elements within the game. The battle system and story are excellent by themselves, and for who enjoys, or does not mind, the sexual content in the motivation minigames, this game is definitely one to purchase.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.