Criminal Girls is a very competent and enjoyable dungeon JRPG, which does just about everything you would expect a Dungeon JRPG to do and does it well. I’d describe it as a very middle of the road type of good if it wasn’t for it’s one key defining feature which has been the cause of a fair amount of controversy. A quiet kind of controversy to be fair, the kind that is drummed up around niche internet circles that the world at large doesn’t pay much attention to, but none the less there is some outcry about this. It is very hard to separate the game itself from the context surrounding it, but for the first part of this review I will only discuss the game itself: it’s presentation, the mechanics and the story, and then I will delve into the more interesting aspects of Criminal Girls.
So as stated in the introduction, this is a top-down dungeon crawler type game in which you lead your party around various dungeon floors fighting progressively more difficult enemies until you reach the end. Not much in the way of innovation there, but quite often a game doesn’t really need to push the boat out too much, as long as it hits the right notes. And to it’s credit Criminal Girls (which I’m not going to refer to by its full title for the sake of brevity) plays very well and, as much as it might cut this review short, if you’re on the look out for a comfortably DRPG to waste some hours on, you can do a lot worse that this. It’s both easy and hard to talk about the game play here (without touching on the big subject) because it’s so effortlessly decent. You explore dungeons and take part in turn-based combat. That’s about the long and short of it. The strategy element of it isn’t particularly taxing I must say, as it often devolves into a game of who has the biggest number, but you can play about with abilities in interesting ways. The titular Criminal Girls all fall within certain class archetypes, such as mage, fighter, tank and all that jazz. The game doesn’t explicitly say this, but if your even remotely familiar with RPG classes they will be instantly recognisable. In a way, this does make this a pretty good first Dungeon RPG because it teaches you while you play the role of each team mate. It’s very easy to pick up and grind out a few levels in Criminal Girls which makes it very easy to recommend to fans of the genre as well, especially those who enjoy a unique story.
The end of my last paragraph would lead you to believe that this segment will be devoted to a story discussion, which it is not because I would much rather use the story section to segue into the other discussion. So instead, I’d like to bring up the presentation of the game. Invite Only is an enhanced port that was released on the PlayStation Vita in 2015 of the original PlayStation Portable game. This version is a PC port of the Vita version and as such retains the enhanced sprite work. It’s a very RPG Maker looking game if you understand my meaning, and if you don’t then I’ll say it looks a lot like an upscaled SNES game. The sprites in the over the world communicate to the player which character is which effectively enough and the full artwork in battle sections (and other sections) are very clean, very polished pieces. I did enjoy the designs of each of the Criminal Girls, as I’m sure you’ve surmised they are all prisoners, so they each where their black and white prison garb in different ways, that clearly communicate what they are all about. I particularly liked the way they were all colour coded e.g. the red girl is angry or the purple girl is morose. Enemy design is a little more generic but each combatant does fir the games anarchic cartoon style, which hard outlines and rough edges to distinguish them from your standard bats and worms.
You start the game in a haze as your character (whom you may name as you so chose) struggles to remember why they are here. Your wandering thoughts are quickly interrupted as the captain of the guards slaps you awake. You play as the newest recruit in Hell’s guard and you are tasked with watching over a selection of youthful delinquents who have been sent to hell because…. because they would have done something bad later in life. So the title is a huge lie, and these girls are not in fact criminals, but possible criminals. So goal you are given is to lead the girls up the tower, fighting actual criminals and degenerates as they go, and if you can make it through the ordeals then the Criminal Girls will be redeemed and be given a chance to re-enter the world. The girls in your charge are pretty hesitant to go along with this, owing to the fact that they have been given a pretty bum deal. It’s your job to motivate these naughty, naughty girls, who need to be taught a lesson in the sexiest and severe manner possible.
And thus we get to the elephant in the room. To get the girls in line, the very young and not specifically aged girls I’d add, you have to dish out a good old fashion spanking. This is Criminal Girls USP. When you make it to a save point, scattered around each dungeon floors, you can take each individual girl and engage in a Spanking mini-game, complete with soft whips and oils. Let’s not beat around the bush here, this is pure masturbation bait, soft-core titillation meant to attract a certain audience. Now I don’t mean to demonise anyone who is into that, its fine, I’m a pervert too, but there’s no need to pretend. Yes, it does add a light management element to your moment to moment gameplay and it does add to the story as you use these spanking sessions to learn more about the girls back stories, but the main draw here is the simulated BDSM, daddy/daughter thing going on here. And the game is well aware of this because not only do you force the girls over your metaphorical knee, not only do you make them adopt… compromising positions for the spanking, you even make them play dress up while you work away. Now all of this is fine, Criminal Girls was very clearly made with a particular type of customer in mind, no judgement from me, its fine, it’s hot, I get it. However, Invite Only is very lightly censored, which annoys the target audience to no end. And when I say light, I mean light. I mean a very light pink fog, that covers up all the problem areas, like panties and side boob. Apparently, the reason for this was because NISA (the publisher) was given guidance by the ERSB to add this in to make a mature rating, rather than an adult only rating. Now that make sense for the Vita version because Sony requires ratings and an Adult Only label would push your title way, way into the recesses of the store. And again I say however because the steam store does not require any ratings for games to be sold. So the question becomes, why leave the censorship in? Especially when it will alienate a segment of your target audience! It’s strange, and difficult to comprehend, but the good news is, that even with the barely coverings, the game is still pretty sexy overall.
And even with the censoring, Criminal Girls is a good game by its own right. It just doesn’t have much of a selling point to it over other games in the same genre. I’m not going to let the censor’s factor into my overall score because I had fun with the game regardless, but it is important to note because too many people the soft core hentai is a significant value add. The bottom line is that Criminal Girls is decent to good Dungeon crawler with some light management sim elements thrown in to spice things up. It’s an easy recommendation to any who needs something to eat up time with or to anyone who wants a little bit of not-porn in their steam library.
Criminal Girls: Invite Only Was Review on PC via Steam