Easily one of the most peculiar and boring PS vita games I’ve ever played, Criminal Girls started life as a Japanese PlayStation portable title and has eventually found its way to Europe, thanks to the aid of publisher NIS America.
Five years on from its initial release however, its clear that no matter how popular the JRPG genre has become, certain more ‘edgy’ takes on the genre still wont be welcome to every gamer.
So, what point is it exactly that I’m dancing around here?
Well, the large amounts of needless ‘mini games’ that are just excuses to essentially insert mild hentai into the game are the point I’m currently skirting around and something that, despite trying to push aside, really take the title from a rather stale JRPG to one I’d never choose to play again and suggest others not bother touching.
Things kick off by throwing you into the shoes of a fresh faced prison guard, given the thankless task of assisting a group of loud and rowdy female convicts who are in desperate need of redemption. Once spoon fed the story, you’ll begin your journey and quickly realise the corridor format that lies ahead, following a strict track that rarely leaves any room for movement.
You wont find any lush forests, endless skies or sprawling landscapes to explore but instead be forced to wade through a repetitive prison, climbing higher and higher towards the towers peak. The battles themselves don’t offer any respite from the grey monotony, instead choosing a bland look that echoes that of much older JRPGs from the 80′s.
Surprisingly, Criminal Girls most controversial and perhaps offensive components are the ones that have had a large amount of effort thrown in. As you progress you’ll eventually need to upgrade or ‘motivate’ each of your team of misfits, no surprise there of course, but to do so you’ll need to complete one of a handful of mini games that make use of the PS Vitas touch sensitive screen and back plate.
Whatever mini game you enter into, you’ll essentially need to offer the correct input on either touch panel in order to clear a pink mist from an other wise hidden animation. As you clear the screen, the criminal girl in question will moan and groan until you eventually reveal an image of them in some sort of skimpy attire. An entirely cringeworthy affair in all.
Unfortunately these events cannot be avoided at all, which begs the question, why were they thrown in at all?
Upgrades could have quite easily been dealt with in a whole manner of different ways but instead the developers chose to force you into an endurance test with these pointless, overly sexualised ‘mini-games’.
The combat itself in Criminal Girls is nothing to write home about. It works, but theres nothing fresh here to celebrate and over all it just feels extremely stale. The way in which your party behaves depending on their mood and rapport with you is an interesting concept, one which could have become a huge asset to the game but in fact just works to make things much worse.
As you play the role of prison screw then its no surprise that often the girls simply don’t want to take orders, meaning the list of available commands during battle will change depending on the girls mood, often leaving you with some that wont fight at all. As you can imagine this isn’t the clever mechanic it could have been but instead quickly becomes nothing but frustrating.
There’s a huge amount of grinding to be done in order to stop this from happening too often and in order to keep your team at their strongest you can expect to be forced into ‘motivating’ your new friends a lot!
All in all, I found little in Criminal Girls to enjoy. Whether it’s the mechanics and overall feel that felt a good few decades too late, or the pointlessly sexualised upgrading methods. I realise that there are no doubt fans of this rather niche market who will find a lot here to enjoy but for the rest of us, this is definitely one worth missing.
MLG Rating: 3/10 Format: PlayStation Vita Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Criminal Girls: Invite Only the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 2 weeks on a PlayStation Vita. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.