I never got around to playing the original Criminal Girls, mainly due to being put-off by the game’s infamous sadomasochism theme. It just didn’t seem up my wheelhouse, especially since other games like Dungeon Travelers 2 ended up grossing me out a bit due to the excessive “fan service.” So, when I started up Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors I knew that I was in for an interesting experience at the very least.
I came in expecting to see anime girls in sexually compromised situations (and boy, does the game deliver there), but what I didn’t expect was that there was a solid role-playing game hidden beneath the rather vulgar veneer. It only took me a few battles to really get into Criminal Girls‘ fighting system, that has the player coaching his four students (who have been sent to hell for being a delinquent). What’s interesting is that the player doesn’t choose what specific action for the characters to do, instead they are presented with a random assortment of their abilities.
This makes the combat almost feel like a card game. I loved never knowing what attacks I would end up with, and I always felt relieved whenever I saw a major skill come into play during a tough battle. Sure, it also works in the opposite way, as it can be frustrating when that move never shows up, but I felt like it struck a good enough balance. Either way, it’s a more interesting battle system than I see in most role-playing games, namely because it’s not one I’ve played a million times.
Now here comes the awkward part. In order to gain new abilities for your students, I had to “motivate” them. Motivating is done by spending the in-game currency (which you can also buy items with) to play mini-games. These all revolve around the game’s theme of sadomasochism, so you’re causing pain and humiliation to these adorable anime girls.
These mini-games will have players rubbing and tapping their PlayStation Vita touchscreen in order to perform acts such as spanking. While all of this is going on, the screen also shows rather racy images of the characters. This is a big departure from the chibi-style art that the game displays during battles and the overworld.
I really wish there was a way to sim past these mini-games, as it really became a chore to get new abilities. The mini-games weren’t fun enough to where I wanted to keep playing them (just annoyingly repetitive), not to mention that I found the entire thing off-putting. Despite this, I powered through the game by spanking girls (for strictly motivational purposes).
Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors plays similar to a dungeon crawler, as it has players making their way through various dungeons in Hell. The goal is to get to the top so the delinquent girls can be rehabilitated. The story has some twists along the way (including an early tease that one of your students is actually a demon in disguise), and I ended up really getting into it.
Disappointingly, Party Favors ends up suffering in the same area where a lot of RPGs do. It required me to do a lot of grinding in order to succeed. This didn’t bother me at first due to my enjoyment of the battle system, but it got old after I had spent a few hours running around each level’s save point (so I could heal and save) in order to get into random battles.
This is certainly a situation where less would’ve been more. Criminal Girls ups its length by having enemies increase in difficulty rather quickly instead of designing a more satisfying challenge. Games like Undertale have shown that there isn’t a need for this endless fluff and filler content, and I’m hoping in the future more streamlined RPGs will be made.
It’s really disappointing that Criminal Girls limits its audience by going down the most perverted route possible. It’s all so unnecessary, as the game is a really fun role-playing game. I get that it’s getting harder to stand out, but it just feels as if the developer lacked confidence in their gameplay. Their solution was to throw on a layer of smut to guarantee some sales, and it probably was the smart decision.
This tacked-on perversion only undercuts the great parts of Party Favors. Every party member is well-written and has their own personality, yet the game constantly had me awkwardly causing them pain. Plus, considering one of the girls is a child (she even holds a stuffed animal at all times to further show that she’s clearly underage), it’s just straight up creepy.
If you can look past the sadomasochism theme (and I won’t blame anyone who can’t as it constantly irked me the wrong way) then you’ll find a redeeming RPG. The star of Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is its battle system, which is a fun twist on turn-based gaming. While I wish it was in a different game, for now I’ll have to stoop to spanking girls that clearly don’t enjoy it in order to experience it.
Review code for Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation Vita. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.