Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Criminal Girls: Invite Only

My first foray into... how do I put it... sexually provocative gaming (?), was going to the arcade when I was around 12. With the intention of throwing a few pounds into Killer Instinct and then the 1980's themed Doctor Who pinball machine, those plans came to a halt when I happened upon some Playboy themed arcade game. I forget the name of it, but essentially gameplay boiled down to you having to draw a layer of paint over the image of a Playboy model, all the while being chased by enemies. If you managed to completely cover the image, a piece of the girls clothes/underwear would vanish. The name of the game was to see some naked ladies, so naturally being a curious 12 year old kid, I pumped a good 10 pounds into that game. It was a waste. Hell, even back then as soon as I walked out of that dingy arcade and the cold winter wind hit my face, I knew it was a bloody monumental waste! Since then I don't really get the idea of games that are sexually provocative. I'm all for games being sexy, containing a bit of smut like GTA, but I don't really get games that essentially act as a virtual lap-dance; a fruitless waste of money with nothing to show for it other than an empty wallet. Criminal Girls: Invite Only kind of reminded me of this, as there's a part of the game that's so out there and sleazy that I'm surprised it was even released in the West.

Developed by Imageepoch and out now on Playstation Vita comes Criminal Girls: Invite Only, a game I had a little fun with, but couldn't really immerse myself in it's world mainly because I don't own a Japanese body pillow that I sing sweet Enka music to, amid the dank, heavy and pungent smell of old ramen. Oh well. Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a (kind of) remake of Criminal Girls; a PSP title that never saw a Western release back in 2010. Invite Only is set in hell and puts you in command of 7 girls, with each one representing one of the 7 deadly sins- Lust,  gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. You know, those 7 things that Kevin Spacey killed people in Se7en over! Anyway, given one last chance of redeeming themselves and escaping hell, the girls are put through 4 trials that will put them to the test. It's up to you to make sure the girls complete the trials and find their way out of internal damnation.

At its heart Invite Only plays out like a mash-up between a JRPG and a dungeon crawler. As the prison warden in charge of these girls in hell, you must lead them through various dungeons and locations. Getting around and exploring these dungeons is actually pretty awesome, as is the combat that accompanies it. Presented from a top-down 2D perspective, levels are nicely designed, visually beautiful at times and extremely varied through Invite Only. From ice levels, old forests dotted with various ruins to some sleek corridor based locations, the game is jam packed full of visual finesse.

As you might expect from a game like this, you'll eventually find yourself in combat with a whole host of bizarre foes. The turn-based combat here stands apart from other JPRGs, especially due to the fact that in Invite Only you can only choose one person to make a move per round. This move can be anything from attacking, using magic to stealing, as in this game each character you're controlling has their own mind about what should be happening during combat. Instead of you having a plethora of attacks and moves to choose from, the girls on your team will simply offer up suggestions on what to do. But don't worry, as you progress in the game you can unlock new attacks and moves, which in turn leads to the girls offering more suggestions, essentially giving you more options on how to fight your battles. Through battling you can master your battle abilities, but it's how these new abilities are obtained that Invite Only is causing a bit of media storm.

This is where the game gets sexually charged. In order to unlock new battle abilities- many of which are utterly essential to progressing through the game- as the warden you'll need to “motivate” the 7 girls. Motivation basically boils down to a mini-game in which you spank, whip, electrocute and generally go 50 Shades of Grey on the girls, who are depicted as scantily clad and veiled in pink mist. This is done by using the PS Vita touch screen, and is the part of the game you won't want to play in public, and it's a part of the game that I became utterly embarrassed by. Don't get me wrong, I'm not outraged by the actual content- after all, these are shitty anime characters, not, you know, real human beings!- but it just comes across as, well, a bit pathetic really. Sitting there in my room, using the touch-screen to whip these girls, and to have my girlfriend walk in and burst out laughing was an odd experience. It just felt weird, not exactly wrong, but just plain old weird. I felt like I needed to shower afterwards, interact with a real female and banish the memory from my mind.

Overall Criminal Girls: Invite Only is not a terrible game. Running around the dungeons is pretty fun, as is the rather unique combat. But despite not being at all outraged by the sexual content, I just felt as if it wasn't needed, and that it kind of dragged down the integrity of an otherwise good game. Without that content it's a passable yet somewhat dull dungeon crawler. With that content it's a passable yet somewhat dull dungeon crawler that I'd be ashamed to play in public, or around any other human being within a radius of 4 miles.

Criminal Girls: Invite Only loses a few marks amid a pile of Japanese body pillows and gets a 2/5.


Denis Murphy

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