Condemn O.R. Condone – Criminal Girls: Invite Only (PlayStation Vita)

While the game features decent enough combat mechanics, the game is unfortunately buried in offensive sexualization and repetition.

I would consider myself pretty in-the-know when it comes to RPG Dungeon Crawlers. There’s something gratifyingly simple about making your way through a seemingly endless amount of floors while battling your way though an equally endless amount of random encounters. I love the genre and I love that developers are willing to go back to it in an age where such a genre is near the bottom of the hot list. So, Criminal Girls: Invite Only seemed like it would be right up my alley, having heard very little about the title other than its genre.

Well, lets just say I was surprised.

While Criminal Girls: Invite Only is very much a dungeon crawler, the gameplay exists in a world that is sexual to an uncomfortable degree. The game is about a group of girls that have been banished to hell and your character is tasked with reforming them by “motivating” them and having them battle through many levels filled with baddies to battle. What is the “motivation”, you may be asking? Well, since all of the girls are criminals and want nothing to do with you, the only way to get them to battle is to take part in a mini-game where you whip them (among others variations of the same formula) in various sexual poses that concludes with them making sexual references.

While this mechanic is disturbing enough in its own right, its made even worse by the fact that the mini-games themselves are dead simple and get dull quickly. What they essentially boil down to are square icons known as “temptations” popping up on various parts of the screen and you having to press either the spot on the front screen or the opposite back touch pad to clear away the square. As this is going on there will be a sexual picture of the girl you are “motivating” in the background that is covered in pink fog, and the more squares you clear the more fog that disappears and reveals more of the scantily-clad girl. What’s hilarious about the US localization of this game is that many of the images have been censored and the sexual audio during these segments removed completely, so the perverts who purchased this game solely for the T&A factor are going to be left in the cold.

Even though this aspect is disturbing, the results of it directly benefit your characters. While your characters level up through battle you will gain points to “motivate” them, and as you level them up through “motivation” you unlock new abilities for them to use. These moves are absolutely necessary through the course of the game, as they will allow you to do things like deal huge amounts of damage while also healing your entire party. The classic player-progression mechanic is there, it’s just disturbing that the big twist to make it fresh is so sour.

As far as the core gameplay is concerned, what Criminal Girls does with the genre is not much at all. The game consists of you trekking though levels with many different paths to take, while you occasionally find treasure chests, hidden items and switches to open new paths to progress. The level designs are very bland and don’t really do anything to stand out from each other, and to make matters worse there is a lot of backtracking that must be done that is directly tied to the game’s story.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You’re trying to find other girls reform and they will always end up on the other side of locked door, which then results on you having to find a certain item of hit a particular switch to gain access to them. However, you will accomplish many of this through trial & error as each path you go down leads to a switch or item that doesn’t work, meaning you will be monotonously journeying through several different paths until you eventually hit the right one. While backtracking isn’t always a bad thing, how it is utilized here becomes grating and the fact that random encounters are frequent only serves to amplify that feeling.

Fortunately, the combat itself is pretty decent. You can have 4 girls in battle at once, with each turn giving you access to a random 4 abilities for you to use. Some options will let two girls attack at once, while others will allow you to unleash a special move to deal big damage. While it’s only a slight variation on what’s been done before, I found that it actually resulted in more strategic gameplay. When you never know which commands are coming up next it forces you to take advantage when a big move shows up, while also requiring you to be patient when they don’t. The monsters put up quite a fight in this game, meaning that perfect execution of the combat mechanics is vital if you plan on surviving.

Then there are the girls themselves, who are pretty stereotypical anime girls that all end up getting pretty annoying. While some of their interactions with you and the other girls can be entertaining, nothing is ever done to truly make you care for any of them. The game just displays them as bad girls that need a good whipping, more or less, and when all is said and done that’s all they really are. This fact is made crystal clear when you witness how some of them are designed, with bust sizes and outfits that are so unrealistic that it’s laughable.

Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a game that may be enjoyable for a very specific crowd, but for the rest of us looking for an engaging gameplay experience this is pretty poor. I can’t figure out if the devs had poor mechanics and decided to sex it up to make it more interesting, or if the point from the beginning was to make a sexy game with standard gameplay mechanics slapped on as an after thought. While the core combat mechanics are pretty solid, this game is far too sexual and repetitive to recommend to anyone looking for a solid dungeon crawler.