Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is a game about a group of young women with a tale of redemption and friendship… and also punishment and sadomasochism… The first game, Criminal Girls: Invite Only, was a port of a 2010 PSP title and was a unique dungeon crawling RPG with some rather naughty mini-games. Criminal Girls 2 is very similar to the first game but with a few much needed improvements.
The game starts off very similar to the first – you’re a Programme Instructor in Hell and it’s your job to help a group of delinquent girls reform. Delinquents are girls who have yet to commit a crime but are heading down a dark path in life, so they are given this one last chance to save their souls before being eternally damned. The Reformation Programme consists of a journey up through the Hell Spire which will push the girls to their limits by testing their spirits and forcing them to acknowledge and repent past mistakes in life.
Initially I was a bit worried that the game would be a carbon copy of the first, but thankfully the game does move off the beaten path of the first fairly quickly. Something seems to be happening in Hell. Convicts have begun causing trouble and so the Hell spire has gone into lock down with defensive systems activated…not a good time to be taking a group of stubborn, unruly and rebellious girls on a trip around Hell to try to save their souls! It also seems that you have a traitor in your midst, one of the seven girls is not who she seems and is actually a Convict. You bump into another Programme Instructor who unfortunately decides that your whole group is a security threat and so throws you down to the depths of Hell. So much for the relatively simple process of travelling up the Hell Spire, now you need to get out of Hell first…
The girls are initially reluctant to open up to you, let alone work together with a group of other delinquent girls. But slowly through the course of the game you begin to find out more about them and the reasons behind why they need to be reformed. I really enjoyed finding out more about them and watching them change from a group of angry, argumentative girls into true friends. They are an interesting group of characters which really made me want to progress through all the dungeon floors in order to try to save them.
Criminal Girls 2 is a big improvement over the first in terms of the graphics, the dungeon backgrounds are much more detailed, vibrant, crisp and interesting to look at. There are some fairly standard dungeon themes used, such as Hellfire, which as the name suggests is full of fire and lava, but also some more unique backgrounds like Bloody Hell which looked like a giant picnic area strewn with the corpses or teddy bears. While walking around the dungeons or in battle the characters are displayed in a really cute chibi style. Enemy designs seem to have been mostly recycled from the first, they look more detailed but it’s slightly disappointing that there weren’t more new enemy designs.
While the game plays out as a fairly standard RPG dungeon crawler there is a little twist in the battle system. Instead of being able to freely choose which attack to use the girls will instead each offer up a suggestion and you then decide who will act. If you don’t like any of the suggested actions then you can swap a new girl in or use an item to refresh the actions suggested. It’s a novel system and most of the time the girls will do a good job at suggesting useful actions, such as guarding when a boss starts to power up, but sometimes it can be really frustrating when you want to use a certain attack but the girls won’t suggest it.
There’s no equipment in this game which means that your level and what items you have to hand are really important. This does unfortunately mean that you will end up having to do a little bit of grinding before some of the boss fights. Some of them just feel down right unfair and frustrating, bosses which frequently hit your whole party with status effects which stop you from doing anything and then continuously heal themselves are really annoying. Thankfully there weren’t too many bosses that seemed to spam heal. Sometimes it can feel more down to luck then anything else, as sometimes you can be easily wiped out only to try the fight again and find that the boss is now not spamming the same attacks that were decimating you the first time round.
One of the things that the Criminal Girls series is known for is it’s mini-games to ‘motivate’ the delinquents. This time around the girls are no longer obscured by pink fog in strategic places and instead some of the artwork has been re-drawn for the Western regions to enable it to get past some countries ratings boards. I think the re-drawn artwork is a nicer alternative to the pink fog although I’m sure that there are plenty who will disagree with me and think that they should have kept the Japanese artwork and gone with an adult only rating.
The mini-games do serve a purpose (besides being a bit of pervy eye candy), motivating the girls gives them access to new battle skills. Each time you go up a rank in one of the mini-games you’ll be given a choice of one of two battle skills. Depending on the one selected the girl will become more ‘S’ or ‘M’. In battle you can coach the girls, which involves either scolding, praising, sympathising or worrying. Their S/M ranking will affect how they react in battle to the coaching and can cause a temporary increase in attack power or defense.
There are a variety of mini-games that you’ll be given access to, you can whip, pinch, electrocute and throw goo at the girls to motivate them. It’s probably slightly worrying just how much I enjoyed throwing goo at the girls… I’m not sure I really get the game logic behind why throwing slime at a girl ‘motivates’ her but it was fun to try to hit the targets.
While the mini-games are a bit more diverse and fun compared to the first game they still unfortunately run into the same problem as the first game. Having to repeat the same mini-games with all seven girls makes it a bit monotonous and repetitive. Also rubbing the touchscreen will make you look like a pervert, at one point my boyfriend looked over at me and said that it looked like I was furiously masturbating…so probably not the best game to play on public transport…
Overall, Criminal Girls 2 is actually a pretty fun RPG, it has a unique battle system, vibrant & beautiful dungeon floors to explore and an interesting story. The characters are well written and each girl has her own unique personality. The biggest flaw in the game is that it can be a bit grindy in the later levels and getting continuously hit by negative status effects needlessly drags out the length of some battles.
Some people are always going to look down on this series because of the mini-games and the sadomasochistic theme. But don’t worry, the game is very quick to point out at the beginning that it’s all completely consensual. So phew! No need to feel slightly seedy, it’s consensual and therefore everything is ok 😉