Last year’s Criminal Girls Invite Only was a Vita port of the naughty 2010 PSP title. It had its fair share of problems but ultimately it was unique game worthy of playing. Very little has actually changed in Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors making the entire experience more of a side-story than a true evolution of the franchise.
Like before the game opens abruptly. You are transported to an underworld of sorts, where you will work as the program instructor to reform seven delinquent girls, preventing them from committing a crime in the future which will send their souls to hell. However, this time around it seem one convict has snuck in among your girls and it is because of this that your whole party is plugged directly into hell. It is up to you to guide the girls back before seeking redemption, all while keeping an eye on who might be the treacherous convict. Nothing is evident from the get go, but as the girls open up to you, you will slowly learn about the reason they were brought here.
The biggest improvements over the original are the visuals. While Criminal Girls Invite Only was an overhaul of the PSP game, it still retained some of its pixelated elements of the older generation of hardware. As a PlayStation Vita exclusive this is thankfully not the case here. Everything looks absolutely crisp, with a lovely color palette. The backgrounds, while a bit monotonous, are nevertheless pretty looking. The chibi character sprites are particularly adorable.
However, things are a bit too similar to the predecessor. Enemy designs are reused, combat is generally the same, level layout and puzzles awaken that sense of déjà vu and the motivation mini-game are repetitive as ever.
The combat system is back with very little changes. You can bring up to four girls in battles. During each turn every girl offers what they plan on doing and you choose who will act. Even though you cannot select exactly what you want to do, the game does a good job of offering the best options at a particular moment. The enemy is charging an attack? you can bet someone will offer to block. Someone in your party is critically wounded? Your casters will offer to heal your party if you unlocked that skill.
One noteworthy addition is the ability to coach girls mid-battle. Every three turns you can coach your party by selecting Scold, Praise, Sympathize or Worry which affects each girl positively or negatively depending on if she is a masochist or sadist. It’s not a big addition, but it certainly makes battles lot more tactical since different girls react differently.
Since you start out with seven characters you can freely swap out one character per turn. Items can also be used once per turn without wasting an action. Knocked out characters are automatically revived at the end of a battle with 1 HP remaining. And considering all characters gain experience even if they haven’t participated in the battle, you won’t have useless characters by the time you near the end of the game.
Unfortunately, almost every issue from the original makes a return in full force. Like before there is no equipment in Criminal Girls 2, so grinding is the name of the game here. Just because you are ploughing through normal enemies doesn’t mean you will be prepared for the unfair monstrosities that are bosses. You will need not only to level up sufficiently before proceeding, but also use everything at your disposal to win.
The main selling point of Criminal Girls are its punishment motivation mini-games. Since the girls aren’t really up for the idea of someone bossing them around in hell you have to “motivate” them through various forms of S&M play. There is a variety of mini-games ranging from brushing the girls, to spanking them, to throwing slime all over their half-naked bodies. However, all this is far less tantalizing then it may sound. Yes, it might be novel the first one or two times you have to spank a girl who has her head in another’s rack, but it gets repetitive, fast. The only way to unlock skills for a specific girl is to go through this mini-game again and again and again. It takes around 7-8 times just to max out the available skills for a single mini-game, multiply this by the number of available girls and you will see the problem.
This brings us to the Criminal Girls 2’s overabundance of censorship. The area hit most by the censorship are the punishment mini-games now called motivation, since evidently punishment was too harsh of a word. The artwork has been redrawn by the original artist, removing elements such as ropes. Like in the predecessor all voices have been removed from these segments, so the girls remain creepily silent while you spank them or cover them in slime as if it were some kind of sick twisted game. Despite all this, Criminal Girls 2 was still banned in Germany because it has “content severely harmful to minors” and naturally it was not released in Australia either.
Criminal Girls 2 is not a bad game by any means. Everything that made the original a unique and engaging title makes a return. The truly innovative combat system, the dark and brooding storyline, even the somewhat straightforward puzzles make this an RPG worth checking out. However, it ultimately lacks the amount of refinement generally associated with a sequel.