Pretty Girls Panic!, then. It’s exactly what it sounds like.
As has been fairly well established by this point, the “Gals Panic” formula is a solid basis for a lewd game. The gradual uncovering of a background is simply made for saucy imagery — and as such we’ve seen plenty of clones of this sort of thing over the years — some more ambitious than others.
Zoo Corporation, beloved of medical prescription software and lewd gaming fans alike, have certainly been part of this trend — it wasn’t all that long ago that we saw Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic ported to consoles by the ever-reliable eastasiasoft, though admittedly that game was more about cool military girls with big guns than really being “lewd” as such.
Pretty Girls Panic!, as the name suggests, is a take on Gals Panic based on Zoo Corporation’s loose series of “Pretty Girls” titles, which are actually a bunch of unrelated sexually explicit visual novels developed by the company’s numerous imprints such as Norn, Miel, Cybele and Yumesta. You don’t need any knowledge of said visual novels in order to enjoy Pretty Girls Panic! — rather, you simply need an appreciation for pretty girls. And I’m sure that won’t be a problem for anyone reading this, though I should probably note here that despite the source material these girls came from, there’s nothing outright explicit in this.
Anyway, you probably know the score by now, but on the offchance you’re still unfamiliar with the Gals Panic formula, it runs like this. You control a… thing of some description (in the case of Pretty Girls Panic!, an octopus) and attempt to draw lines across a playfield. Make an enclosed area and you uncover whatever was behind that area you captured. Capture 75% of the playfield or more and you win that level.
Naturally, it’s not that simple; opposing your efforts are a variety of enemies, each of whom have their own distinctive movement types. Starfish bounce around predictably; jellyfish have something of an “arc” to their bounces; pufferfish home in on you while you’re drawing your line. If any of these hit either you or your line while you’re drawing, you lose a life; conversely, if you can capture them in an area you’ve surrounded, you destroy them and get lots of points as well as making your life for the rest of the stage much easier.
And that’s about it. Pretty Girls Panic! doesn’t deviate from this formula anywhere, but features a good difficulty curve that gradually introduces new enemy types and combinations of enemies to deal with as well as creeping the sheer number of enemies on screen at once up and up as the game progresses. The difficulty curve actually feels a lot more manageable than Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic; that game got pretty hard pretty fast, whereas this one still puts up a fight, but provides a rather more relaxing experience — helped along by the sort of “holiday” theme the whole thing has going on in its music and its visuals.
Ah yes, the visuals; oddly, the graphics in this particular Zoo Corporation title are significantly more pixelated than in their other work, giving most of the game something of a distinctive “retro” feel that isn’t altogether unwelcome. I say most of the game because the in-game sprites and interface elements are all high definition, which makes them clash a little with the low-resolution backgrounds and characters; it would have been nice if everything had been rendered in the low-resolution pixel art style rather than the mishmash we have here.
The reason for the low resolution visuals is likely the fact that the character sprites used for the titular Pretty Girls in this game are probably from older visual novels that ran in lower resolutions such as 640×480 or 800×600. When scaling up art like that, you either go blurry or you go pixelated; the pixelated look here at least evokes the feel of the classic Gals Panic arcade machines, even if the sharper on-screen elements spoil the effect somewhat.
It’s by no means a dealbreaker — it’s just a little jarring to see after the pleasantly “high definition” look of previous Zoo Corporation titles such as Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire and the aforementioned Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic. In fact, jaggedy visuals aside, I’d say I actually like Pretty Girls Panic! a lot more than Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic, since it features a more varied and colourful aesthetic, catchier music (with a much larger selection of tracks to enjoy) and some pleasingly arcade-style bleepity-bloop sound effects for bonuses and the like.
Like the other Zoo Corporation games, Pretty Girls Panic! is never going to be held up as some great masterpiece of gaming or anything like that — but it is a solid, enjoyable, arcade-style casual game that will keep you busy for a few minutes at a time when you just fancy a quick play with something.
Plus the sexy outfits you unlock for each of the girls over the course of the game cover pretty much every kind of “costume fetish” you might care to mention, so everyone will be happy with something in this game — especially as you can peruse them at your leisure once they’re unlocked, and an optional “Easy” mode helps that unlocking process go much more quickly.
Now, if you don’t mind, it’s a nice sunny day here, so I think I’ll shut all the curtains, put the air conditioning on and go and play a bit more of this in a nice dark, cool room for a bit without even acknowledging the existence of the outside. Sound good? You can join the Pretty Girls Panic! party on Nintendo Switch or PlayStation 4/5.
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