Criminal Girls: Invite Only is an RPG developed by Imageepoch and published by Nippon Ichi Software. Like a few other recent NIS titles, it was heavily criticized for its lewd content, even receiving censorship before it was brought over to the United States. Originally released on the PSP back in 2010, the game only recently came overseas. Here at Niche Gamer, we are incredibly anti-censorship, and thus were a bit put off by the omission of certain parts of Criminal Girls. However, is it still worth your time?
The game begins in a massive prison, the protagonist a curiously androgynous-looking guard. You are tasked with the job of assisting several girls in the tremendous undertaking that is escaping hell. Why you? Well, that’s a very good question. There isn’t much explanation given for that. In fact, most of the plot is pretty straightforward, with very little character development. Discovering that you’re forced into helping them, you soldier on, until you reach your first rest point. At that point, you discover you can sleep, save, and motivate.
This is where the controversy stems from. “Motivation” is presumably when you use a device on one of the women in your party, which in turn motivates them to learn a new ability. I write “presumably” because, in the scenes, you’re not actually touching them at all. You’re either holding your finger on a button on the Vita’s touch screen, or you’re sliding switches, or dripping liquid out of a bucket onto the target. In the background, the girl in question is half-naked, just looking at wherever it is you touch the screen.
The censored bits from Criminal Girls are the following: cut voices from the “Motivation” sequences, a pink mist obscuring some of the naughtier bits of the girls during said scenes (although the Japanese version contained no nudity), and changing “Punishment” to “Motivation”. These changes seem so minuscule that frankly it’s a wonder they even bothered. Folks are already up in arms about the salacious depictions of women in the game, they’re not going to stop because of a tiny pink mist censoring a butt.
The story is a bit weak. How are the visual aspects of the game? Well, frankly, it looks pretty bad. The sprites for the characters in-battle are cute, but the monster designs are lackluster, and the areas are boring and bland. The art in motivation sequences is quite nice, even if the anatomy is a bit suspect in some of the pictures. All in all, it’s nothing special to look at, especially with the incredibly low-res sprites the characters have when simply walking around.
The gameplay, sadly, is not this game’s saving grace. Combat feels straight out of the 1980s, with eye-rollingly standard, turn-based fights. All the abilities in your arsenal are unoriginal, and the battles are barely animated, each attack using maybe three frames, maximum. Being unique isn’t everything, however, as long as the game is solid.
Unfortunately, Criminal Girls has this strange mechanic where you can’t choose your own attacks. You’ll unlock an ability and be excited to try it out, only to discover that the game doesn’t feel like letting you use it unless some arbitrary condition is met. In a game that is so incredibly grind-heavy, this becomes quite tedious. Instead of simply using your fire punch to one-shot an enemy, the game decides you’re only allowed to use single attacks, or guard.
Another annoying part of combat is the fact that, until late into the game, you’re only able to attack with one or two girls per turn. I have four party members, why can’t I use all of them from the get-go? It’s a baffling game design decision. Why would you block off something behind a progression wall that most people expect to be an inherent feature of a turn-based RPG? It just doesn’t make any damn sense. The motivation minigames don’t really ever get difficult, either, being just another facet of the game that forces you to grind. (You need points in order to motivate the girls.) It’s just not a particularly fun experience.
The sound design is the final offense of this game. The music sounds like stock tracks from RPG Maker. It’s really unimpressive. The sound assets are nothing special, just noises you’ve heard in a million other games. The voice acting is quite good, spanning a surprising amount of the game, but that is not enough to rescue Criminal Girls from mediocrity.
The lewd bits in Criminal Girls are surprisingly benign for all the controversy surrounding them. That being said, the game is just not very good. Bad music, yawn-inducingly basic combat, frustrating design elements, and poor graphics are what you’re in for if you purchase this game.
It doesn’t succeed on any level, besides having scenes where your playable characters display their boobs and butts for you to ogle. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying T&A, but if it’s the driving force behind your purchase, you’d probably have a better time just downloading free hentai.
Criminal Girls: Invite Only was reviewed using a code provided by NIS America. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 4
- Very nice artwork in the Motivation sequences.
- Nearly fully voice-acted!
- Cute sprites during combat.
- Very basic combat, with some annoying quirks.
- Weak plot.
- Music sounds straight out of RPG maker.
- The game is ugly.
- Censored in the US release.