The original Criminal Girls: Invite Only game was a fun, turn-based JPRG dungeon crawler released on PSP and then reworked for the VITA. Lots was made of the added, er, tactical 'rubbing' of the naughty girls in your party to power them up, which formed a series of slightly dubious minigames alongside the main battling action. Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors expands upon the universe and gameplay mechanics of the first game in pretty much every way, and adds a brand new cast of delinquent girls who will fight for you and pose provocatively so that you can rub them via the handheld's touchscreen. Oo-er.
This time, the plot sees you venture through the depths of the Hell Spire and put another group of female sinners through a 'Reformation Program', which basically means battling your way through hundreds of fights in order to redeem them. The catch is that initially, the delinquent girls aren't able to fight until you've given them a good rubbing, subsequently unlocking their abilities. To make it even more interesting, there is every chance that one of your party might be a traitor, which spices up the group dynamic as you uncover the stories behind each of the girls and find out about their previous crimes.
In the main dungeon sections, the action sees you controlling a chain of chibi-style characters exploring and unlocking portals, camps, and treasure chests. When you meet an enemy, the action switches to your four chosen fighters who each offer a suggested skill to use - as long as you've, er, 'motivated' them. The key here is in picking which will best beat the foes that you're engaging, so with multiple enemies you'll probably want to go with a girl whose skill allows for two or more attacks, or of course, you could methodically work through the enemies one at a time and try and heal up between.
This kind of tactical tinkering allows you try varying play styles. The turn based combat is well designed and soon becomes second nature, especially if you're a fan of the genre, and doesn't get too stale over the course of the adventure, with a good number of challenges thrown in. There's also a bonding system where two girls can combine their attacks for a heavy duty damage combo - so working through the many, many dialogue scenes does have some tactical use as you work out which girls are likely to 'bond'.
Graphically, Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors won't win any awards for the main dungeon crawling, but at least the motivation scenes are, without sounding creepy, nicely detailed - and there's plenty of realistic jiggling if you're into that sort of thing. When you move past the initial soap sud scrubbing to spanking, whipping, and more as the 'motivation' techniques ramp up, the playful violence doesn't leave realistic Fifty Shades marks - but then a game where you beat a bound young girl for pleasure doesn't sound like the best route to take when you're already talking about a very niche title. It's a tough call, but Nippon Ichi is obviously trying to walk a fine line with this one, especially as you'll be administering electric shocks and covering certain body parts of the girls with 'slimy slime' as you advance. Jeez, is it hot in here?
Despite the seedy elements - which are liable to get you some very funny looks if playing using the optional touchscreen controls in public - Criminal Girls 2 is an addictive strategic battle-'em-up which boasts a refreshing blend of traditional elements with some new ideas. It's relatively easy to pick up and progress through, too, although there are some boss battles which jump in difficulty and may dismay those looking for an easy romp.
Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is a niche release for sure, but it's also a solid RPG experience which is ideally suited to the Vita. If you've got Sony's handheld device and an open mind regarding how female fighters should be motivated, then this is a slice of good quality JPRG that can provide many hours of battling pleasure. Just take our advice and try not to play it in public.