Criminal Girls: Invite Only


Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a unique dungeon-crawling RPG on a platform full of them. As a result, it can be hard to imagine how a game can truly stand out. Criminal Girls does this by having you oversee a group of girls sent to hell for their sinful ways. They’ve been placed in a makeshift chain gang, but a few have gone away and you need to find them and work your way up to the surface world in the process.


The initial cast of four – and the subsequent characters – all oppose their situation as they’re basically forced to do the bidding of the warden-type character. As a result, they’ll need regular motivation. Here, that takes the form of both spanking with a cat of nine tails and electrocution, because of course it does. The girls go from their prison outfits to whatever the warden deems suitable, and things get quite weird with this whole part of the game.

In order to motivate with the whip, you touch either the front or back screen while electrocution uses diagonal movements on their bodies. The end result for both feels really exploitative even with all the pink steam used to cover up the bodies. It never ceased to seem weird to rub the screen when the icon is over certain body parts and some of the posing is suggestive, especially when it comes to hand positioning and posing. I’m sure the idea here was to appeal to the adult anime crowd, but it really shifts the focus away from what is an otherwise great RPG.


The characters all stand out from each other, with some being outwardly nice, others being snarky, and some being ditzy and relying on chests that defy gravity to get by. While they’re not the most in-depth characters around, there is a genuine bond built up over time and the sisterly love between Sako and Yuko is evident. You can tell that the characters care for one another, and it leads to everyone else becoming friendlier after seeing them work together. It works as a makeshift ice-breaker for the group and that carries on for the rest of the game.

At Criminal Girls’ core, you’ve got a traditional overhead turn-based RPG with some tweaks to its battle system. You can’t pick between attacks and magic for each turn, so you need to judiciously mix up magic and attacks. Sometimes, you know a particular magic attack can knock a foe out – but you’re not sure if you’ll get that for the turn when you need it. You have to fight two to three moves ahead if possible and plan to be efficient since hit points tend to be very low for magic-heavy fighters and you don’t want to run the risk of losing a fighter in battle.


Death can of course be undone with a healing item, but if you can, you want to have someone alive even if it’s to act as a short-term attack sponge so your heavy hitters can take out enemies. If all goes well, you’ll save an item or two and then be able to get to a resting station. There, you can heal up, engage in motivation, shop for healing items, and save your game. Outside of battles, you can also go on optional quests for the characters, search the dungeons for items, or do little fetch quests to further the plot along.

The battle system is quite unique since some characters have an affinity for one another, so they’ll help out in back-to-back attacks. IE – if you’re playing as one character, that turn might include a second attack from another character. There’s also a swapping mechanic where you move characters in and out to level them up. This setup works really well when you’re traveling around the dungeons because random battles will always have enemies you can beat – so you know to avoid any boss battles with these characters, although even then, you’re only really at risk for a single turn.


There’s a lot to love about the game, but there are some issues with the game’s execution. It’s a beautiful game, but you can’t readily take screenshots of it during dialogue due to Start skipping all of the text in rapid-fire fashion. As a result, you’ll wind up missing major chunks of exposition or character development just for wanting to take a screenshot.

Visually, Criminal Girls looks perfectly fine. Its graphical style is about what one would expect from a 32-bit sprite-based RPG. All of the characters look sharp, as do the environments. The close-up art during the motivation sessions is crisp, and the steam effect kind of classes things up a bit. Attack animations are limited, but that helps keep the pace of combat snappy – so it’s not much of a downside. This is a pleasing game to the eye more often than not. Musically, the game goes for a frantic pace in battles, while dungeons feature more subdued music. It’s a good mix that allows you to relax at times, and then get amped up when the time calls for it. The Japanese audio is nice and clear, and each actress gives their character personality just through their performance.


If you like quirky JRPGs, this is a good one. While I’m not a fan of the softcore torture porn part of it, I was able to look past it fairly easily and see that the underlying game is really well-crafted. Criminal Girls has a fantastic battle system that rewards trial and error with a ton of extra damage thanks to team-up attacks, and in-battle character switching keeps you in the hunt even when the chips are down. I’m not a big dungeon crawling RPG fan and I dug this game a lot since the pacing is so much faster than most. There’s never time for monotony to set in since you’re always doing something. Anyone with an affinity for RPGs and a love for the bizarre should check out Criminal Girls: Invite Only.




Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: NIS America
Rating: 80%

This review is based on a digital copy of Criminal Girls: Invite Only for the PlayStation Vita provided by NIS America.

3 Comments on “Criminal Girls: Invite Only

  1. this doesn’t strike anyone as the least bit misogynist?

  2. …Uh, is it just me or does the pink fog make the images look even MORE suggestive than they already are? That picture with Ran, and that picture with Yuko… how did this ever scrape by with just an M rating?

  3. I’m more amazed at the objective review of this game than the [imo] tedious motivation bits. +1 to you good ser.