One of the most interesting phenomena of the early PlayStation eras was D3 Publisher’s “Simple Series”, a range of low-budget — and budget-priced — titles produced by a wide variety of external developers.
The series began on PS1 with some pretty straightforward interpretations of concepts such as mahjong, tennis or racing, but over time gradually expanded to take in role-playing games, dating sims and even enhanced ports of arcade games.
By the time the PlayStation 2 rolled around and the Simple 2000 subseries launched — so named because each game cost 2,000 yen (a little under £14 today) in its native Japan — the range had become a great place to find fascinating (but often flawed) games that, by virtue of their low budgets, could afford to be a bit experimental. Essentially, they fulfilled the function that the digital-only indie scene does today, only you had to buy them on disc because digital games weren’t yet a thing on consoles.
And so it was that we found ourselves face to face (or, well, face to ankle) with Tamsoft’s The Daibijin (The Gigantic Beauty), localised for Europe as Demolition Girl.
Demolition Girl’s concept — and indeed audio-visual presentation — is right out of a ’50s B-Movie or Japanese kaiju film. Gravure idol Riho Futaba has been doing a bikini-clad photoshoot on the beach, but finds herself bitten by a strange creature that she initially assumes to be a jellyfish. She passes out, but when she awakens she has grown to the size of a skyscraper and, understandably confused about what has transpired, is now wandering around making a real mess.
It’s up to you, as an unnamed member of Japan’s National Guard, to deal with the situation, initially by researching the enormous young woman and subsequently by dealing with the interference of the strange creatures who have apparently caused this whole mess.
Unfolding across six different missions, Demolition Girl is a simple, straightforward vehicle-based action game, where each level has a different focus.
In the first mission, you must fly a helicopter around Riho to take measurements of various parts of her gigantic body. In the second, you must fire anaesthetic missiles into weak points so she can be picked up and researched. In the third, you must fly a jet fighter and defend the helicopters carrying her body across the sea from UFOs. In the fourth you must use your helicopter to defeat the creature that has attached itself to her head, equipping her with superpowers and causing her to become even more destructive. In the fifth, you must race a running Riho into Tokyo, slowing her down long enough for the population to evacuate. And in the final mission, you have to shrink Riho down by firing antidote missiles at her as she climbs up a building, before finally defeating what appears to be the “mastermind” creature behind the whole situation.
Demolition Girl isn’t a particularly difficult game — indeed, most of the challenge comes from the extremely sluggish controls of most of the vehicles, which were seemingly designed more with digital D-pads than analogue sticks in mind — but the challenges of its varied missions are interesting and enjoyable to participate in. Some longevity is added to the overall experience both through the addition of three difficulty levels and a series of “Quests” — essentially proto-Achievements — for fulfilling various conditions in the game’s six levels. Completing these Quests unlocks special images, and once a level has been cleared once it can be played by itself at any time in Free mode rather than having to go through the whole story again.
Each of the vehicles works in a pretty similar way, with their main distinguishing factor being movement: the helicopter can hover, turn on the spot, move forwards and backwards and strafe; the jet fighter can pitch, roll and yaw as well as speed up and slow down; the tank, meanwhile, largely runs on autopilot, leaving you to man the guns and alternate between shooting at Riho to slow her down and destroy cars on the freeway to get them out of the way.
Where things get interesting is in the selection of weapons on offer. Each mission generally requires you to use a specific “main weapon” — in the first, for example, you use a short-range scanning device to take Riho’s measurements, while in the third you use heat-seeking missiles that need to be locked on to enemies before firing. But on top of that, you also have a sub-weapon — usually either a machine gun or laser gun — that can be fired indefinitely until it overheats, and up to three “items” to carry with you.
In the more combat-centric missions such as the third and fourth, these items are typically limited to explosive shells that have wide splash damage, but in those where you’re buzzing around the giant Riho taking her measurements or attempting to knock her out, you have the option of throwing out various “distractions” to help you get into position more easily. One allows you to drop a giant strawberry shortcake on the ground, for example, which causes Riho to bend down and eat it; a giant pepper pot, meanwhile, causes her to stand still and sneeze a few times. These aren’t essential to success by any means, but given Riho’s fairly random, unpredictable movement as she joyfully skips around each mission’s location, blindly destroying anything she happens to bump into, they can make it a lot easier to line up a tricky shot.
Ultimately, Demolition Girl is pretty much a game about fighting a single boss in various ways, which means its long-term appeal is rather limited aside from breaking it out to show others just how strange games can be sometimes. It doesn’t look amazing — most of the graphical care and attention has clearly been lavished on the Riho character model, which looks and animates very nicely — and doesn’t play great either, but there’s something enormously charming and fun about the whole experience which, giant cakes and pepper pots aside, plays itself entertainingly straight.
Moreover, the reason it’s well worth having in your library even though it’s not, by any definition, a particularly “good” game, is because it’s a wonderful example of creativity. It’s clearly the work of a team who thought it would be a good idea to make a PlayStation 2 game about a giant bikini-clad woman stomping around, and by golly, that’s most certainly what they have provided us with.
With that in mind, Demolition Girl’s numerous flaws are easy to overlook, leaving us with an enjoyably silly experience that is a perfect example of what the Simple Series is all about.
If you enjoyed this article and want to see more like it, please consider showing your social support with likes, shares and comments, or become a Patron. You can also buy me a coffee if you want to show some one-time support. Thank you!