PS2 Essentials: Party Girls

Party Girls is an interesting anomaly in D3 Publisher’s Simple Series in that its Japanese title is much more interesting than its somewhat generic sounding localisation, rather than the other way around.

Party Girls? Eh, pass, sounds like shovelware. Mogitate Mizugi! Onna Mamire no THE Suiei Taikai (Fresh-Picked Swimsuits! The Swim Meet of Covered Woman), on the other hand? Sign me right the hell up.

This situation wasn’t helped by Western publisher 505 GameStreet’s rather generic-looking cover art for the game, which looks like it was knocked up by an intern messing around with WordArt on their lunch break. And consequently, I’d be rather surprised if you ever played Party Girls.

And this is a shame. Because Party Girls is fun.

In Party Girls, you take on the role of one of several different bikini-clad Japanese idols in an attempt to prove you are the idoliest idol that ever did idol. In order to do so, you compete against a single opponent in one of three different series of five short minigames until one of you is crowned the victor.

The game can be played in both single-player and two-player modes, with the single-player mode requiring you to win every game against a computer opponent, and the two-player mode determining the ultimate winner by whoever won the most games in total.

While you might expect a game like this to truly shine in its two-player mode, I’d actually argue that Party Girls is best experienced in single-player and treated like an old arcade game, with true mastery being achieved through skillful play and one-credit clears.

The reason for this is largely down to the design of the minigames themselves, which have no sort of “handicap” system in place to enforce an even playing field between an experienced player and a novice. Consequently, unless both of you are experienced Party Girls veterans (or total novices), the two-player mode feels exceedingly unbalanced and is arguably best avoided.

The minigames themselves take on a variety of forms ranging from simple timing-based challenges to tests of observation and skill. The first set of games, for example, includes an event where the two contestants have to knock each other off a floating island using only their butts, swiftly followed by a leap from a trapeze onto a target platform, a swimming contest where you have to stop paddling at the right time to ensure you don’t get a face full of your opponents butt, a game where whoever pumps up a balloon too much and makes it burst loses, and finally a precarious pool-hopping game that requires you to reach an island without falling off any platforms.

What’s interesting about the games is that while many of them may appear to be completely luck-based at first glance, looking a little more closely at them reveals that there is usually a “trick” to each of them. In the pool-hopping game mentioned above, for example, your first couple of attempts will doubtless end in frustration as it seems impossible to distinguish which of the platforms the game considers to be “unstable” and will land you in the water.

Take a breath and look more carefully, though, and you’ll see that of each pair of platforms, one is bobbing up and down quickly and the other is moving slowly. The slowly moving one is always the “stable” one, so quickly spotting this and jumping to it will see you safely to the other side in no time.

Most of the events in Party Girls have a key technique like this, and victory in the game can only be attained by mastering each one — easier said than done in some cases, since timing often needs to be very precise in events such as the trapeze jump, and this can be tricky to pull off consistently, particularly when you’re starting out.

The reason single-player mode works much better than two-player mode is that if you mess up an event within a matter of seconds — as will inevitably happen the first time you try it — you get the opportunity to immediately retry, rather than simply moving on wondering what on Earth just happened. In this way, you have a chance to figure out exactly what the event is expecting of you and how to accomplish it rather than just being left bewildered and frustrated by the whole experience.

Couple this with the fact that clearing the game in single-player unlocks new swimsuits and characters — including Riho Futaba from Demolition Girl, who also appears in a number of different Simple Series games as an unoffical mascot of sorts — and you have a game that, although ultimately fairly shallow fluff with little real meaning, has a bit more in the way of longevity and replayability than might initially appear.

Party Girls ultimately doesn’t have a lot of substance to say but manages to be cheerful and rewarding fun regardless, in its own way reflecting idol culture quite nicely as a result. It’s not a game that you’ll play for hours on end, or even one that you’ll likely play on a regular basis, but for when you need a quick hit of sugary-sweet, candy-coloured happiness with some genuine personality about it, it’s honestly pretty hard to beat.

And this is one of the reasons I liken it to an old-school arcade game, despite its (relatively) modern presentation. It’s designed to engage the player for a short period of time and allow them to test their skills, making them feel good if they do well and making them want to improve if they do badly. The events are simple but challenging enough to given them an addictive quality, making you want to pump “coin” after “coin” into the game if things don’t quite go your way. And the whole thing is just so self-consciously “gamey”, bringing to mind old multi-sport games such as Konami’s Track and Field and Epyx’s Summer/Winter/World Games series.

Party Girls wants you to have a good time, in other words. And I can think of far worse ways to spend half an hour or so.


More about Party Girls

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