Dead or Alive: Paradise
Dead or Alive: Paradise has you assuming the role of one of DOA's lovely ladies and hanging out with the others. They giggle, they bend over, they have breasts that bounce independently, often in different directions, and they assume the player - you - is one of them as they interact during their vacation on the sun-kissed Zack Island.
But you're not one of them, are you? You're probably some dude sitting at a table, secretly wishing there was a button you could press to make them lez up because you're either a bit weird, too young to be allowed on the internet by yourself or just because some pixellated scissoring would be decidedly more interesting than the tedious compilation of droll mini-games you've spent the last few hours plugging away at.
"This is a vacation, so you know what that means! Shopping!" remarks Lisa. I'm playing as Tina. I would never contemplate going clothes shopping on a holiday, but I'm not a girl so what do I know. Lisa wants a present, so I buy her a bikini - it's the only thing in the store - and then she wants me to wrap it in her favourite colour (Crimson Red) before making repeated requests for me to give it to her at the right time. Eh, lads? Give it to her! I've gone straight from six to midnight. She promises a surprise. A surprise? Ooh, Matron.
The surprise, of course, is that she'll wear it for you and then let you take pictures of her prancing around without a modicum of shame. Considering the source material it would have probably been more surprising if she packed it away in her holdall and said you were a disgusting pig before putting on a jumper and finishing off a crossword. Jiggling around in a bikini and constantly leaning over things - is this what Sisters get up to when they're doing it for themselves? I do not know, but I snap away nonetheless.
We then go off to play Beach Volleyball, which has terrible controls. They barely respond, despite the game being simplistic enough to play with one hand, and it's easy to see why Tecmo stealthily removed the 'Beach Volleyball' part of the series' title from the game. The redeeming part of this mode is that it's the only section where you stand a chance of explaining to your friends, or you Mum, that you're just playing a game if you happen to be caught in the act.
It doesn't help that it's surprisingly bland for a game explicitly designed to titillate. Having an affair with your French maid in The Sims is more erotic. The game is at its most exciting when you 'Relax' and are allowed to take loads of pictures of the girls lounging by the pool and all that while loads of love hearts fly across the screen, which I imagine is a weak bit of symbolism from a group of developers without the balls to just shower them in jizz, before quitting back to the XMB and viewing them in your PSP's photo browser. This is not fun.
When the night comes you'll be able to visit the casino, where you can play a few tacky gambling games to easily rack up some virtual monies. A bit of poker is generally the best way because the other girls are probably too busy thinking about hats and shoes to bother with winning. It's very hard to get excited about the casino because the in-game currency, other than not being real in the first place, is largely worthless.
With all your ill-gotten gains you can nip off to the shop and buy all kinds of tacky trinkets. There's the expected bevy of skimpy attire along with countless varieties of beach ball, the odd bit of seaside paraphernalia and even a collection of encyclopaedias. Why you'd actually want to do any of this seems to be something the developers never stopped to consider.
But, really, you want to be offloading all your tat to your friends. Give the right item to the right character and they'll be delighted, but offer up something they're not into and they'll get in a bit of a strop and refuse to play Beach Volleyball with you. Which is understandable - I'd rather not play it either.
It's all tied together by a particularly cumbersome interface. You can't roam about Zack Island to see the sights and visit your gal pals, instead having to explore the game by clicking through a series of menus. Great.
Sloppy presentation carries over to the visuals. The other games in the series have always been accompanied by decent graphics. Squeezed down for the PSP, however, makes everything about as tantalising as one of those STI awareness posters where you see pictures of genitals with hideous infections. It's all jaggy, the characters have bizarre animations and no matter how bouncy the digital bosoms it all comes across a bit weird and off-putting, like you're watching the creation of somebody trying to create titillating CG pornography on their first day of using 3D Studio Max.
It's dire, then. But Dead or Alive: Paradise, like all games in this horrible series, will probably sell well enough for Tecmo to justify making another one. Such a regressive, unexciting game deserves nothing but our collective scorn: it insults the medium and its audience. The greatest kick in the teeth, though? Every website and magazine will go to the effort of writing a review because it's guaranteed to provide a steady stream of traffic. Look - I'm doing one right now! Sex sells no matter how loathsome and uninspired the tacked-on game proves to be, and everyone at Tecmo obviously knows it.