Drive Girls Review – More than Japanese Transformers?
Platforms: PS Vita (reviewed)
Developers: Tamsoft Corporation
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Release: 9th June 2017 (EU)
With the latest Transformers movie right around the corner, a fitting game to accompany Michael Bay´s no-brainer is almost a necessity … Tamsoft´s Drive Girls! Rising Star Games’ latest addition to their european PS Vita roster, a game about girls able to transform into cars while fighting bugs, may sound a bit ridiculous for some people. So, naturally, I had to take a look on it to find out, if it´s any good or as bad as it sounds. Rest assured, I got pleasantly surprised!
A world plagued by the monsters called bugs needs heroes, the Drive Girls. In its story we follow Lancier, the red one of the five girls, as she gets recruited to fight said bugs. Along the stoney path to victory we´ll get to know the various other characters and occasionally even some story bits, if we´re lucky enough.
However, you definetly shouldn´t have high expectations for any of these elements. While the five girls are completly flat (not from the physical point of view tho), with only 1-2 cliché character traits, like the super cute girly Lancier, theyre likeable and exactly what you would expect from a Tamsoft game, quirky. Yet, this doesn´t apply to the story itself, which is nothing more than a justification for the concept and characters, no tension or any kind of interesting story whatsoever. The cute conversations are definetly the focus here and something you have to like in order to like Drive Girls. Luckily the lack of any substantial story, combined with the short missions of the various episodes, enables some great “drop-in drop-out” action, where you don´t have to remember much in order to understand what´s going on, a clear focus of the game.
The gameplay also follows this theme, opting for very easy and fast combat system. Most of your time will be spent fighting the various bugs as one of the five girls, with the help of a handful of combos and special attacks. On the one hand, Drive Girls’ combat can be understood in seconds, hammer the square and triangle buttons, but actually offers some neat combos, if executed right, along an attack-chain system, giving you more damage and health the better you play. Once you´ve killed enough, you can even go into Overdrive mode too, a pretty long overpowered mode, in which you´re able to smash every bug in seconds. On the other hand, you´ll probably see everything a character has to offer in a few minutes, making it a very repetitive experience, when you don´t change your girl regularly. Objectively, the combat doesn´t offer much, move- or depth-wise, gets quickly repetitive but works perfectly with Drive Girls’ “drop-in drop-out” concept.
Unfortunately, transforming into a car or even using it, isn´t nearly half as fun. What sounded like a way to implement some sort of variation, except the different characters, became the worst thing of Drive Girls. During the extermination missions the car mainly works as a fast way of transportation, the races (yes, it has races) are absolutely horrible. Not only are they ruined by the lack of any sense for speed, due to the 30fps lock in particular, but the whole driving just feels arcade-y, flat, bland. Normally, this wouldn´t be a problem, if it stayed an additional and faster movement option, yet completly fails at making racing even one bit enjoyable.
On top of Drive Girls’ two main gameplay mechanics, you´re also able to upgrade various stats on your five adorable transformer girls. After each mission the game will reward you by rating your performance and giving you stickers depending on it. Said stickers can now be put on your car to enhance your attack damage for example. Oh, they actually show up on your car model too, which is pretty cool. Sadly all bonuses are only limited to the stats and numbers, never giving you more obvious things, like new special attacks etc, makig them somewhat lackluster.
Presentation-wise I don´t have to criticise much for a PS Vita game. Textures and models could be a bit sharper but look pretty good overall, along the big areas and cloth breaks that don´t look too bad. Except the non existing lighting, the lack of many different levels or enemies, as well as too lacking animations. Just by the graphics, Drive Girls is a great looking game, compared to other japanese ones, combined with some nice looking but not exceptional or amazing character art in the visual novel sequences, it delivers exactly the foundation needed for its concept!
Objectively, Drive Girls would probably be a bad game, dragged down by too flat combat mechanics, a horrible car gameplay and one of the most cliché storylines I´ve seen in a long time.
Luckily, that´s exactly what was necessary, in order to transform it into a truly great “drop-in drop-out” game. You don´t need to know nor learn much, freed by any overreaching dramatic story and bombarded with action and cheesy dialogues during each mission, making it the ideal game for the quick portion of action cuteness in between.
[A Review Code was provided by Rising Star Games]