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Tecmo's cast of Dead or Alive femme fatales disrobe, don bikinis and take to a spot of volleyball, pool hopping, and gambling...
It's hard to recall quite such a confused game as Dead or Alive Paradise and the series' predecessors on Xbox and Xbox 360 (DOA Xtreme Volleyball and DOA Xtreme 2). On the one hand they appear to be serving up gameplay that's traditionally pleased gaming's female demographic. The elements of social interaction, such as buying presents for other characters in the game to try and befriend them, or offering to "partner up" with these NPC characters in volleyball and pool hopping mini-games, are the sort of thing that would be more at home in The Sims. EA has consistently reminded us over the years that its Sims series is mostly played by women, and all the power to it for this, but that does leave Dead or Alive Paradise looking a little odd.
With this sort of gameplay, it's hard to see the typical, hardcore adolescent male gamer getting deeply engrossed in Dead or Alive Paradise for the bulk of its gameplay. Why immerse yourself in a couple of very basic mini-games and the action of trying to give other girls presents (only for them to passive aggressively return them to your hotel room because they don't like the item you picked out), when you could be blowing the brains out of someone in Gears of War? But then, likewise, it's hard for us to imagine any women enjoying the seedier side of Dead or Alive Paradise that's aimed at the adolescent boy. This part of the game objectifies women and paints them in ridiculous proportions before asking you to take pictures of them in so-called 'Venus Clips', the likes of which have female characters doing such suggestive lunges and curious moments of bending over to pick something up that it would be better placed in the first two minutes of a porn scene.
So, on the one hand it's The Sims with gambling and beach sports mini-games, and on the other it's such patently juvenile voyeurism that it should only interest a pubescent 13 year-old boy for about five seconds before he discovers internet porn. We're sure Tecmo's infamous 'boob bouncing tech.' might fascinate the boy for a few seconds - mostly because his body is so caked in hormones that, when his mum serves up dinner, he's not quite sure whether to have sex with it or eat it - but it would be a few seconds at best. As soon as he discovers the third page of his dad's paper, he'll be on to broader horizons. And speaking of the boy's mother, we can only assume that she'd be relieved to find a copy of Dead or Alive Paradise under his bed - if it were any more softcore then it'd be a fluffy ball of string.
So, you get the idea already: despite DOA Paradise's gross perversion of the female form, in reality the proposition is far from titillating for even the most sex crazed of adolescents. And then there are the visuals on PSP, which are slightly embarrassing if we're honest. Not in the sense that they're particularly bad for the platform, but because they don't really paint the DOA girls in the most complimentary light. PSP graphics have always suffered from 'jaggies' (put simply, this can make curved objects appear pointy), which hardly allows DOA Paradise to show off the finer points of the female form. As a result, when the girls do decide to perform these 'Venus Clips' for you, it's kind of cringe worthy, like when a girlfriend decides to do a seductive striptease for you but slips and falls on her face. Your reaction is one of concern as you try to help her up, but she pushes you away in embarrassment and is determined to finish the dance and make it sexy, as if she'd never gone arse over tit (literally). From thereon in, An eyelid that's fast swelling up into a black-eye and nose that's beginning to bleed a little stop the experience from being the slightest bit arousing but, nonetheless, you have to sit there feigning enjoyment for the duration.
Therein lies the problem and inherent contradiction at the heart of the game but, putting all of that aside for a second to consider what DOA Paradise offers compared to its predecessors, it's still decidedly lacklustre. While DOA Xtreme 2 offered a range of 7 separate mini-games to play through, DOA Paradise merely includes two of these mini-games: Volleyball and Pool Hopping. While the former is self-explanatory, the latter is essentially a pool-based rhythm game where players have to guide their character over a path of floating platforms. Each platform has the insignia of a PSP button on it, prompting you to press the corresponding button to get your player to jump successfully onto that platform. Jumps of greater distant require you to hold down the corresponding button, while shorter distances merely need a tap of the button.
Both Pool Hopping and Volleyball are put together decently enough in DOA Paradise, if the Volleyball is perhaps a little stagnant with its camera, but there really should've been many more mini-games included on the UMD. All seven of the Xtreme 2 games would've sufficed but, even then, you'd have hoped that Tecmo could've added a couple of new ones. As far as the game's Casino is concerned, the Poker, Blackjack, and Slot Machine games make a return from Xtreme 2, although Roulette is confusingly absent from the party. Success in the mini-games and gambling will reward your character with currency, which she can then go ahead and spend on gifts for other characters or more scantily clad bikinis and accessories for herself (of which there is a lot of choice, as you might expect). At the top end of the scale, you can buy a high-end camera to take more perverted shots during the 'Venus Clips', but that's your bag really.
In terms of content then, DOA Paradise is severely lacking. Each character in the game can play through a two week vacation on 'New Zack Island' under the questionable hosting skills of Zack himself, and doing so with one character takes a few hours tops. The stronger your friendships become with other characters during this time, the more 'Venus Clips' you can unlock (as with the bikinis, there are literally hundreds of these to 'play' with). As soon as you've completed a vacation period with one of the characters, a Private Paradise mode is unlocked in the menu which allows you to replay any character's 'Venus Clip' with a bikini of your choice (as long as you've purchased it already). If that really is the sort of thing that you're into, then there's enough here to keep you unlocking bikinis and clips for hours on end, but you'll have to trawl through some very repetitive gameplay (as well as arduously long and painfully frequent loading screens) to get there.
Add to this a soundtrack that appears to have been cobbled together from a range of unsuccessful, early 90s dance acts, and voice-over work that has the potential to single-handedly set back the progress of feminism 20 years, and you've got possibly the least appealing game we've played so far this year.
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