Dead or Alive Paradise: PSP Game Review

When you hear a title like Dead or Alive, you naturally think about scantily clad women in bikinis prancing around an island giggling and … WHAT?!?! OK, so perhaps you would think of the famed fighting game franchise … but that isn’t what you get here. But let’s get to the real question: is the game any good? No it isn’t, in fact it is downright abysmal … but you can read on for more details.

The Hype:
Featuring the sexy female characters from the DEAD OR ALIVE series, your two-week Vacation Mode starts at the getaway resort, New Zack Island. Select a favorite from nine playable characters and you are free to mingle, flirt, play, take snapshots and challenge them in mini-games found throughout the island. Store the snaps in your one-of-a-kind private album along with teasing ‘venus clips’ for viewing and editing or share an intimate experience with your girls by buying gifts and having them model your favorite bathing suits. You are in full control to create your own private paradise, in the palm of your hand. It’s all on-the-go. Take your girls anywhere, and play with them anytime.

* Social Photographer: You’re equipped with a camera to take around the island and take photos of anyone in sight
* Mini-Games: Earn money by scoring high in beach volleyball, pool hopping and at the casino. Befriending: Give gifts and grow a stronger bond with the other girls
* Bathing Suits Galore: Choose your favorites from over 100 designs
* Private Paradise: Watch Paradise Flicks of girls on New Zack Island, some of whom may be wearing your favorite bathing suit
* Chill Out to Your Favorite Tunes: Use MP3s in the Music folder of your Memory Stick Duo as the soundtrack to your fantasies
The Reality:

At some point in history, the Dead or Alive franchise was all about fighting, as shown in this video of the original arcade game.

So HOW did we ever get to THIS?!?!

Well, apparently the … um, overstated female forms became very popular among the mostly young male fans of the series. So in a parallel path to the fighting game series, back in 2003 the publishers had one of the main characters, Zack, buy an island and lure all of the female fighters there for two weeks of beach volleyball. The game was Dead of Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball. And it was a lousy game was gratuitous voyeurism and famously over-the-top ‘boob physics’, frequently caught in slow-motion in tight camera focus.

That game was followed up by Dead of Alive: Xtreme 2, in which Zack lures the girls to the island … AGAIN! Yeah, the island that he somehow gets back from the bottom of the sea … so we can see that story has never been a big feature of these games.

Dead or Alive: Paradise falls in with the Xtreme side-series rather than the main fighting games. There is no combat engine at all, as everything that happens is cooperative and consists mainly of mini-games. Mini-games focusing on scantily clad young women, and spending too much time worrying about ‘boob physics’, of course.

Also somewhat amazing is the lack of a singular focus. The Xtreme games focus on beach volleyball, and while you can play it in Paradise, it is a quick mini-game and not an extended focal point. There are a few standard moves, but once you’ve won a couple of games, things get rather boring.

The other mini-games are ‘pool hopping’ and casino games. Pool hopping is just as it sounds – you have to jump across the pool using the shape buttons. The pads you jump on are unevenly spaced, so for a quick jump you do a quick tap, and for a long jump you hold the button longer. Yeah, once again this gets old very quickly

The Casino games include Black Jack, Poker and Slot Machines. You get to choose a dealer or just default to Rio, who is apparently popular in Japan but is making her first appearance in a North American release. As for the games themselves, they are done reasonably well, but anyone who has played any casino collection on any game platform will be quickly bored and disappointed – there is just too little content.

Ultimately the purpose of playing mini-games is to earn money, and in that regard they are a side-event. Because other than the mini-games, the main feature is the interaction between the girls. This takes two forms: interactions and photos.

Interactions come in the form of mingling in meaningless and trite conversations in which you have no control over how things proceed, and also by choosing to lavish gifts upon the various girls. Each has their own likes and dislikes, which you can easily see as you deal with them. The gifts include a variety of objects, but the clear focus is on … surprise – bathing suits! I know, you didn’t see THAT coming! And naturally once given a suit, the girl will model it for you and encourage you to look at them and take pictures.

Taking pictures is yet another way to gain favor with the girls on the island. They will pose and dance and otherwise do things real people wouldn’t do … and you get to take pictures.

The game plays in a static view – in other words, you don’t actually walk your character from the pool to the casino. Instead you choose ‘go to casino’ and the view shifts. It is all very impersonal and completely ruins the potential opportunity to allow your character to explore the island and happen upon interactions in a more natural way.

One thing that works well is that you can select to listen to any of the music from the included soundtrack, or choose to listen to music you have on your Memory Stick.

The original Dead of Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball made one thing clear – the visuals were *everything* in this franchise. It was one of the best looking XBOX games, and the sequel pushed the capabilities of the XBOX360. So it is surprising and disappointing that the PSP game looks so mediocre. Certainly the jigglies are present, but so are jaggies, low resolution textures, and an overall visual performance that is not anywhere the best we’ve seen on the handheld.

OK, let’s be honest – I wasn’t being truthful when I said the game lacked a singular focus: Dead of Alive Paradise is a voyeuristic journey to an island of young women behaving like a depraved man’s version of how young women might actually behave. If you watched the trailer you saw pretty much every sort of cliché going on designed to appeal to teen boys.

I could get on a soapbox about how this sort of thing does damage to the gaming industry and to the images of women in the eyes of young men … but I’ll save that for a good game held back by a Neanderthal mentality instead of this piece of junk.

Dead or Alive is a terrible game in every way. It seems like the aim was some sort of titillation, but there is much more that I would call creepy and perverse and nothing sensual about the game or the way it is portrayed. The mini-games are boring and there are too few of them, the girls are shallow and behave in ways you would never hope to see any young lady you actually care about behave. This was a game I was embarrassed to be playing from the very start and was very glad to be done with. Do yourself a favor and stay very far away from this one.

Where to Buy:

Price: $29.99

What I Like:
+ um … despite the voyeuristic tendencies, you don’t actually get added to any watch lists for just playing the game.

What Needs Improvement:
– Graphics are not very good
– Mini-games are too few, too easy, and get boring fast
– Interactions are pseudo-sexual with a feeling of being done for someone else rather than actual relationship-building
– The focus is creepy and disturbing

Source: Review code provided by publisher

Categories: Gaming, Reviews

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