Platform: PlayStation 2
Review Date: 5/2/10
Another missed opportunity in the female action genre. Based on the Japanese "Cool Girls" line of toys, "Cy Girls" follows the adventures of two characters, Ice and Aska (aka Shadow). Ice is a high tech mercenary, hacker, and gun for hire, while Aska is a modern day ninja and master of the blade. Both girls have the ability to dive into cyberspace, which is required for discovering information, deleting files, and overriding security systems. Unfortunately, cyberspace has the same geometry as the real world, and only differs in the surface textures that are used. Ice starts out as a free agent being hired to infiltrate a high security building and destroy some data files that they have. The Cy Girls are keeping an eye on her as a possible new recruit. Aska starts her adventure as a renegade Cy Girl (basically a shinobi), who leaves her duties to avenge her father. Each girl's adventure is on its own disc (similar to "Resident Evil 2"), although they share many of the same assets.
Unfortunately, the game is average to below average in every regard. The infinitely looping background music will drive you batty in under ten minutes, but turning down the music volume inexplicably turns down the cutscene volume as well, so you don't get to hear what other characters are saying when the drama unfolds. Thankfully Aska's music isn't nearly as annoying as Ice's. The navigation controls are sloppy and it takes a long time for the characters to start and stop moving, which makes precision movement impossible. The menus are awkwardly laid out, and item information is displayed very slowly a character at a time. Ugh! This is probably the most annoying part of the game, and from a design perspective it makes no sense why you would take 30 seconds to spell out an entire paragraph one letter at a time when you could flash it on the screen all at once. It's a huge waste of time and keeps you from staying in the action. The game is very combat heavy, but there's no ability to strafe, which means you spend a lot of time running straight into the enemy (and their line of fire) in order to attack them.
Each of the girls is in contact with an "operator" of sorts, who provides verbal hints and instructions. These characters aren't particularly helpful and can be extremely irritating. And it certainly doesn't help that the voice acting is rather flat. It's been a while since I've played a PS2 game, and given the age of the game the graphics are pretty good. The character models look decent and animate well, but aren't overly attractive, and the environments are sparse and sterile looking. The prerendered cutscenes look nice, but are definitely outdated. The biggest flaw in the game is the level design and mission flow, which requires a LOT of backtracking. I'm not a fan of traversing the same area multiple times, especially when enemies keep respawning. This problem is made even worse by the labyrinthine layout of the levels and the fact that so many areas look exactly the same. You'll be accessing your map a lot, which can still leave you confused, disoriented, and unsure about how to reach your next objective. And if that weren't bad enough, in Ice's second mission she has to rotate a series of identical rooms to gain access to new identical looking areas. And then backtrack through the maze several times. That was enough to make me give up on the game altogether. It's simply not worth the pain and effort.
The amount of tedium in the game is excruciating, and the characters seem helpless rather than empowered. I play games as a form of fantasy escapism and wish fulfillment - to be able to perform extraordinary feats against incredible odds. Instead, in this game I'm sent on a wild goose chase to track down sixteen Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners scattered across multiple floors of an office building. It's like the game designers forgot the most important ingredient of the game, which is making it fun to play. Having two hot chicks as lead characters may be enough to sell the game (and I did buy it, after all), but that isn't enough to make it an enjoyable experience. It's a shame that so many female action games, as well as movies, suffer from this. As Jean Luc Goddard famously pointed out, "all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun," but that doesn't guarantee that it will be a GOOD movie...