Version tested: PSP
To experience the best of Dead or Alive: Paradise, all you need to do is watch the opening cut-scene. Jiggling boobs! Wiggling bottoms! Hair-flipping! Tree-climbing! Two girls barely old enough to take the Key Stage 3 exam licking an ice cream - at the same time! From the shower scene to the final shot of the lady in the pink canoe, it's a cavalcade of impossibly subtle visual metaphors that serves to remind us just how far women have come in their quest for equality.
Of course, there's no point complaining about all the tits 'n' ass in a Dead or Alive game. That would be like complaining there's too much port and Blue WKD in your pint of Cheeky Vimto. Besides, when it comes to Paradise there's plenty of other stuff to complain about - such as the rotten visuals, flimsy gameplay, poor controls, limited customisation options, lack of online functionality, shoddy AI, lazy presentation and pathetic excuse for a storyline, to name but a few.
The premise is simple, and stupid. Playing as one of the DOA girls (there's a roster of 12, including familiar faces like Tina, Ayane and Kasumi) you get to spend a two-week holiday on Zack Island. There you can visit places like Tranquil Beach, Niki Beach and Bass Island, which are all the same except with the palm trees in a different order. There's the Pool and the Pool Side, which again are remarkably similar. You can buy dull items at a grand total of three shops, or visit the Radio Station, which is actually a music options menu masquerading as a Radio Station.
There's very little to do at any of these locations. The beach volleyball mini-game is rubbish - the controls are simplistic and unresponsive and the animations are laughable. It feels like you're trying to command robots whose batteries have run out. The only saving grace is the way the women's boobs wobble around independently of the rest of their bodies, as if filled with sand and helium, in that trademark DOA way.
Alternatively there's Pool Hopping. This involves jumping across a series of floating platforms with shape button symbols on them. You earn money for hitting the correct buttons, but your character will still jump even if you press the wrong one. The real challenge is getting the game to recognise whether you've tried to tap the button quickly to do a short jump or held it down for a longer one. It's all very arbitrary.
When you're bored with these mini-games, which will happen within seven minutes, you can head to the shops. This is where you can spend your hard-earned cash on nothing of any real value at all, from ugly swimsuits and leopardskin-print beachballs to chips, tangerines, harps and enyclopaedias. No idea.
It's important to point out at this juncture that purchases are made via a cumbersome menu system. You must also use menus to navigate between the pool, beach and so on. You can't just walk around and visit different physical locations as if you're in some crazy kind of "virtual world" - what do you think this is, 1997?
At the end of the day, which can't come soon enough, you get sent back to your hotel and presented with another menu featuring yet another set of tedious options. These include changing the clothes your character's wearing, choosing from a wide range of teeny-tiny lycra triangles. Often you'll find a present from some bloke called Zack waiting for you, and often it will be useless and bizarre. Gift-wrapped cabbage, anyone?
The most interesting thing to do of an evening is visit the Casino. Here you can play the slot machines, which involves pressing a button and seeing what turns up, just like real slots - except you can only ever win fictional money to spend on dull virtual items. The most interesting thing about the Blackjack mini-game is the dealer's bounteous cleavage, and only because its movements are less predictable than the cards being turned over. Poker is equally dull but offers the quickest way to boost your coffers, due to the fact the women you're playing against are easier to beat than an egg.
The are only two other gameplay elements to DOA: Paradise. The first involves interacting with other characters - actually, that's a bit strong; it involves interacting with menus to send other characters gifts, then watching a cut-scene to see whether or not they liked the gifts, and therefore are willing to be on your volleyball team. It is impossible to care about this.
The other element involves picking the menu option which says "Relax". You then get to watch your character stretching out on a sun lounger, or climbing a tree, or applying sun cream lotion, or doing some other activity which involves a lot of bending over, leaning forwards and generally waggling their vajayjay at the camera. You can take photos of them as they do this, using the d-pad to zoom in and change the angle. You get the idea.
This is the second-best thing about Dead or Alive: Paradise. Attempting to take the most obscene photos possible is much more fun than playing robot volleyball or beating thickos at poker. Plus you get to feel like a weird stalker or the kind of paparazzi willing to hide behind a palm tree for five days just to get a shot of one of Martine McCutcheon's stray pubes. Viewing the photos you've taken in full-screen requires quitting to the Home menu, as the in-game photo album only shows them as tiny thumbnails. Well done everyone.
The first-best thing about Dead or Alive: Paradise, as mentioned previously, is the opening cut-scene. It's hilariously silly, gloriously over-the-top and, who knows, probably highly erotic if the sight of digital women sitting in canoes sends you from six to midnight. But seeing as you can watch that cut-scene for free, right now, it doesn't make the game worth buying.
Neither do the terrible mini-games or endless menus. Even taking rude pictures of scantily clad women is less fun than it might be due to the awful visuals - the backgrounds are often pixellated, the animations are bizarre and everything is all jaggedy. It's hard to admire the women's graceful curves and smooth skin when they look like they've been cut out of a magazine by an enthusiastic six year-old with a pair of Early Learning Centre safety scissors.
If it's erotic imagery you're after, just get some porn. The visuals will be more realistic, the acting will be better and the plot will make more sense. Plus you might get to see it actually going in and out. Dead or Alive: Paradise is not worth taking your trousers down for.
3 / 10