I have played my fair share of weird niche games from Japan but when it comes to absurdity of them, Drive Girls definitely belongs at the top of the list. The game is from a popular Japanese developer Tamsoft who have previously worked on some classics released on the original PlayStation. They are also well known for their work on the Senran Kagura series which is a decent hack and slash game despite the lewdness presented in it. They have a long heritage of releasing decent games but unfortunately this appears to have failed to materialize with the release of Drive Girls.
Drive Girls is set in a world where it is considered normal for humans to transform into cars. Yes, you heard that right. You control a group of girls in the game who have one of the most generic art style I have seen for an ‘anime’ and they are able to use their power to transform so that they can battle the evil insect-like machines which resemble bugs and are appropriately called ‘Bugs’ in the game. Well despite this, there is actually an effort to present a story here no matter how hard the game tries to shoe-horn it for the player, it will be difficult to take the gameplay seriously.
The story of Drive Girls is centered on a girl called Lancier. The story starts when Lancier attempts an exam for Emergency Response Team (ERT) but in reality, this exam was just a ploy for potential recruits to join a team called “Drive Girls” who are tasked with protecting Sun Island. This Island has been under constant threat of attacks from the insect-like mechanical bugs and it is up to Drive Girls to protect them. The story attempts to prop up some mystery with the origin of the bugs but the writing is terrible and full of typical anime cliches so it never managed to pull me in enough to care about it.
The issue with Drive Girls is not just the art style, neither it is the way the story and characters are presented, it extends all the way to the gameplay. The basic hack and slash combat can be entertaining at times but it feels too repetitive, which dampens the overall fun. If you are fan of the hacking and slashing at a group of enemies while repeating the same combo, perhaps you might enjoy Drive Girls. While at first, you will think that the game offers a nice combat system because of the way it combines standard hack and slash with a car transforming combat, but that never appears to be the case here. The hack and slash aspect of the game ends up being fairly generic with most of it being neglected to simple button mashing. The car combat is also weak and weirdly hilarious at times that I never felt comfortable using it for the most part. While this all sounds terrible, there are times when the game does offer a little entertainment, but even these are affected by the repetitive nature of the gameplay.
Leaving aside the gameplay, the game does offer plenty of customization options from stickers for the car transformations to stats boosts for either the car or the girl form. You will also gradually unlock more characters to play through the story missions which adds a little variety to the combat system. Although the way the game has presented these characters with fan service moments thrown in the mix, I found it hard to like any of them.
The low budget nature of the game is obvious right from the start. It also lacks any English voice acting resorting to cheap Japanese voice acting for the most part. The visuals for the main character are nice but the environment look completely bland and lifeless, so exploration is no fun. The game also suffers from a lack of good arty style for the UI, which looks fairly generic.
While there is some fun to be had with Drive Girls, I can’t help but feel that the game ultimately fails on too many fronts. Of course, there are fans for almost every genre and if you won’t mind the anime tropes, cliche story, and can bear the repetitive hack and slash gameplay, perhaps you will also enjoy Drive Girls.
Drive Girls Review (Vita)
Game Reviewed on: Vita
Game description: The Drive Girls are ready to hit the road! Play as five different Drive Girls and transform from superheroine to supercar and back again, as you smash through wave after wave of mechanised Bug enemies attacking your home of Sun Island.
The repetitive nature of the hack and slash combat and the lack of inspiration for the story and visuals makes it hard to recommend Drive Girls for anything other than amusement.