Ever stopped for a second to check out how the mainstream media is dealing with its portrayal of video games lately? Things haven’t really changed much since the 1980s, honestly – you’ve still got characters frantically flailing away with joysticks while stock Space Invaders sound effects play along. Someday I’d like to see a more accurate view of what it’s like to play video games in the 2010s; y’know, where you have to explain to your significant other what Drive Girls is while she tries (and fails) to contain her laughter. That should make for good watching. Better than The Big Bang Theory, anyway. Yuck.
So what is Drive Girls, exactly? Well, Drive Girls is an extensive case study on the biological, economic and sociological issues presented by women who are able to turn into cars. There’s tons of scientific evidence to read through, interviews with Drive Girls to…okay, nah, that’s not even remotely right. It’s Dynasty Warriors except your characters are anime girls who can turn into vehicles. Sometimes you take a break from the Dynasty Warriors side of things and race around a track because your character can become a car. I’m guessing there’s a fetish for this kind of thing that I’m blessedly unfamiliar with and I assume Drive Girls really hits all the right notes when it comes to folks who are into this kind of thing.
The plot? Well, I guess there’s a plot. We follow Lancier, an anime girl who’s also a Mitsubishi Lancer, and oh god the crushing weight of what I’m writing about just collapsed on top of me. Pundits in the games media have battled for years about how video games are art. I must finally concede that they were right all along. Anyway, Lancier joins the Drive Girls, who are all girls who turn into cars, and they fight off hostile creatures called Bugs. Most missions involve the wholesale slaughter of Bugs, a race consisting of several laps around a track, or a little bit of both, and the game doesn’t throw a whole lot of surprises your way.
Gameplay-wise Drive Girls does a lot of what you’d expect: lots of Bugs, lots of slashing to kill them all and so on. Combat is responsive enough, though the enemies never feel especially dangerous so it’s reminiscent of beating on a sandbag. Being able to drive around as a car is a new addition to the Warriors formula and to be fair it’s a decent experience here. Don’t come in expecting any sort of advanced driving simulation or anything, but at least the car usually goes where you want and you have to think about running into groups of Bugs to refill your boost meter. You can switch between car form and anime girl form during combat, which is interesting but not especially useful as the car’s attacks are difficult to control.
You can also do this during a race, which is aggravating because for some reason it’s on the same button as the boost. Outside of missions, you’ve got a fairly simple customization system revolving around sticking decals on your girls/cars/cargirls that provide stat boosts.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about Drive Girls is that by PS Vita standards it actually looks and runs pretty damn well. I’ve gotten so used to games running at a nice, solid 15fps on the Vita that it’s impressive when a game comes along that manages 30fps the majority of the time. That might have something to do with the track and enemy designs being fairly bland, with most of the artists’ attention clearly going to the heroines/vehicles, but I’m not going to complain about being able to play something that’s not a slideshow.
Really, Drive Girls isn’t a bad game, it just doesn’t do much that’s very interesting on account of trying to be a sort of jack-of-all-trades. If you want fanservice, you’ve got a vast and interesting array of Senran Kagura games to check out at the very least; Drive Girls also feels somewhat similar to Valkyrie Drive: Bikkhuni, so that’s an option as well. If you want the Warriors experience, then Warriors All-Stars is going to be your huckleberry. As for racing, well, I’m not intimately familiar with that genre of game but I’m told Forza is pretty good. If you’ve somehow managed to exhaust every outlet for those sorts of game then Drive Girls might be worth checking out, but otherwise it’s probably best as a backburner game.