Konami's latest action game, Cy Girls, is based on a Takara-produced toy line in Japan (which also has its own cartoon series), which features a number of comely, ultrafuturistic-looking girls designed for one sole purpose: to kick ass. The toy line, cartoon, and game are all titled "Cool Girl" in Japan, but for the game's stateside release, Konami apparently decided to give the game a hipper, more-stylish name. Or maybe Konami just realized that there's actually nothing cool about this near train wreck of an action adventure game. Whatever minimal amount of sleekness the game has to offer is completely overshadowed by unimpressive graphics and sound, sloppy combat mechanics, and an almost nonstop assailment of long, boring, and mind-numbingly frustrating puzzles.
Cy Girls has two main, playable characters: Ice, a tough, blonde hacker with a penchant for guns and things that blow up (think Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 2 if he actually were a girl instead of just looking like one), and Aska, the silent-but-deadly ninja type with an affinity for bladed weaponry (essentially a combination of every generic female ninja character you can think of). Each of the girls actually has her own storyline, and the respective adventures are contained on two separate discs, similar to Devil May Cry 2's one-disc-per-character setup (and we all know how well that turned out). Both girls live in a sort of postcatastrophic future where megacorporations rule the world. Aska's and Ice's stories start out predictably enough, with Ice on a hired mission to hack into the database of a company called Net Justice and Aska on a personal mission to avenge the death of her father. Both characters' stories run parallel to each another, and neither one is particularly comprehensible, let alone entertaining or interesting.
But, hey, if Cy Girls' action were any good, the story wouldn't matter, right? Regrettably, no such luck. Cy Girls appears to be using the Metal Gear Solid 2 engine, but outside of a couple of decent stealth mechanics, such as being able to dive behind and shoot around corners, the gameplay absolutely fails to ever be anything more than pure, uninspired mediocrity.
Though Aska's and Ice's methods of combat differ, their basic controls are the same. You can use your basic weapon--either one of Ice's guns or Aska's sword--by pressing the circle button, you can jump with the X button, you can use a secondary weapon with the triangle button, and you can perform miscellaneous actions via the square button. When engaged in combat, you have the option to manually aim at a target or have a targeting reticle automatically lock onto a specific enemy. With Ice, this is more useful. Pretty much all of her weapons are projectile-based, so it's helpful to have a specific enemy locked. Aska, on the other hand, doesn't really need any special targeting, because in most situations, it's unbelievably easy to just kill off every bad guy in sight with her. In situations with multiple attackers, if you hit the attack button, Aska will simply launch into some sort of contextual special attack that pretty much kills everybody in her path without any real effort on your part. Granted, this is really only applicable when you're facing generic enemies, but you'll be facing more than enough of them to leave you with a pretty dull, oversimplified combat experience throughout Aska's portion of the game.
This is not to say that Ice's section is much better, however, and really, both parts are just an absolute bore to play through. Save for occasional boss fights, the combat is never particularly tough, and enemies really only become a nuisance when they show up off camera and start shooting at or clubbing you. What's much more irritating is the game's unrelenting obsession with horrible puzzles--specifically, puzzles related to the finding of and the use of keys to open doors. It seems like nearly ever mission is specifically related to the task of finding a way into or out of a level, and to do that, you will have to walk across and back across that level upward of four or five times.
The game is also almost completely incapable of remembering past actions, so every time you enter a room, if you moved a box previously to enable yourself to jump over a wall, you will have to move the box once again. Additionally, some of the basic tasks required to solve these puzzles are frustrating to the point of being infuriating. One mission requires you to track down the data chips of 16 different cleaning robots (specifically, in a bizarre product tie-in, Roomba-brand cleaning robots) spread throughout two floors of a building. This is not at all a fun, or easy, task, and it will require quite a long, unpleasant bout of hard searching to yield the proper results--and yet, believe it or not, this is one of the least-involved undertakings the game puts you through.
For all its mediocrity, Cy Girls does bring one unique component to the table, in regard to its virtual reality portions. Both Ice and Aska have the ability to hook into "terminals" in each level that allow them to travel into a cyberspace version of that level. In cyberspace, you can't bring along any of your normal weapons, but instead, you'll have access to some Matrix-esque high-flying martial arts moves with which to pound on various security programs that cross your path. The style of these portions of the game is pretty cool, and the fact that you need to travel between both realms in order to solve certain puzzles is also a neat idea--one that would be a whole lot neater if the previously mentioned puzzles weren't quite so terrible.
Though Cy Girls' graphics are reasonably OK from a technical perspective, they lack any sort of aesthetically pleasing qualities. Each of the game's levels is monotonously designed, both in terms of actual layout and visuals. The whole game has a fairly monochromatic look, primarily due to a lot of repetitive textures and set pieces that don't look very good to begin with. The game's lighting further compounds this issue, washing out everything in an entirely displeasing way. Neither Ice nor Aska is especially creatively designed, nor are any of the other Cy Girl characters they come into contact with. Whether this is an issue inherent to the Cool Girl license or just an utter lack of creativity on the game's behalf, they're not very interesting to look at, nor do they animate well. For example, both characters' running animations are just plain silly and give you the impression they're skating about on an icy surface rather than actually running. Cy Girls is also plagued with camera problems. At the beginning of the game, you're given two camera options: novice and expert. The novice mode essentially moves the camera for you when you're controlling your character, and the expert mode lets you freely move the camera with the right analog stick. Neither option is without fault, though the expert mode is much preferred to the clunky novice mode.
Of course, none of these problems can trump Cy Girls' truly awful voice acting. Aska and Ice aren't horrible, but their line deliveries are regularly flat and dull, and in the few instances when they are forced to deliver any manner of emotion, it doesn't come off too well. The voices for the side characters that help you during missions, however, make the two heroines sound like the greatest actresses in the world by comparison. Not only is the writing for them downright abysmal, but their delivery is simply awful to the point of laugh-out-loud bad. Enemies in the game don't really say anything other than "stop!" or "freeze!" except, of course, when they're dying, in which case they let out the silliest cry of pain this side of a dying clown. The game's soundtrack fares a bit better, but it's still unpleasant to listen to and extremely repetitive.
Cy Girls is one of those games that squanders every single opportunity it is presented with. The dual-character storylines, the cyberspace missions, the specialized combat--all of these things have absolutely tremendous potential when put together. Instead, we are left with a dismally banal action game that would prefer to merely put you through the generic motions of every other lame action game out there rather than attempt to do anything even minimally interesting. Since there are literally hundreds of much better action games currently on the market, Cy Girls seems like a big waste of time.