Review – Pretty Girls Speed
Does anyone else remember rollerblading in the 1980s? For some reason, it became a huge deal for people, specifically people in California, to be rollerblading everywhere in any movie I saw that involved the beach. Men and women would don their brightest, most skin tight clothing and hit the pier or the blacktop or whatever, and lazily coast along in sunglasses while Andy McDowell had a serious conversation about what to do after high school, it doesn’t matter with whom.
Anyways, one thing you’d always see is that these rollerbladers had two different styles in terms of safety. Either they would wear nothing whatsoever, which is its own brand of insanity, as you literally have wheels strapped to your feet, relinquishing traction and control to gravity and momentum. Or, conversely, you see the elbow and knee pads with no helmet. This was also a bizarre choice: sure, road rash and bruises suck, but you won’t forget your childhood if you accidentally hit your elbow too hard. Why the hell wouldn’t the option for a helmet be taken as well?
The answer lies in perception: the people in these movies were hardly going faster than a minor stroll, and the actual risk of danger was impossibly low, but we had to present SOMETHING to look like they gave a damn about proper rollerblading attire. It was all for show, much like the entirety of our presentation for Pretty Girls Speed.
Let’s be super clear and honest: The Nintendo Switch’s gaming pool is almost as polluted as the mobile game ocean, and, in some ways, it can be worse. Mobile games come in all flavors and shades, and many of them taste like spyware and shame, but at least they exist. You understand that mobile games are literally trying to target everyone and anyone in a desperate bid to grind a few cents off of ad revenue and data mining. With the Nintendo Switch, it’s a fairly closed ecosystem that Nintendo used to guard in a zealous, hostile manner after the panic of independent publishers for the NES. When the applause broke out during the Gamecube and Wii eras that Nintendo was finally allowing more mature titles to enter the fray, there must have been some kind of huge misunderstanding as to what that meant.
For the average player, we were elated to finally be able to play the same titles as our friends without needing to drop for a second console. I’m not saying Modern Warfare III was the greatest shooter of all time, but it was cool to play it on my Wii. Nintendo, however, has managed to create a whole new problem by taking the interpretation of “players want more variety” and ripping the door off the hinges, allowing access to just about anything. Cheap, bland titles are a dime a dozen, with the disadvantage that they don’t cost a dime, but usually set you back a few bucks. This is where we finally engage with Pretty Girls Speed and what it means to exist in the Nintendo Switch ecosphere.
First and foremost, it’s an interpretation of the classic card game Speed, which is meant to be played against someone. It has a few different names and variations across the world (Pitch, Spit, etc.), but the idea is to empty out your cards by building up and down off of another card. So if there’s a three, you can put down a four or a two, and keep going until you’re out of cards or your opponent runs out. Simple enough, and it’s very easy to keep up with the idea once you’ve played a hand or two.
Pretty Girls Speed attempts to capitalize on this notion by making sure it’s single player only, then asking you to play against progressively faster (notice I didn’t say “better”) AI to see who can be the first to empty out your library. Instead of a friend, family member or stranger on the street, you’re matched against different anime trope girls, from “fox eared girl in kimono” to “doctor with glasses and a stern glare” and “maid with impossibly uncomfortable chest.” Each will play Speed against you at different, well, speeds, until the game is done. At which point…seriously, at which point it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. The game is over. That’s it.
Some of you might be waiting for the other shoe to drop at this point, but there isn’t one. First and foremost, it’s a card game. Secondly, there are anime girls that you play against who weren’t designed by God or anyone who is familiar with female anatomy. Obviously there’s no problem with that, and Pretty Girls Speed wears its heart on its sleeve in terms of what it delivers. There are, arguably, pretty girls in the game, and they play Speed against you. Badly. They play Speed badly to the point where I wasn’t sure if the AI was throwing the game. On slow speeds, it’s frustrating trying to watch the opponent choose what card to do next, like a game against the DMV sloths of Zootopia. But, even when the action is sped up, there are so many missteps in what cards to obviously play next that the loss feels intentional. That isn’t to say that I won everytime: in fact, in the 100 levels of challenge that I played, I lost about five times.
After you beat all ten girls in the standard versus mode, there are 100 challenge levels of Pretty Girls Speed where the same feeling of a slowly accelerating game is then stretched out to one hundred different, seemingly arbitrary pairings against the girls. The monotony of doing the same thing over and over really gives you time to reflect on everything else that’s wrong with the game. Like how there’s the same speedy, happy hardcore knockoff music to drive each round, which is borderline hilarious when the first twelve challenges are painfully slow. Or the fact that the “girls” are voiced, but just yell the same clips over and over again.
One phrase for starting the battle, one that they arbitrarily yell during the game, and one of two at the conclusion of the game, either a success or loss noise. These are especially concerning, because you have a lot of artifacts from some other kind of game mixed in here. Tell me, when’s the last time you screamed like you were being mugged because someone finished a card game faster than you? If you have any answer besides “never,” call the police, they’ll want to investigate your life.
At some point you realize that you can play Pretty Girls Speed with either buttons or the touchscreen, and you’ll swap to the touch approach, not because it’s easier, but because you’re just trying to get through the game. The button approach has all the skill and appeal of fighting with someone over the volume on the television: keep mashing up and down until the game is over. At least with the capacitive style, you can cradle your forehead in your free hand, wondering where your five dollars could have gone instead. Maybe you could have bought some ice cream or just lit the money on fire in a field. The result would be the same and would be a lot faster than waiting on your opponent to figure out a King goes on a Queen, HURRY UP, YUNA, I WANT THIS GAME OVER ALREADY.
Ironically, the decision by eastasiasoft to toe the line in Pretty Girls Speed is what makes the game the most disappointing of all. At the very beginning, there’s a disclaimer that all the women in the game are over the age of eighteen, which is something you announce before something messed up happens. You don’t need to declare that everyone’s legal before, say, an ice cream social or a barn dance. Maybe you should, given what I’ve seen happen on bales of hay, but that’s for another time and a different doctor.
So Eastasiasoft sets you up to see something lascivious, or at the very least lewd, and the result is next to nothing. The anime models have very large chests, some of them, and some are showing cleavage. That’s all. Before and after the game, you can zoom in on the different characters, which don’t move or blink whatsoever, to really see the pixels (and the pixelation, due to disappointingly low resolution), and nothing else. There’s no extra costumes to unlock or poses or whatever. We’ve just run the gamut of some amazingly filthy titles like Seven Pirates H or Gal*Gun2, and I braced myself for something at least in the ballpark. But if Seven Pirates H is the Playboy that you hide beneath your mattress, Pretty Girls Speed is the Sears catalog that you use to level the coffee table. Sure, you could look at it and get all worked up, but why would you, and also how did you get a Sears catalog in this decade?
I wasn’t out to find the game of the year in Pretty Girls Speed, but I was looking for something to at least pass the time in a fun way. I purposely finished every single bit of this game so I could objectively say that this was an utter waste of time. It’s got the presentation that you’re keeping a dirty little secret by playing it, but anyone who feels shamed by this was gaslit as a child to hate women and water balloons.
You could literally buy a decent deck of cards and just search the internet for “hot anime girls” and end up with the same result, but better. More variety in whatever waifu you want to look at, and you can play other games with the deck of cards. Maybe even play against people. Hell, this could be your gateway into socialization so that you stop wasting time on clickbait games that seek to use your libido against your wallet. This is a game for no one, and its only redeeming quality is that it works. Congrats, Pretty Girls Speed, you’ve passed the bar of being functional. It still doesn’t make you worthwhile.
All the effort put into the character models feels like a long afternoon, or possibly a lazy Sunday. Not ugly or awful, just…bland.
Cards go up. Cards go down. Endless waiting until opponent moves. Attempt to find reason in this world. Find none.
I’m not sure if the bouncy electronic music or the random shrieks of Japanese were more grating.
I forced myself to play it completely so I could be honest: there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Final Verdict: 2.5
Pretty Girls Speed is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4/5 and Steam.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Pretty Girls Speed was provided by the publisher.