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Blimey, do I need a holiday. Christmas is over, the New Year sucks, I’m back to work, the weather outside is miserable – constant unremitting drizzle without a sign of a blue sky in weeks – and there are enough strains of flu loitering around the neighbourhood that it’ll be a miracle if I don’t go down with something in the next few weeks. There hasn’t been a decent game on the shelves since mid-December, the TV has taken a turn for the worse, and life has rarely seemed so dreary.
Maybe what I need is a trip to Zack Island.
Just imagine it – a billionaire’s tropical playground, where bikini-clad babes play volleyball all week long, pausing only to jetski or frolic by the pool. Everyone’s friendly, and every night the girls all dish out gifts to each other like Christmas never came. You can hit the shops in the day, then win big at the Casino at night, and at the end of your two week stay you’ll have an album’s worth of photographic precious memories take home. Is there a better destination, anywhere in the world?
Well, yes, actually there is. For those of you who didn’t come across DoA Xtreme in its first Xbox incarnation, the idea is that you choose a girl from the popular not-too-feminist-friendly fighting series, deck her out in a variety of skimpy swimsuits and cute accessories, keep her busy in a series of holiday-related activities, and help her win friends amongst the other girls. For the new 360 version the gameplay has been (if you’ll excuse me) fleshed out a little to cover jetski racing, beach athletics and a couple more poolside games, but the game has retained its somewhat lazy, sun-drenched pace – this isn’t a game you play to win, but more of a weird, virtual vacation experience.
And that is kind of the problem. Nobody can dispute that DoA Xtreme 2 is a lovely game to look at. Sure, the girls have the same plastic anime look they had in Dead or Alive 4, but they are nevertheless beautifully rendered, and the various beach/poolside/jungle/undersea locations show that Team Ninja hasn’t lost its eye for cool lighting or stunning textural detail. The animation is a bit suspect – for a team that has made bouncing breast physics its speciality, you can’t help wondering if anyone at Team Ninja has ever actually looked at the real thing – but if you ever wanted an anime version of the behind-the-scenes video of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar, this is about as close as you’re ever going to get. In fact, Team Ninja clearly wrote this game with exactly that audience in mind – you can even get the girls to skip a session on the Volleyball court or jetski course so that they can bask in the sun while you take pictures. Now’s your chance to live out your glamour photography dreams – zoom in close, shift focus to emphasize those natural curves, lovely jubbly.
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