“Warning!” NO HENTAI contents in this game! All you get is funny and stupid panties!

This is the warning on Nintendo’s game page and it’s worth bearing in mind. The page features the word ‘panty’ or ‘panties’ no fewer than 19 times, but also reiterates what you’re getting. ‘A story of nonsense and fools brought to you by panties’ is promised, and developer HorngYeuan Digital certainly delivers on that. Despite what you may have previously believed, Panty Party is a simple hack and slash-style game where you, as a pair of panties, combat enemy panties in an epic tale of true love and twisted knickers.

Yurika’s train journey to school is delayed, not by leaves on the line, but a panty (the undergarments are constantly referring to in the singular). Frustrated, the student bumps into the offending smalls in the middle of the street. Somewhat taken aback, the floating, talking panty known as Baka Pan is equally surprised to find a human that can see and understand her. Mistaking Yurika’s panty-based ambivalence (any old pair will do) for an egalitarian love for all types, Baka Pan deduces that she must be a Warrior of Love. The disbelieving Yurika promptly transforms into a pair of undies and must lead the fight against Panzi and a band of unloved panties intent on brainwashing all humans and forcing them to think panties are their only true love…

As you can tell, it’s absolutely barmy. Encountering panties of all shapes and sizes, Yurika’s journey takes you through Japanese suburbs and beyond, eventually to Panzi’s secret base which is located… well, following the 'logic' of the narrative, you can probably guess where it’s located. You’ll engage in floaty, bland street brawls which become more interesting after the first few episodes of Story mode (there are twenty in total), and the hack and slash combat certainly isn’t the worst we’ve encountered.

You dodge left and right using ‘L’ and ‘R’ respectively, and this becomes imperative in later stages. Jump is on ‘B’ and the remaining face buttons are used for attacks. Panties flutter around like birds and your jump is tied to a meter that enables you to float for several seconds. Aiming the reticule at enemy panties and attacking engages a sticky lock-on camera, although it loses its target frequently and we’d have preferred it to remain locked regardless – too often we had to move our thumb from the weapon buttons to the right stick just to track enemy panties. The lack of gyro camera control sticks out like a sore thumb in this day-and-age, but everything about the game’s presentation indicates this was built to a strict budget, text formatting errors and all.

Every hit you land builds your ‘Passion’ meter; once full, unleashing it with ‘ZL’ enables you to get temporary buffs or unique abilities. As you probably wouldn’t expect, the panties brandish a variety of armaments, from ‘guns’ to bladed weapons; the sight of a pair of white panties emitting a hail of bullets with appropriate machine gun sounds gives you a good idea of the incongruity the game thrives on.

Weapons vary per panty and you unlock new pairs by fulfilling certain time or score requirements per episode. You’ll likely get comfortable with just one pair, but it’s worth experimenting, especially with later unlocks. Managing which of the attacking panties to take down first becomes a priority as you progress, adding a little strategy to proceedings. A brief cooldown bar applies to projectiles preventing you from spamming long-distance attacks, which encourages a varied approach. Combat is a little floaty and imprecise - and very much not Bayonetta - but it's not awful, either.

Technically, there’s nothing that should challenge the hardware here – in terms of takes on Japanese suburbs, things like 3DS’ Attack of the Friday Monsters or even the 20-year-old Shenmue offer far more visual detail than you get here. Environments are reused and you’re boxed in by invisible walls that show an electrified honeycomb pattern when you brush against them. Disappointing framerate drops abound throughout, especially in more complex, panty-heavy arenas.

Perhaps surprisingly, the writing and the story aren’t terrible. Ridiculous, yes, but the Japanese dialogue is delivered with such energy that, juxtaposed with the silly premise, it creates an odd sort of narrative draw. ‘Who is this mysterious Panzi figure?’, ‘How exactly does a true love of panties lead to transmogrification?’ and ‘What am I doing with my life?’ are just some of the questions the game provokes – the fact it manages to intrigue you at all is unexpected, though. The main menu theme might embed itself in your head, too, although the music is otherwise tediously repetitive.

That it’s not stringing you along with salacious shots of barely-legal lovelies is actually endearing and refreshing, in a way. Beyond a curious preoccupation with ‘punishment’ – and a somewhat unsavoury habit of referring to high school girls as ‘expired’, it’s just a bunch of anime pants and the odd double entendre. Unless a pristine digital gusset gets you going, you’re out of luck if you’re coming to Panty Party for titillation.

Arcade mode removes the narrative and sets you through a branching path of encounters made up of panties and locations from Story mode. Multiplayer mode enables local split screen for up to four players (human or AI) to do battle for a set time in one of nine locations. An auto-lock-on camera is available here, primarily because using a single Joy-Con removes the second analogue. We expected the framerate to take a huge dive in this mode, but it wasn’t as bad as we’d imagined and that goes for the multiplayer as a whole. There are many better ways to pass time with your pals on Switch, but if you insist on throwing a Panty Party, you might squeeze a couple of rounds out of it before somebody suggests Smash or Mario Kart instead.

Conclusion

Panty Party is not unenjoyable. Don’t be tricked into thinking you’ll be ogling barely dressed girls – the panties themselves are the stars here. Bayonetta is an infinitely more alluring proposition in absolutely every way, but Panty Party’s hack-and-slash style gameplay isn’t without merit and there’s a certain bizarre joyfulness to it. It’s mostly-harmless, repetitive nonsense that you’ll blow through in an afternoon, but we’d be lying if we said it didn’t raise a grin or two through its sheer WTF-ness.