Support Libby, click to buy via us...
Yes, just imagine: you are a fashion store manager in a huge new mall. You have a head for business, and an eye for style. It's your job to make more money, spot trends, please more customers, sell sell sell.
This, dear reader, is the Ultimate Consumer Odyssey.
Mme. Aupres: Feel the trends, be at the peak of fashion and make your customers dream. @libby_ol: Um, in general, are games supposed to make you puke? @GeekDadGamer: usually with games puking is the first step toward suspension of disbelief. Next comes fainting, sleeping and manic expenditure.
And so, before I puke or go on a spending spree, a story:
At one point in his ten-year journey home to Ithaca, Odysseus and his men (sorry girls, it was only men) end up in the land of the Lotus-Eaters. "Ooh, scary," do I hear you say, tongue firmly in cheek? Well, it is scary if you are trying to get from Point A to Point B, and upon eating lotus fruit memory of Point B is obliterated. (Where was I going with this again?)
This is what playing Fashion Stylist is like. Your real-person-brain is no longer required because you have eaten the lotus fruit and entered the Land of Consumer Culture. In this heinous Land, everyday interactions have been be sweetened with a truck-load of syrup and a good dose of hype. You must either suspend disbelief or you will end up in a state of madness and despair.
Helen: I thought it was just a dream! Thanks to you it's now a reality! (In this German version of the game that's not Helen of Troy, by the way, that's Helen of T-Shirts.) Jess (my underling shop assistant): Great! It's so beautiful that it makes you want to cry!
No. Starving children make me want to cry, not the fact that my Preppy Dandy mini-skirt matches my Magic Jacket sneakers.
At this point I should say the goings-on in the classical world of the Odyssey are sometimes hard to swallow too. A substantial dose of lying and deception, peppered with occasional bouts of slaying and vengeance, for instance. This becomes more justifiable when you understand there were strict moral codes at play in this classical world. People operated within a hierarchy, with qualities such as valour, loyalty, honour and obeying the deities being up there at the pinnacle.
I'm not sure which Hero's Code governs the Imagine series (there are numerous fashionista games in the series: Barbie Fashion Show, Style Boutique, Supermodel Makeover and so on), but to hazard a guess I'd say:
Only females will embark on the Consumer Odyssey (although as @Ms12 pointed out, you don't really see men in women's clothing stores anyway);
Customers will adopt the attitude of guilty shopper wherever possible;
You, as the manager and Hero, will attempt to please everyone indiscriminately because you want their money, and you will learn the wily ways of 'what it takes' to reach your goal.
You get the drift. However, I feel I ought to curb the page-long gag reflex associated with the content of the game and take a moment to talk about the actual gaming experience. So here I go: suspending disbelief.
One: While playing this game, you use the DS like a book or magazine, rather than the more usual horizontal way.
Two: Initially, you may feel mildly excited about the challenge of keeping your store's stock levels up in line with the latest Fashion Trends (as set by some unknown Architect of Choice) while at the same time keeping an eye on the ranking of brands on your left hand screen. However,
Three: You will soon realise your job is merely to check boxes as you 'unlock' new stock, choose combinations of clothing according to a customer's 'brief' ('I need canary-yellow sneakers'), and amass as much wealth for the store as possible.
Four: You will be rewarded for your sales with gifts, store expansions, the praise of the mall owner, and the opportunity to refurbish your store in the colours of your choice. You will also encounter many adoring customers, who will tell you how great and talented you are at choosing sneakers.
Five: You may influence your customers' choices by changing the clothing on the shop dummy, and by holding fashion parades.
Six: You may only choose from the clothing presented. They do not stock orange tu-tus, for instance, or flared, sequined pant-suits. (Go figure.)
Seven: You may not ask questions. (Where are these clothes made? What is the ecological footprint of this item? Is the fabric organic? That sort of thing.) Although you will be told that, for instance, the latest trend magazines are saying that, "The Folky Style marks a turning point in the Bohemian movement, reconciling the world of fashion and current major ecological trends." (Magazine Griliz)
Does that even mean anything? Does it matter? To some players, perhaps not. As @Ms12 said, she still liked being the boss, even within fairly tight parameters and with few choices. "It's a game, Mum," she said, with a bit of eye-rolling. "You don't have to actually read what the characters are babbling on about."
Smart girl, if I do say so myself. But frankly, if I'm not going to fully engage with a game, I'd rather leave it behind and get back to the Odyssey of Real Life. Even if it's not always shiny and happy, at least in Real Life you're more likely to cry for the right reasons.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: