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Hair Salon is the first game to make exclusive use of the Nintendo DSi's features. All DS's can run the game, but purchasers of the latest hardware will be able to use the DSi's built in camera for face recognition. Rather than a random game avatar, they can make their own face beautiful. With thousands of hair and makeup combinations, there is more than enough to keep even the most ardent of fashion divas busy.
I had high hopes for Hair Salon on the DS, not least because of the publisher's previous games like Dolphin Discovery, Kitten Corner and Pony Paradise that my family roundly enjoyed. This time around the action takes us to the hair dressers where players take on the task of running a busy boutique salon.
One of the most exciting features of the game is its use of the DSi's new camera. If you have this latest version of Nintendo's portable games console, you can take your picture and apply it to the in game hair model. This aspect of play sounded a little complex beforehand, but once I had worked out how the game handled this I realised it was quite straight forward. Simply line up your face with the on screen guidelines and the game automatically takes your picture. The rest is all done for you. This is similar to the technology and approach seen in PS3 and 360 console games like In the Movies and EyePet.
The main game is played holding the DSi or DS sideways like a book, something that makes the experience feel much more relaxed. Hair Salon provides players with a fully interactive hairstyling experience that is squarely aimed at younger girls. That not withstanding our boys also seemed pretty taken with the idea of messing about with people's hair, and to be able to do it to each other's pictures had them in stitches. I the game players learn to cut, colour and style hair as well as general makeup. It's a flexible approach that offers many thousands of different hair and makeup combinations. All the time the player needs to keep up their bed-side manner to ensure they keep clients happy.
Past the novelty of the day to day styling, Hair Salon also takes in the wider management and general strategy of running a small business. The emphasis is kept on the fun and easy side of things, but having these wider horizons means that the experience is likely to last a lot longer and have appeal to those a little older. Once you have mastered the basics you can participate in contests that if successful will boost your salon's ranking.
For our household, Hair Salon's release couldn't have been timed better. With a young family including pre-teen girls we often deliberate over how soon they should be getting into makeup and ewer. Hair Salon is a great opportunity to introduce them to it at a pace we are happy with. It also means that the whole family can play the game and talk about what styles they like - yes even Dad. The certainly looks like one of the more engaging ways to play in the Fashion world.
It is impressive that such a casual game hasn't shied away from embracing the new DSi technology. Whilst still offering a strong experience on the original DS and DS lite, pop the cartridge into the DSi and the new camera features really bring things to life. Although some will find the themes and play-style a little too casual, dig a little deeper and you will find a game as challenging as any other. The timing of Hair Salon's release makes it an ideal partner purchase for those buying a DSi as a present.
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