Whether in fashion or games it’s not a good idea to simply follow a trend. The richest rewards go to those who take a concept and put their own unique spin on it, which is what has happened with Fashion Boutique. Ready to peg it as “yet another fashion-themed time management game,” I was instead pleasantly surprised by fresh gameplay and several fun new twists.
Maya, the game’s main character, is an employee at a Fashion Boutique that belongs to a chain of stores. Because of her excellent performance record and work ethic, Maya’s boss puts her in charge of travelling to various “problem” stores around the country so that she can whip them into shape and improve flagging sales.
As she travels to locations including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Houston and Miami, Maya’s job in is to serve customers efficiently and keep them happy, earning enough cash at the end of the day to satisfy the boss and convince him to pour money into improving the store. If you’re successful, you’ll see each store transform from a barebones outlet with a couple of racks to a trendy boutique offering dozens of different garments and extra perks to keep customers satisfied.
Customers enter the store with an idea of what they want, shown as a thought bubble above their heads. If a customer is interested in blouses, for example, you must drag them over to the appropriate display rack, wait for them to browse and decide which blouse they want, then walk the request over to your handy counter assistant who retrieves the garment from the back room for you to take to the customer. They might buy the clothing right away, or want to try it on first. If the latter happens, you must guide them to a fitting room and wait while they change and admire themselves in the mirror. Once a decision has been made, you send them to the checkout counter and let your assistant ring up the purchase to collect your pay.
Those are the basics, but it’s just scratching the surface of what Fashion Boutique has to offer.
Whereas most time management game heroines can hold one or maybe two items, Maya can carry three or more garments at a time by draping them over her arms, which adds a life-like little twist to the gameplay. You can also receive chaining bonuses for doing the same actions in a row, and there are score multipliers for assigning males and females to separate change rooms, similar to the seat color bonuses in Diner Dash.
Another fun new twist is the Upsell feature. When a customer is ready to pay, Maya can use her sales ability try to get them to buy something else as well. If she’s successful you’ll get extra cash, but if she’s not the customer will respond with a decisive “Yuck! No way!” or similar rebuttal.
Customers lose hearts the longer they’re kept waiting and will eventually get angry and leave, but Maya can win them back using her charisma to flirt with the men or compliment the women. Maya won’t always be successful, but you can increase her chances (in flirting and other aspects of the game) by increasing her charisma, stamina, sales ability and mood.
To increase Maya’s abilities, you have to choose how she spends her free time during the weekends when she’s not working at the boutique. Does she focus on her career by surfing the Internet for fashion websites and reading sales manuals (thus increasing her sales ability), or does she concentrate on her personal life by visiting friends, eating healthy meals and going to the spa? Making Maya’s life lean a certain way actually affects the outcome of the story.
Fashion Boutique offers the usual eccentric cast of customers with different behaviors, such as the Businessman who is impatient to the point that he’ll often buy clothes without even trying them on first, and the Intellectual Snob who is patient but cheap, and dislike receiving compliments.
You’ll unlock new clothes for Maya’s Wardrobe, and can dress her each week by mixing and matching tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes and accessories like jewellery, sunglasses and hats and changing the colors. Maya’s Wardrobe can also be accessed separately from the main menu if you just want to play around with different outfits.
Every few levels you’ll automatically receive upgrades for the store like new garments – a tie rack for men, dresses for women, and so on – a longer counter so the assistant can bring out more garments at a time, a candy bowl, distilled water and a credit card machine for customers who want them.
Fashion Boutique is not without faults. I found dragging customers to locations – especially change rooms – to be a bit finicky, and if customers are standing close together it can be hard to click on the one in behind. A memory mini-game that involves dressing Maya up for social events by selecting garments from a rack to match a picture is hit and miss thanks to small, awkward-to-manipulate jewellery and shoes and I often found myself just skipping it.
That said, a variety of interesting upgrades, as well as customers with well-developed likes and dislikes, help to keep Fashion Boutique feeling fresh. Another big plus is that each store is unique with racks and change rooms in different places, new decor, and new clothing. The New York store, for example, is a chic boutique overlooking the Manhattan skyline selling suitably trendy attire, while the Atlanta location is a sports apparel store complete with hoodies, cargo pants and gym bags.
Even if you think you’ve had your fill of fashion-themed time management games, download the free demo and give Fashion Boutique a chance to prove itself – you probably won’t be disappointed.