The years Sally has spent training and saving her money have paid off, and now she’s ready to open her first beauty salon. Although it starts off as a small shop in a suburban mall, she’ll eventually work her way up until she owns a chain of ritzy salons. Drawing upon the likes of Diner Dash and Burger Rush for inspiration, Sally’s Salon brings its own unique twists to the management sim genre.

The goal of any good salon employee is to make sure their customers are happy with the way they look when they leave the store. In the case of Sally’s Salon, customers actually give you visual cues on how they feel about a certain hairstyle, dye job or manicure based on facial expressions. The old lady in the hairdressing chair might be so-so about the bouffant, horrified by the cotton ball style, and enthusiastic about the beehive. It’s up to you to choose the right hairstyle to give her based on your powers of observation.

When a new customer walks through the doors of the salon, the service they want appears in a bubble above their head. Typically they want a wash first, followed by either a cut or a dye job (or both), then a dry. Then it might be on to the eye-brow waxing or manicure stations. Later on you can even apply spray-on fake sun tans to those misguided customers who think it’s a good idea.

To give customers what they want, you drag them into the appropriate chair with the mouse, then click on them to let Sally go to town. Every time she comes to a station that requires a stylistic choice (in other words, everything except washing and drying, you’ll get to scroll through the various style options until the customer sees something that he or she likes.

If you satisfy the customer by choosing the correct style, they’ll gain a heart. The more hearts a customer has by the end of the visit, the bigger the tip. Customers can also lose hearts if they’re kept waiting for too long or if you stick them with a style they don’t like, and will storm off in a huff if their heart count reaches zero.

The final step is to meet the customer at the cash register to get your pay and tip. You’ll pass the level if you collect a certain minimum amount of money over the course of the day. You can then use the money to purchase new equipment for the shop like a coffee machine to brew beverages that restore hearts to customers, scented candles that restore one heart of every customer in the store, uniforms to make Sally move faster, and magazines to keep people more patient as they wait.

You can also spend your money on upgrading existing equipment to make it more efficient, or hiring a few assistants to take care of the more menial tasks around the shop like making coffee, washing and drying.

One thing’s for sure: by the end of Sally Salon‘s 50 levels you’ll know a Mohawk from a fauhawk, a flip from a pixie, and a buzz cut from a flattop. One of the most entertaining parts of the game are seeing all of the different customers (from punks and Goths to brides, businessmen and old ladies) strut the new looks you’ve given them. At the end of each level, the game even shows you all of the customers you’ve served side by side so you can admire your handiwork.

The game isn’t overly difficult, but offers a steady challenge with pacing that increases on a steady but manageable curve. If anything, it’s perhaps a little too easy to earn Expert rankings and rake in the cash. I managed to purchase all the upgrades to my shop at about the half way point in the game, which unfortunately meant that I could no longer look forward to shopping in between levels.

If the salon atmosphere appeals to you, and you’re looking for a management sim that’s challenging but not overly hectic, then Sally’s Salon is definitely worth a look.