Surprise! You don’t have to be a snappy dresser, or even able to match a tie with a shirt, to enjoy the sartorially-themed challenges offered by new time management game Fashion Craze. As long as you’re a dab hand behind the mouse, and don’t mind spastic, click-happy action that’s also bound to tax your noggin, you’ll find it adds a welcome splash of color to any otherwise drab day.
Our story begins with Maria, a journalist for various women’s magazines, receiving a surprise call from her Aunt Lynne, who asks if she wouldn’t mind managing a fashion shop. Despite having no experience at retail, Maria’s all too happy to oblige, which is where you and your flying fingers of fate naturally come in. The mission: Keep increasing swarms of visiting customers happy, no matter their degree of impatience or outlandish requests.
Individual stages, disguised as passing days, take place on a single screen occupied by various objects such as sewing machines, trash cans, chairs, sofas, coffee machines and more. Your job, once a shopper arrives, is simply to attend to them by clicking and dragging them onto a couch or seat, then filling any desired orders. These wishes, conveyed via thought bubbles that appear atop pleasingly-rendered characters heads, can range from shirts and shorts to sweaters, dresses and swimsuits of varying color. (Gonzo accessories such as bunny ears, sunglasses, fake noses/mustaches and fuzzy antennae may also be required.)
To meet patrons’ ever-more-demanding needs, you’ll have to click on various hotspots in specific order, causing Maria to collect fabric of varying color, then get seamstresses like Cynthia and Lisa started on orders. Once done, you’ll also need to collect finished items of clothing from hangers, then ferry them along with any added extras to waiting buyers, dump the client in a fitting room, and then, once they’ve changed into their new duds, collect your fee.
Of course, the longer shoppers wait to be served, the more disgruntled they become and the less they’ll be willing to pay. Predictably, beating each stage, which only allots you so many consumers as can visit before a ticking clock reaches the end of the workday, requires collecting a predetermined amount of cash.
Solid (and familiar) as the basic setup is though, several gameplay elements help make the title stand out. For one, a finely-balanced learning curve, which elegantly whisks beginners through the saga’s starting levels before gradually introducing more advanced scenarios. Random weather forecasts and happenings (e.g. rainy days or the appearance of models due to a beauty contest in town) also add intrigue, forcing you to think on multiple levels and change strategies on the fly. (For example: Characters’ moods can be affected by whom they’re seated next to, so a businesswoman will react negatively to sharing a sofa with a model, while a lovestruck child perks right up, meaning you’ll want to plan ahead when processing patrons.)
Happiness-enhancing gifts such as toy cars, coffee and inner tubes may also be shared with clients, but not all will react the same depending on what you offer and when, adding even more tactical depth. And between each stage, you can adjust not only Maria’s wardrobe, but the appearance of your shop from floor color to curtain styles and window dressing as well.
While there’s little in the way of audio accompaniment besides an innocuous, whimsical soundtrack (sorry, no speech samples or chatty mascots here), and the proceedings can grow mundane over long stretches, it’s no biggie. From the game’s attractive, pastel-colored art style to its multi-layered action and family-friendly setup, we’re altogether thrilled with the overall package, and how well everything comes together. Keeping this in mind, even genre veterans are advised to have a look as, although Fashion Craze fails to break any real new ground, the outing still carries itself with appropriately grand style and aplomb.