Time management titles are a tricky beast. When done right, the results can be spectacular (see Miss Management). But when done wrong, they can also be bland (cough, Travel Agency, cough) or outright disastrous (take your pick of any of the 200 others released last year whose names we’ve already forgotten). Thankfully, Posh Boutique, latest in a long run of fashion-themed outings, delivers the goods gameplay-wise and then some, though it’s clearly keyed towards female players and a mite too heavy on the chintz.
How do we dig this title, which involves the typical mix of priority-juggling angst and mouse-mashing excitement? Let us count the ways. There’s the slick storyline, featuring blonde birthday girl Alicia, who inherits a series of differently themed stores every 7 days/levels as a present from her famous designer grandma. (And, of course, the variety of backdrops – including cruise ships, beach bungalows and trade centers – and customers – i.e. chic belles, grumpy basketball players and elderly businessmen – each brings with it.) Let us not forget the vibrant graphics and sound library either, which comes complete with a full range of (at times repetitive) speech samples and lovingly animated characters/cutscenes, adding instant affability.
A brisk pace doesn’t hurt to boot, with most stages playable in just 3-5 minutes, and all sorts of activities from picking suave outfits to racking up sales introduced to keep interest levels high. Collectible trophies and prizes also add excitement, giving you something to strive for, such as nailing big combos or making all customers happy. What’s more, they also bestow performance-enhancing, RPG-style upgrades that improve your speed and chances of selecting the right pair of gloves or shoes on the first try. Oh, and don’t discount the importance of cash bounties either, which can be spent outfitting your store with an array of efficiency-boosting goodies from additional waiting stations to changing rooms and magazine racks.
Really, the basic setup hasn’t changed much from that found in competing titles. You still have to achieve a set amount of sales within a given timeframe by quickly attending to shoppers’ needs, dressing them in resplendent duds and helping them pick accessories before their mood worsens. Likewise, learning to put an emphasis on VIPs and prioritizing tasks so that all take place in brisk, logical sequence is imperative.
But here, there’s also a slightly innovative twist in that after dragging patrons to changing booths or clothing racks, you must speedily sift through accessories until you find the most appropriate handbag or blouse. As an added bonus, VIPs who leave happy also return later for private consultations that use slightly blurred photos of the customers’ ideal vision as a guidepost from which you must assemble a wardrobe that best fits each individual. Furthermore, although not a major revolution, another nice extra is that you can improve buyer’s temperaments by bestowing occasional discount coupons. It’s a much more logical and welcome crowd-pleaser than, say, the cup of coffee rivals generally use.
Less groundbreaking effort, more keenly-polished take on the typical task-juggling affair, it’s the little touches that really make the experience shine. For instance, the ability to see customers walking by the establishment before they enter your store and hear each utter a personalized exclamation of astonishment when you make a smart pick. Or, for that matter, options to hire handy employees like a cleaning lady who doesn’t just restore out-of-commission booths and stations to working order, but also personally greets you and says hello every morning. And apart from the odd hiccup – e.g. actions which don’t cancel when prompted or having to sit through a canned animation each time a level starts where you turn on the lights and open shop – it’s hard to find fault with the overall package.
Sure, the tone of the title’s a little patronizing, and given the general level of craziness going on at any given moment, there’s scant time to admire the clothes you’ve sorted through or picked. But if you don’t mind a little girly-girl atmosphere and a few minor design quibbles, offering so much high-quality action at such a bargain asking price, frankly, Posh Boutique is the type of game you simply can’t afford to leave lying there on the rack.