When we last met Sally, she was running her own beauty business in Sally’s Salon. Now, with her salon franchise booming and hungry for a new challenge, Sally and childhood pal Nell decide to open up a spa together. With Sally pampering the customers and Nell selling spa products, the two make a pretty good team in Sally’s Spa.
Sally’s Spa plays it pretty safe, sticking closely to the formula of the first game. Both graphically and gameplay-wise, there’s a lot in common between the two titles. The goal is still to cater to the needs of customers by dragging them to the appropriate station in the salon, and then clicking on them to let Sally perform different services like applying facials, hot stone treatments and massages. Customers can also enjoy bubble baths and scented bath bomb treatments, get their nails painted, or – if the customers is a guy – clipped.
While Sally’s Spa doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel, there are a few subtle improvements over the first game worth noting. The number of shop upgrades – which you can purchase in between levels using the cash you’ve earned – has been greatly increased to more than 65. You can add new stations and upgrade them each twice, buy a coffee machine and magazines to keep customers more patient, add scented candles with various positive properties and buy Sally different clothes to enable her to move faster. My favourite upgrade was the ability to add assistants to work the various stations, cutting down on Sally’s workload. Later on you can even train them in customer service.
Unlike in Sally’s Salon, where the upgrades ran out half way through, there are enough of them in Sally’s Spa to last you through most of the game, which is a good motivator to keep playing.
There’s also the new addition of Nell’s salon product shelf in the spa. The way it works is that before the salon opens each day, you select which products to stock the shelf with based on market forecasts – for example, if split ends and UV products are looking like they’re going to be in demand, it’s best to stock the shelf with sun creams, shampoo and conditioner.
During the game, customers will grab a product off the shelf and carry it with them. If you manage to serve them without them getting impatient and storming off – at which time they throw the products back in anger – they’ll buy the product when you ring them through the cash register. The game keeps a running tally of products sold and awards Nell new titles based on the money she’s earned.
Sally’s Spa features a lot of nice graphical details that add to the overall appeal and charm, whether it’s the way the cute old couple (who have to be moved to each station as a pair) share a kiss after paying, or watching a customer’s face recoil in horror if you pluck their eyebrows wrong, or the way they sink into the bath with delight if you give them the right bath bomb.
The game’s 50 levels are spread over 10 locations, from Laguna Beach and a mountain retreat in Banff to trendy spots in Europe, a relaxing zen garden in China, and even a cruise ship. Each location has five levels – like the first game – which seems like the perfect number to ensure that no one location overstays its welcome.
If there’s room for improvement, it’s in the way that customers rarely deviate from wanting to go through stations in the exact same order: sauna, aesthetician, massage, bath and manicure/pedicure. Towards the end of each level, customers all start to clog up at the beginning of the cycle and all that remains is to funnel everyone through the stations, which can start to seem repetitive. Perhaps a less linear approach would have added another layer of dynamism to the game. Maybe I had just chosen my upgrades wisely, but I never encountered a great sense of urgency, and it was pretty easy to get Expert ranking the first time through in most levels, even far into the game.
Also, the mini-games that pop up whenever Sally does a treatment on a customer (that involve clicking on nails to paint them, and so on) are part of what makes the Sally franchise unique in the time management space, but the downside to them their tendency to interrupt the flow of clicking. Those who love to click ahead and queue actions won’t be able to do so quite as effectively because of this gameplay feature.
On the other hand, the lack of extreme difficulty might prove just right for time management fans who like their clicking to be a little less stressful. The sounds of gurgling water and soothing music, and cheerful graphics that seem almost anime-inspired, add to the game’s appeal. Sally fans can expect a similar experience to the first game, but it’s nice to see that Sally’s Spa was crafted with care and attention to detail and does bring some new twists to the formula.