Let’s get real here. How many of us think high school was a fun time in our lives that ran smoothly? Ok, not counting the popular kids. Mean Girls brings back everything from high school, from cliques, teachers, sports and dull subjects to love, backstabbing, friendship, frenemies and enemies, rolled into a Puzzle Quest-style match-3 game with a ‘tude.
Yes, the game and its characters hail from the movie Mean Girls. Like the movie, you’re the new girl in school who moved from Africa – just like the Cady who was played by Lindsay Lohan in the film – who has never experienced school because she received home-schooling. The first person you meet is Janis who asks you to become a double agent and join the Plastics as a spy. She gives you quests to complete, which lead to showdowns. If you haven’t seen the movie, it won’t affect understanding the game.
You’ll pick one of four avatars – artsy, nerdy, sexy, and broody. Artsy looks like a painter complete with a beret. Nerdy looks shy and comes with glasses and books for accessories. Sexy has an awkward and annoying pose that looks like she’s walking on a tight wire. Broody looks like she keeps to herself, but she’s a decent dresser.
Next come the attributes. Much like a Dungeons and Dragons game, you have 15 points to distribute toward charisma, intelligence, endurance, luck and strength. Whatever points you assign to each skill will boost your skill in the showdown. Then you pick one bonus skill that you use during the showdown such as Butter Up, which gives your opponent one heart worth of loyalty.
The match-3 grid contains six shapes sorted into two groups: matches that directly affect your opponent, and matches that allow you to use bonus skills. Only hearts and whips can directly damage your opponent: fill the opponent’s heart meter and you win the battle and remain a nice girl. You can also use whips to knock down the stamina meter, but winning the battle with whips adds to your meanness. It’s up to you whether you want to be an angel or a devil, and what you choose will affect the game’s ending. However, sometimes you must make a nasty move because in high school it’s kill or be killed.
You can make matches of four or more to get another turn. Two bonus tiles appear on the grid on occasion. One is the Wild tile to be anything you need. The other is a chameleon that turns into whatever tile it lands on. You don’t have control over chameleon. Also, some showdowns have a timer, but the showdown never comes close to running out of time.
Creating matches with the other four shapes fills up their own meters for use with the bonus skill. Butter Up requires five “kind” points. Flowers on the grid represent kind, so you need to make at least five matches of flowers to be able to use the Butter Up skill. You pick a new skill every four levels. It takes time to get the hang of all this, but it’ll start making sense after a few rounds.
Not all showdowns occur with enemies in order to get something from them. One showdown involves helping a guy with his student election campaign speech, for example, and there are special quests like helping a teacher have perfect attendance by getting her goof-off students to attend class.
Motivated players might want to replay the game to challenge themselves by increasing the difficulty level. Mean Girls has four difficulty levels: easy, normal, hard and hardest. The game itself slowly increases in difficulty as you face more challenging opponents. The game comes with a Skip button so you can skip the heavy-duty dialogue especially when playing again.
Mean Girls comes with a second mode called Versus. Here you have single showdowns with players of your choice. It’s the same gameplay as with the game except that you pick a single person. The music rocks, and the graphics fit with high school style graffiti and colors. However, the avatars look a little weird as they move around the campus.
Some folks may not care for the Dungeons & Dragons-style theme that similar games like Puzzle Quest and Puzzle Hero use, so using high school for the theme might attract those players (not to mention fans of the movie as well). While Mean Girls offers an interesting twist to the battle match-3 genre, it could stand to be a bit longer. Alas, the game only has 20 levels and it took less than fours to play it. Talk about mean.