They say that pets usually look like their owners. That’s probably not a good thing if you own a pitbull! On that topic, Puppy Stylin’ is a quirky time management game that has you styling up pampered pooches with hairdos, clothes, nail polish, and accessories, all to match their equally quirky masters.
When you first start playing, you get to choose your stylist (Roberto or Eloise), and select and name your own dog. Eloise has had many, many jobs, but she’s never been able to keep one for long. Roberto has also done the rounds as a lounge singer and a garbage man, but whatever he does, he always seems to attract a pack of dogs. Whether you play as Eloise or Roberto, the story progresses in a similar fashion. You decide to open up your own pet grooming business. Of course, you need a pup to practice on, so you head down to the local animal shelter and pick up your new best friend.
The game play in Puppy Stylin’ is a lot like Sally’s Salon, but with dogs. Pets enter the shop requesting certain services. Your objective is to keep them happy while meeting all their grooming needs. All in all, there are six different stations to visit, including washing, drying, styling, dyeing, nails, and clothing.
At the hairstyling station, you place the dog on the stylist chair, and then use your mouse to scroll over the different hairstyles. The dog will make various facial expressions, indicating his feelings on different looks. Pick the one that makes him the happiest. This same approach is used at the clothing station, where you can dress up pets in various costumes, and add accessories (picture a pitbull in a sunglasses and a tutu). Coloring a dog’s hair…erm, fur…also follows this pattern.
Washing and blow drying are the easiest tasks, requiring just a click. Other tasks are slightly more involved. To brush a dog, you move the mouse along the arrow at the drying station. This is a bit frustrating, since the mouse wasn’t always responsive. For the nail station, you clip the dog’s nails by aligning the clipper over all three toes, or paint their nails a variety of colors.
Sometimes a station will become too dirty to use. Dirt build-up is a gradual thing, with stations becoming dirtier each time you use them. You can clean a station just by clicking on it, but only when it’s completely dirty.
Around midway through the game, a partner joins the business. Your partner will complete the next task in the cue. For example, if you are busy at the color station, and you click the tub, your partner will go to the bath station. If you are free, however, your partner won’t budge unless s/he is closer to the station than you. This is a bit tricky, since you still need to play the minigames (selecting hair, color, etc) for the jobs to be completed. The controls can be a bit awkward.
When a dog is done, he’ll have a smiley face over his head, which means he’s ready to go home. You can bring him to the register where his human companion will pay the bill. Cash you earn as you play can be used to buy upgrades for your shop. The bone maker allows you to give a dog a bone, adding an extra heart, and toys help to increase patience by keeping pets occupied. You can also upgrade your stations to be more comfortable and increase patience, or more efficient to increase speed.
Every few levels, before you move to a new region in the map screen, you need to compete in a dog show. This is a neat idea, although it’s basically a guessing game. You need to dress up your dog, and hope that your style appeals to the judges. How do you know what to pick? Well, you don’t. It’s random, so you just make a guess. However, you can earn “stars” in the game which can help you out. You earn these stars by taking extra special care of star dogs. The happier the star dog, the better the star you earn. Basically, the stars help narrow
down your fashion choices. Without any stars, you must resort to randomly guessing what a judge wants, which of course isn’t very effective unless you get lucky. However, if you have a gold star, you are told precisely what you need to pick in order to win first place. A bronze star eliminates one option out of four (so you must guess out of 3), a silver eliminates two (leaving you to choose between 2), and a gold eliminates three (giving you the answer). As you advance, you’re judged on a larger number of things, and so it becomes more difficult to succeed. Thankfully, you don’t need to come in first in order to continue playing.
There are standard and expert score goals available. You can replay a level at any point to get a better score. There are ten locations in all, with 62 levels to play, spanning several hours long. On the whole, the production values are alright. The sound effects are cute, with each station sounding like the real thing. The voice overs are particularly silly and amusing. Notably, the cartoon style artwork is also original, and fun. As for the game music, it’s fairly typical, but playful, and it fits well with the theme of the game.
While I liked the theme and feel of the game, the controls could sometimes be unwieldy. There are a lot of little quirks that you need to learn in order to play effectively. For example, I could never quite master the brushing technique, and the mouse sometimes seemed unresponsive. Controlling two players with the mouse was confusing. It would have been nice if you could select the player and direct him directly to a task. The dog show interlude was cute, but there was no strategy involved. The station tasks were also repetitive. I would have liked a bit more variety in the mini-games. That said, it’s a very easy game, so the average player should have no trouble achieving an expert score on every level.
Puppy Stylin’ is amusing, although it has it’s share of quirks. If you have a soft spot for humorous pet-related games, you might find a lot to like. However, experienced time management fans might not find it as challenging or polished as other salon-themed time management games.