Some of the more successful time management games resonate with female gamers. It helps that the protagonists in Diner Dash, Cake Mania and Sally's Salon are all female, but it's the tight game mechanics that draw in people again and again. Thanks to the successes of those games and the audience demographic, we're starting to see more games of its ilk on both the PC and the Nintendo DS, which has become something of a second home for time management titles. The latest in this now-burgeoning genre is Satisfashion: Rock the Runway, a PC game that has been ported to the DS. Unlike the other clones in the genre, this one has just enough going for it to make it worth a look, despite an issue or two.
The plot mimics that of other time management titles. As a young child, Grace always had a great interest in fashion design. Throughout school, her designs and color coordination techniques made her the best advisor for all of the cool girls on campus. While she's working in a small boutique, a big fashion designer stumbles upon Grace's designs and is impressed. After failing to steal them for his own gains, the designer decides to take her on as his apprentice instead. As Grace, your job is to travel the world with your new boss and show them what a great fashion designer you are.
Satisfashion is broken up into three different stages per level. The first stage deals with cosmetics. Since each show has a particular theme (usually dictated by the seasons), you have to apply the correct makeup and hairstyles to each model. The right lipstick, blush, eyeliner, foundation and hairstyle help to create the perfect model for the clothes.
The second stage is split into two sections, with the first being the outfit selection. Like the makeup section, you choose the right outfit combinations based on the seasons and color scheme requirements, but this time, you have a time limit. The second half is the runway presentation. Here, a short time limit appears with portraits of the clients who are willing to buy the new fashions you've created. You choose your clients based on their personal tastes and hope that by the end, all of your clients like the designs and pay you just enough to get to your target goal.
When the third section begins, you arrive at your design studio, where you can design more fashions and select from for the next show. The style and color scheme of blouse, pants and skirt will determine under which season and style they'll fall under, and the new clothing piece is completed after the outline is traced and the stitching is done. Once all of these activities are complete, it's on to the next show. In total, there are 12 world locations to travel from, each one with its own number of fashion shows.
Satisfashion gives players a sense of freedom and leeway for a good chunk of the game. Whether or not you stick with the given theme, you're the one who gets to choose which available colors and clothing pieces are used during each show. The end-of-show clothing creation process is a bit limiting since you can't create your own patterns, but the available patterns and clothing designs provide a good number of options for those who want to flaunt some creativity. The many options are a great step forward for the genre, considering that other games only give players the choice of customer seating arrangement and nothing more.
It's disheartening that the game only features one mode of play (Story mode), but the lack of difficulty is what really makes the game disappointing. Until you arrive at the final two cities, there is never a feeling that you could fail any of the sections in a given level. The required money goals for each section are very low, and the penalties for mistakes are almost nonexistent. In the makeup section, for example, you can be completely imperfect when applying both blush and lipstick to your models but still receive enough money to complete the level by the time you start working on the third model. The same thing occurs when you're choosing the customers who will buy the fashion designs. Even if you pick customers who don't pay much for your creations, you'll still be able to reach the minimum goal with plenty to spare. Unless you plan on only playing the game during short breaks, you'll easily finish the game in about three hours, with the only replay value coming from trying to nab expert scores.
The game's controls are quite intuitive. The system is held just like a book, and the main input device is the touch-screen. Everything — from the menus to the choices of color and makeup instrument to the selection of prospective clients — is done with screen taps. Stylus drags handle makeup application and the placement of clothing pieces on the models. Depending on your hand orientation (left or right), the face buttons and the d-pad also handle some of the menu options, like color and season indicators on some items, but they're meant to be alternatives to a pure touch-screen interface as opposed to a replacement for the scheme. Overall, the controls work just as well on the DS as they do on the PC, though the DS feels much better when you're playing the cosmetic sections.
Graphically, the game is pretty interesting. The character art style is good, and there is brightness in the deep color palette. What makes this interesting is that, as a whole, the game has no animations. Except for the title screen and a few cut scenes, none of the characters display any movement. The only animations you'll see during gameplay is when clothes are being dragged over to a model for display in the fashion show. The lack of animations isn't necessarily bad for this game type, but it is striking to see since other games have you running around from place to place.
What is bad, though, is the text, which has a hard time being displayed clearly on the screen. The black outlines for the white text on the white background make the text difficult to read since it tries to produce a 3-D effect of letters while spacing them too closely together. The end result is a blurred mess that becomes even more difficult to read during cut scenes when the text is placed on a grey background with still pictures. For a game that provides no voices accompanying the text, making the words difficult to read doesn't do the title any favors.
The sound works well enough. The music is light and calm during both the makeup and clothing design sections, which is perfect since these are the sections that are presented without timers. During the timed wardrobe and runway sections, the tempo speeds up, but it never gets to a point where it amplifies any anxiety. The sound effects are good with no odd ones playing at any time. In short, the type of sound you'll get from this game is what one can usually expect from the genre — nothing more and nothing less.
Satisfashion: Rock the Runway's lax level of difficulty can be a sticking point for a number of casual game fans. Challenge helps to define a game, and a game with no challenge means that it can be completed rather quickly. For those who don't mind having an easy game to play, the creativity and generally good mechanics make this title a good choice when you're tired of busing tables in different scenarios all of the time. It's a good complementary piece to the other time management titles on the market, but it only comes recommended if you've already played those titles to death.
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