Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Girl on Girl Games: Style Savvy

Once upon a time, your humble contributor (me) was just a little girl. Actually, I was this girl:

Adorable, yes?
But, as time went on, and my mom stopped doing my hair and picking my clothes, I turned into this girl:

I'm the one on the left.
And now I'm reviewing a fashion game.

All jests aside, I really do enjoy fashion. I read InStyle on airplanes just like anyone else; I have whiled away many a rainy Saturday watching marathons of What Not To Wear. When the occasion arises, I have no problem putting together an outfit that doesn't make me look like a mental patient. Now, I don't have a ton of money to blow on clothing, so I don't get a lot of practice at looking fantastic.

Luckily for me, there's Style Savvy.

 The game is simple. You are a young fashionista on the go, and you've taken a sales job at one of the hottest boutiques in town. You work your way up to the top, get your own store, and the rest is history. Well, actually, the rest is just serving customers, managing inventory, and competing in fashion contests.

You start in your apartment, your launchpad to fashion stardom. You apparently get to keep all the vendor samples (and you apparently fit into vendor samples ...ahem...) and so you are able to make outfits for yourself out of anything you've bought for your store. You can do your make up, also. And, like all apartments, it is from here that you can adjust your identity and volume level.

A very metro-girl apartment. I feel like I'm in Ikea...
 In case you're wondering, here's me:

(keep reading, fools!)

Surprisingly, there are several places to visit in this "world", but they are all shades of stereotype: you can visit your store, your friend's store, the hair salon, the cosmetics store, your (male) boss' mansion, the vendor fair, or the contest hall. You'll find that you spend almost all of your time split 80-20 between your store and the vendor fair.

Is this the overworld?
The meat of the game occurs in your store. You are responsible for finding outfits or single items of clothing for each customer that enters the store. They will give you a starting point: a brand, a type, a color, or a price range. You have to look carefully at their current outfit, too--the brands in Style Savvy have a definite look to them, and customers tend to be more open to brands they already like.

You can search your inventory to try to find exactly what they want. If you don't have the ideal garment, you can choose to cancel the sale (disappointing the customer) or provide an alternative garment that they may, or may not, like.

The Inventory Screen
 Luckily everyone in Style Savvy world is a size 0, so you don't have to worry about size distribution--just like a real boutique!

If you manage to find a suitable garment, you'll get a good reaction. If you find the perfect piece, you'll get a mini-cutscene animation of the customer twirling in rose petals. Getting a better reaction usually means you'll get to sell the customer more items, which is good for business.

Here's what I proposed...
...and here's her reaction. Sale!

There's more to it than just selling. You can create whole outfits on mannequins for people to buy, or you can feature items for sales flyers. You can hold clearance sales, too. Inventory is managed entirely by you, so you can tailor your store to be, for example, entirely high fashion or entirely goth (or lolita...?) by buying only certain brands from the vendor fair.

What Style Savvy really brings to the table is a moderately detailed micromanagement game about running a clothing store. Except the object isn't really to make money and it's not to unlock achievements. You can leave your store at any time to change clothes or buy make up, and nothing ever happens. All the customers wait while you go mess around at the salon. You have a shop rating, but it maxes out quickly; you can win the fashion contests in the course of a single day of play. You can unlock more inventory space and new looks for your store, but again, these things max out very quickly.

Then, there's the story. The game operates under a very tweenage romance between you and your boss that never goes anywhere. After you max out the achievements, you stop getting story, which means you had better enjoy the management portion of the game, because that's all that will be left almost immediately after you start playing.

One break that continues to occur after you've effectively finished the game: outings. Sometimes, your customers will show up and invite you out for a night on the town or lunch or something. You can ignore these, but I wouldn't, because the game is extremely monotonous otherwise.

The game has some marvelous replay value... to an extent. If you like it, you can easily pick it up and play for a few hours every now and then. The fashions change with the seasons, as do the customer's requests. Picking the game up in April is very different than it is at Christmas. Just don't expect to have anything more to unlock.

Now, the nitty-gritty. What does this game offer?

For your typical hetero male? Nothing. I think pretty much anyone could "enjoy" this game for a little while, but I highly doubt that, for example, my husband Stan would be very invested in it. True, he did play a Harvest Moon game (he married Wan!) but even so, I think Style Savvy would offer him very little. For one thing, it is presented only from a female perspective, and it offers no male customers or male clothing items.

What does this mean for women and girls? It depends.

On the one hand, it's yet another vapid fashion outlet that caters to unrealistic sizes. It encourages spending huge amounts of money on clothing, and pretty much every customer treats fashion as the focus of their lives. A few of them even feature bios indicating that they've taken a job specifically to pay for clothes. The romance aspect is insipid and reinforces the gender roles: males have the wealth and the control, women are lucky to be favored.

On the other hand, it's really just a thinly veiled, lightweight management/business game. It does remind you of what it's like to work retail, and to be perfectly fair, there are a lot of women out there who look and act like those in the game. There is at least one significant positive: the game doesn't cram a fashion stereotype down your throat. It accommodates high-end fashion, conservative classics, punk, goth, natural, athletic and plain looks. It doesn't seem to value one over the other, although it can take a while to tailor your store just for one fashion trend over another.

In short, this game isn't going to do any more damage than a trip to Macy's. It works a business angle, which is positive, but reinforces negative gender roles some aspects of doing so. I'm not a fashionista by any stretch, and I enjoyed it without becoming enraged; at the same time, the game is a little on the short side when it comes to extended play. If you have a little girl, this game isn't going to cause her to feel bad about herself, but it does miss several opportunities to empower or inspire.

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