Curtis was already asleep when I started playing this. Thank goodness. Firstly, it has zero educational value, secondly, he would’ve probably been bored to bits by this extremely girly game.

Belle’s Beauty Boutique follows Belle as she opens up one beauty boutique after another, adding more chairs, more services, and more customers as we go. There are all the usual standbys – magazines and TV or music to keep your customers happy while they’re waiting; color-matching your customers together to gain bonuses, and even the latest in time management games – the ability to change the appearance of your establishment after EVERY stage.

What I’m trying to get across here is that there is an amazing idea here. Belle would seat her customers down in different chairs – cut, wash, dry, color, nails – and perform these services. When it’s a coloring job, a spinner wheel would come up for you to choose the color. Pick the right one and you get a happy customer, pick a wrong one and you’ll never hear the end of it, “oh geez I look like a circus clown!”

You can seat male and female customers together for a “flirt” bonus, girls with the same color shirts for a “gossip” bonus, or seat a Gossiper near anyone for them to get a gossip bonus. On occasion you also get Prom nights where all you’ll get a teenagers. A “Star” meter fills up as you serve customers, which, when filled up, can be used to give a lucky customer a “superstar makeover.” You’ll get to see cute costumes, and earn bonus points.

The graphics are stylized and cartoonish – think 6Teen on a budget – and the sound is appropriate. The customers banter and gossip. The environment lacks detail, but it’s very much alive. Belle’s got a great concept here. It could totally work as a game. Now the big giant problem the size of a meteor comes up.

This is part of the Time Management genre. What makes this genre special is that it’s not about how fast you click. It’s about how you can schedule your character so she (or he, but most of the time, she) can get everything that’s queued up done without customers stomping out. Each of these tasks you send your character on also takes up time, so a good time management game sets up customer line-ups that seems impossible but can be solved if you do chain bonuses and such to gain enough points. The problem that Belle’s Beauty Boutique runs into? It has NONE of these traits.

Belle moves at lightning speed. Actually, she doesn’t so much move as teleport. She doesn’t walk. You want that chair cleaned? It’s done. In 1/10th of a second. Now, we’ll do that guy’s hair, and this girl’s nails, then color this guy’s hair, then we cut this girl’s hair. Click, drag, drag, click, drag, click. Two seconds. Done. There are no chain bonuses.

See the problem here? The game turns into one gigantic click-fest – there’s no color matching to a previously used chair or anything of the sort. If you can click real fast, you win. As for the color matching? That could’ve worked. Could’ve. Didn’t. The only times when color bonuses count is when you put, say, two girls with two blue shirts in the same service chair. With the patience level of this game’s customers being the lowest I’ve ever encountered, there is no way you can let customers wait around in line while you wait for another same color type (who also wants the same services) to show up.

Belle’s Beauty Boutique had a great idea, now if only cutting hair actually takes time, and Belle walks instead of zoom. Try it for yourself and see – you can mostly finish the game in the one hour trial time. It’s good for a giggle, and not much else. For a good example of a Time Management sim, try Diner Dash or Stand O’Food.

Advertisements