Radical feminists, be damned. In a world where many a "social justice" activist turns the Twitter airwaves blue about anything remotely girly being aimed at, you know, girls, and a group of mums with little better to do campaigns to stop girl's toys being advertised towards the very girls they're aimed at, comes a game called Girls' Fashion Shoot, that couldn't be more girly if it tried. With pink colouring its every screen, and the game itself revolving entirely around traditionally 'girly' pursuits like dressing up and make-up, it's a game that some might want you to feel guilty for buying the fashion savvy daughter in your life. But you shouldn't. Because some girls like dressing up - and if you have one of them, then this could be right up their street.
Unfortunately, though, for us things got off to a rather awkward start. With dreams of seeing our name in lights, we fired the game up and got to the "Enter your name" screen, ready to take our first step towards super-stardom - but no sooner had we entered a few letter than we ran into a rather strange bug. You see, my name is Sarah, yet for some strange reason, Girls' Fashion Shoot thinks anything beginning with 'Sa' is bad language and blocks it, which means there's no way for you to be called Sarah, Sandra, Sally or any one of the multitude of girl's names that begins with S. Undeterred, we simply went for the next logical name we could think of - Steve (although in hindsight, perhaps 'Stevette' would have been a better choice). Then, after answering a few questions about our favourite styles (rock-inspired and cute, but with a penchant for plaid), you get to create your character, choosing their hairstyle, clothes and accessories.
And so Steve's modelling career begins, with a job at Rising Star Magazine. For each issue, it's up to you to put together the fashion pages, based around a central theme, such as 'Sporty Casual' outfits, swimwear or a spread on French nails. Each involves dressing up your character in the appropriate gear, choosing a pose for a picture and then covering the photo in stickers, sparkles and patterns, ready to be put into the magazine each month. For each successful job you complete, you earn money, which can then be spent in the shops around town, adding to your already rather extensive wardrobe, having your nails done or getting a new hairstyle. Fortunately, the editor seems pretty easy to please, and choosing the correct items is a simple matter of including as many items with the right descriptors as possible - take our attempt at the 'star' theme for example, which involved putting everything starry on and hoping for the best:
All wrapped up in a vague 'rise to fame' story, Girls' Fashion Shoot is essentially a dressing up simulator. A never-ending stream of assignments will flop on to your desk each in-game month, with the occasional trip out with the agency's other models (who all have the personality of a pink, sparkly brick). As you put together winning articles, outfits and features on make-up and nails, you start to move up the Rising Star model rankings, raking in more money for each job you do. There's also the opportunity to take on extra side jobs, but in doing so, you forego all your other opportunities for the entire month, and get less pay in return, making it seem rather pointless to even bother branching out.
There's an impressive amount of attire on offer, with everything from school uniforms to skirts in every length and colour of the rainbow to hoodies with cat ears and a whopping 246 different types of socks. And of course, there's shoes - lots and lots of shoes. Being largely a "single pair of well-worn Doc Martens" kind of girl, it's safe to say I don't know my stilettos from my gladiator sandals. But Girls' Fashion Shoot isn't about real life - in my experience, finding a well-fitting pair of jeans is akin to stumbling across a unicorn - and putting together a star-themed outfit certainly has it's merits, even if each assignment is pretty samey in all but theme. One useful feature for the fashion-oblivious is the option to 'search' though the game's wardrobe based on the theme of the job you're trying to complete, whether that's searching for your perfect preppy outfit, a lovely lolita look or you just fancy browsing the bunny ear selection. There's also a fairly handy dictionary to help you differentiate your BCBGs from your blousons and boleros.
At the same time though, you can sometimes feel needlessly restricted when it comes to your fashion choices. Some items can be layered, letting you put a vest top under a hoodie, for example, but others can't, and it's not always obvious which can and can't. Even practicality won't get in the way of the game's fashion consciousness - while the weather outside may require you to wrap up warm, try as you might, you can't put a fluffy skiing jacket over a fancy ball gown. And when it comes to taking photos for articles, many of the poses and facial expressions look near identical, with many of the subtle differences lost on the small screen of the 3DS. In fact, many of the menus seem very cramped when playing on a 3DS XL, let alone on the 70% smaller screen of the original console - catching the wrong button or struggling to make things out is a definite problem at times.
While certainly not for everyone, Girls' Fashion Shoot has a rather impressive number of options when it comes to dressing up your character, taking pictures and designing magazine covers - it's just a shame that the game itself is so samey, with little variety from job to job besides the theme. The cramped nature of the menus also makes it difficult to play on anything other than a 3DS XL, whilst it's bizarre flagging up of 'bad language' can make naming your model a bit problematic. That being said, for the games target audience of fashion-interested tween girls, it's certainly not a bad choice, and the ability to customise your nails does give it an edge over Nintendo's own Style Savvy series - although it does lack the micro-managing depth of owning your own shop.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS