IGN Review of Imagine: Fashion Designer New York
Last year's Imagine: Fashion Designer was panned due to its incongruous difficulty and overly demanding clients. The title seemed to forget it was a game meant to be enjoyed, opting instead for an experience to be slaved over like an actual position in the competitive world of fashion design. This year's iteration thankfully manages to solve that particular problem, but in doing so creates a whole new set of issues. Imagine: Fashion Designer New York is a much more forgiving game than its predecessor, but it swings too far towards the opposite extreme – ultimately creating a decidedly boring and repetitive title in the process.
As the name implies, Fashion Designer New York begins on your first day of employment at a big Manhattan design agency. The game does a decent job acclimating players to its various mechanics early on, breaking down each phase of design and presentation into various distinct mini-games. There are six fashion workshops included, allowing would-be designers to apply makeup, style hair, tailor clothing, outfit models, take photos and even run their own fashion shows.
The foundation is solid, but the game quickly devolves into a tedious progression of tasks that are far too easy for their own good. From your very first assignment forward, all of the people you meet seem to fall over themselves to congratulate you for any insignificant task you complete. Oh, you picked a model to be featured in a fashion show? Great work! You snapped a photo all by yourself? Amazing! Cut the sleeves off of a t-shirt, did you? Absolute genius! The game makes it impossible to feel like you've accomplished anything simply because you can't do anything significant to displease your critics.
To be fair, the game does throw up obstacles in the form of design requirements that force players to complete tasks in a specific way. These are usually pretty simple restrictions, such as using a blouse design, dying your model's hair a certain color or including sunglasses in the finished outfit. Some of the requirements are frustratingly inane and esoteric, forcing players to retry specific workshop stages again and again until they manage to randomly combine a specific style, color or texture. You'd think the game would penalize you for not completing these objectives, but it really doesn't. Since tasks are split up into steps representing each workshop mini-game, not completing the requirements associated with any given workshop simply means you are forced to try again.
When you've finally chanced upon the correct design, you're still praised for the genius of your work. It doesn't matter whether it takes one try or an entire evening, you will inevitably be praised by each of the game's various critics.
When not completing tasks, Fashion Designer New York offers players complete freedom to design their own clothes by utilizing any of the basic clothing designs, colors and textures unlocked through story mode progression. Those players with a passion for fashion design will have the most fun here, as they'll have complete control over what they ultimately create. It's even possible to trade your designs and photos via the DS' built-in wireless functionality, allowing friends to share their latest creations with each other over the net.
Unfortunately, Fashion Designer New York's clumsy interface makes designing your own clothes or sending photos to your friends a bit of a chore. The Baker Fashion Agency lobby serves as the hub from which players access any of the game's various workshops or tasks. Likewise, a Smartphone players receive early on in the game's story likewise serves to house all of the statistics, progress information and character profiles. This interface continuity works well in theory, keeping players in the game world as much as possible, but it's a bit cumbersome in actual practice. You'll quite often accidentally speak to characters and initiate tasks you never meant to while using the stylus to scroll from section to section of the agency lobby, and getting to your intended location can sometimes take much longer than it would have had a traditional menu been available.
Despite these flaws, the game's presentation does maintain a certain level of adolescent charm. The characters are displayed in a constantly shifting, paper-doll cutout style and while they don't actually animate in any given scene, their designs do lend a good deal of personality to the proceedings. Colors are bright and vivid, and the game's soundtrack is an appropriate mix of classic and contemporary bubblegum pop. Some will no doubt hate the direction this game's visuals have gone, but it's absolutely perfect for the target audience.
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