Here's an example of a company attempting to redeem a past mistake. Just last fall, publishing giant Ubisoft brought a fashion studio sim to the DS called Imagine: Fashion Designer
– and it was terrible. Uninteresting, unintuitive and glitchy, the game was not so much a game as it was a frustrating set of menus to try to navigate, and any young girls who ended up getting a copy of it as a Christmas gift were likely none too pleased with Santa. But now it seems that Ubi might be trying to make things right, as this new fashion-designing experience, My Fashion Studio, has arrived on American store shelves less than eight months after that Imagine-branded bomb – and it's much more in line with what we would have expected to see the first time around.
Because My Fashion Studio is fun. Never frustrating and never glitchy. It's a game in which you're cast as an apprentice to a famous fashion designer named Zoe, and you're tasked to learn her trade well enough to be promoted to her official assistant, and then one day take full charge of running her studio. The challenges begin simply, too, with tutorials teaching you the gameplay interface throughout the first few in-game "days" – in order, you're taught how to handle the title's five main fashion-designing activities.
Fabric cutting is first, and is achieved by selecting a scissors icon on the touch screen and then tracing a line of blue dots around the edge of a piece of cloth. Simple enough, but cut off of the proper line and you get docked points at the end of the mission. Folding is second, and is triggered by choosing the touch screen's hand icon and then dragging the stylus across arrows layered on top of the fabric that indicate where it needs to be pleated. Ironing is next, as a third icon activates your ability to smooth out wrinkles in the cloth and prepare it for sewing – which is fourth, and has, of course, a small sewing machine as its icon. And after all that, the final trick of the trade is button-sewing, which is only used rarely and has a needle-and-thread as its activator.
The gameplay of My Fashion Studio focuses fully on these five mechanics, as you cut, fold, iron, and sew your way to success in increasingly difficult missions. The design works out pretty well, in that you find yourself getting into a rhythm with each of the five touch screen icons and crafting pants, a blouse or a stylish jacket from scratch becomes second nature after completing a few levels successfully. But the simplicity also ultimately holds the game back, though, as it really is just a repeating process of cutting, folding, ironing and sewing again and again.
You never get any more complicated mechanics than those – just added elements making it more difficult to finish a design task without screwing up. A countdown clock gets added into the mix, limiting your time and introducing a sense of urgency into each level, and eventually your design studio gets infested with cloth-consuming moths who'll randomly swarm your fabric table and make off with mouthfuls of the very shirt you're working on. But all the while you'll still be using the same five touch screen icons, and My Fashion Studio could have benefited from a greater variety of things to do in directly interacting with the touch screen.
Aspiring young fashionistas will be happy to hear that there are 30 total missions, and the game offers free access to any of them at any time – though the storyline won't make much sense if you jump around or skip earlier missions, you still have the freedom to do so. That's a nice touch. Additionally, there are some final details that add polish to the presentation – for example, after you've finished designing a new dress, blouse or other item at the end of a mission, you're allowed to select the model who'll show it off to your client, along with her hairstyle, accessories and pose. It's nice to see a completed outfit you've just designed "in action" like that, rather than just seeing the game fast-forward to the next task on deck.
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