I Love Beauty: Hollywood Makeover
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-06-23 Nintendo DS Simulation E (Everyone) City Interactive

Everyone who knows me knows that I really don't fit in the fashion and makeup category. I don't follow any specific fashion trend and wear whatever I feel comfortable in. I rarely wear makeup - usually just a little lip balm, and at the most a bit of eyeliner. Most of the time I don't really care how my hair looks, as long as it's clean. Unless my cat decided to sleep on my head the night before... but that's another story!

So I think you can probably imagine the strange reactions and clever comments I got from friends when I mentioned that this game was on my to-do list of reviews.

I Love Beauty: Hollywood Makeover (actually, I tend to say that as I Heart Beauty, since there is a big heart where the word "love" should have been) is a game based on makeup and makeovers. In it, you play as one of the three pre-set avatar girls, right away my first "issue" with the game. Why not allow the player to create someone to their likeness, seeing as there are so many options for hair styles, colors and so on within the game? You don't even get to name the girl; just take one of the three that are already made.

As a teenager recently arrived to Hollywood, you are fascinated by the glamour and the stars. Fictitious stars, that is. Don't expect to be doing Penelope Cruz's hair or Jessica Biel's makeup here. Still, this girl is determined to do her best at her aunt's beauty salon.

The stylus becomes an extension of your hand and pretty much every single tool you need to use. A complete makeover will have you dying hair, brushing it, using a curling or straightening iron (preferably without burning the hair), applying eye shadow, drawing eyebrows, putting on foundation, filing fingernails and more.

There are 13 mini-games with a bunch of variations for each, but for the most part, it feels like you're always doing the same thing to your customers. The process doesn't vary much for each of the ladies that shows up at the beauty center: dye their hair, brush it, curl or straighten it, put some hair spray on, apply foundation, some kind of eye makeup (shadow, eye liner, mascara, fake eyelashes), use the eyebrows pencil in some cases or apply some powder to the face, put on some lipstick and choose three pieces of matching jewelry.

There is always a theme for the makeup you are about to apply, but the game selects everything for you in advance and grades you at the end of each activity. It would have made more sense if you were able to choose the shades for the products you're applying or a particular hairstyle according to the situation (date, wedding, specific movie role), though sometimes you are allowed to choose the nail polish or acrylic nails color and little stickers to go with them. So you're only being assessed on the performance, but not on how the makeup, jewelry and hair match the situation.

The more customers you help with successful makeovers, the better your chances of being invited to a competition. And I have to admit, these weren't easy. The competition is just about the same as a normal makeover at the salon, but it really isn't forgiving. If you fail one task, then you fail the whole thing and have to start from the beginning.

There really isn't much as far as extras. You unlock new shades and colors for the custom makeup section, where you can create five different combinations of your own, which can then be applied to the characters. And as you progress, more customers or more makeovers for the existing ones become available.

Hollywood Makeover isn't a bad game and I actually was surprised by the attention to detail. My favorite little thing to do was how you need to blow to "dry" the fingernails you have just painted during the manicure process. It's also suited for gaming on the go, since a single client makeover lasts only a few minutes. I did get frustrated by the competitions and in particular, my lack of attention for eyelash curling.

However, this is a fairly repetitive game, be it in the mechanics, the music and even the look of the characters (even with all the changes in hair and makeup, the base face always seems the same no matter who the girl is). But the biggest fault to me is the actual theme of the game and the message that it may pass to the target audience of young girls playing it. One thing is applying flashy virtual makeup to virtual characters in a virtual beauty salon; the other is applying it on yourself in real life. But from one to another, there is a very thin line that can be crossed. I think adding some elements of micro-management, or perhaps unlockable items to customize the look of your beauty center would have made the experience a little less shallow and more interesting.

Every girl has probably played with her mom's makeup at some point in her life or imagined make-believe beauty salons for her dolls. I Love Beauty: Hollywood Makeover may not be my kind of game nowadays, but it brought up memories of my strange attempts at applying makeup on my Barbie dolls with coloring markers and dying their hair with latex primer.
Hm. No wonder I don't really wear makeup nowadays...

Special thanks to Laurie Bella and City Interactive for providing a copy of this title.