The Agent Reviews A Game: Love Nikki-Dress UP Queen

Needs some work on the translation there, hon… but you’re just so sweet and adorable…
Source: Ma.Gi.E. in Wonderland

Well, folks. It’s time to put my credibility as a gamer to the ultimate test.

In my tireless search for a passable mobile game, I found one in the one place I and every other gamer has been told since birth we would never find a fun game. So here comes the big ass truth bomb; my favorite game on mobile is… A DRESS UP SIMULATOR.

The plot of Love Nikki-Dress UP Queen is… bizarre and pretty nonsensical. our heroine Nikki and her cat companion Momo find themselves, for reasons unknown to them and us, transported to the fantasy world of Miraland – a world where rivalries and disputes are handled, not with violence, but with one-on-one fashion competitions (silly, but edenic in a strange sort of way) living in the aftermath of a “nine-day war” of stylists competing for three worldly treasures. Obviously, the story is not the main draw of this game; par for the course on mobile.

The writing and voice acting aren’t much better, unfortunately. The dialog is stilted, the script has quite a few grammatical errors, and voices are so forcefully twee and cute that you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were watching a rerun of Rainbow Brite from the 80’s. So why do I like this game so much?

Simply put, it handles all of its gameplay mechanics amazingly. Unlike every game of its kind I’ve seen in the past, the scoring during the judging never feels arbitrary. The game lays out very clear standards and goals to achieve with each level. You’ll be given a theme to match (office, sport, traditional, etc.) and examples of what aspects of your outfit you will be most heavily judged for (cuteness, liveliness, maturity, etc.).

Plus, judgings aren’t passive events. Both you and your opponent can make the game more challenging with active skills. You can flash a smile to win judges over or kill your opponent’s confidence by throwing some critical shade. It’s less a passive fashion contest than it is spell casting management in an MMORPG.

Of course, even if you think the main story missions are arbitrary, there’s still the multiplayer competitions. New themes are regularly selected and players will judge each other in pairs based on who they think best matches the theme for the current contest.

You’ll be encouraged to craft and customize your clothing (so be weary; you may not want to throw out that old pair of jeans just yet), interact with and join a stylist’s association (this game’s equivalent of a guild), and – of course – gather daily login rewards which normally kill the mood for me, but are worked in well here. You earn so much in-game currency and clothing normally that you won’t be too terribly hurt if miss one day. Plus, the reward system itself seems highly forgiving. I swear I missed a day here an there with everything going on in my week. But when I got back, I didn’t lose any progress. Now that’s user-friendliness!

If there was any complaint I had to levy on Love Nikki, it’s that it still approaches it’s gameplay from a “dress up games are for girls” perspective with how cute it’s trying to be. But, to the game’s credit, there are a number of fashion-forward men in the cast and “unisex” is one of the many style options available. So it’s not as narrow-visioned as it could be and it doesn’t come off as closed off.

So yeah, a dress up game wound up being one of my favorite things to play on my phone while waiting for my shift to start and I suspect it would be yours too. Granted this is all coming from the bias of someone who dedicates every Wednesday on Twitter to showing off their makeup and new clothes, but if you have the same interests, this will be right up your alley. It just goes to show you that you can’t just write off a genre as worthless because of a history of bad eggs. Who knows? Someone may have fixed the problems that plague it before.

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Three Ways That Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Fails

An accurate recreation of the, “Oh s***, I’m f***ed,” face I made when I saw just how dickish this game would be.
Source: GameRant

If it’s one thing that my history with mobile gaming has taught me, it’s that almost every game with the word ‘Mystery in its title is going to be a disappointment. What little mystery there is in the story or gameplay will almost always be weak and unengaging.

But it hurt even more when this truth befell Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery because this was a series of books and films that meant so much to so many. This was, for many people, how they or their younger kin were introduced to the realms of fantasy storytelling. Sure, it was just a story at the end of the day. But it was a story that held weight. To see that fall victim to the lazy industry mentality of, “push it out the door quickly to make a buck sooner” cuts exceptionally deep.

At this point, you’ve likely seen the tending Twitter posts and Facebook memes surrounding this game. But I want to strip away that protective varnish of humor and expose the raw and acidic sting of buyer’s remorse surrounding this travesty in order to provide a sort of ‘big book of do not’s’ for future app developers. So, where did Hogwarts Mystery go wrong?

Mismanaging the energy mechanic

One of the most consistent complaints I’ve seen from people regarding Hogwarts Mystery. It seems almost inevitable that you’ll be in the middle of a story mission or a class when… “Oops, you don’t have enough energy to finish this task. Oh, you say you’re on ticking clock? and if you wait around for your energy to rebuild, you’ll lose? Guess you better hand us ALL YOUR MONEY and PAY for the privilege to play if you don’t want to be strangled to death by the Devil’s Snare.”

I rarely see money-grubbing behavior on this level. You aren’t given enough resources to complete tasks without paying for it and if the bothered to fix it, the game’s main challenge would disappear. This is one of the most blatantly transparent cash grabs I’ve ever seen in a mobile game. Or rather, it would be if not for…

Mismanaging character customization

Have you noticed how ridiculously expensive most of the character customization options are? Seriously, 4000 coins for a haircut? It’s taken me four chapters just to get half of that. 100 diamonds for a basic pair of glasses? That’s REAL money for a simple, unimpressive cosmetic detail most people will overlook.

Most of these things require, once again, in-game purchases if you want them. This means even MORE transparent cash-grabbing. I really don’t think this was the kind of business model J.K. Rowling had in mind when she wrote the first stories on an old manual typewriter while trying to care for her daughter alone with no job and fighting the clinical depression that would later inspire The Dementors.

Combat is almost purely luck-based

The big thing that could have saved this mess was the dueling mechanic. The fact that many missions teach you spells you can use in duels was actually really exciting; like you were recreating the feel of being a Hogwarts student.

… And then you actually have to duel.

Dueling is nothing more than a rock-paper-scissors game where the victor wins the right to slap the loser in a magical game of Rochambeau. The only “strategy” comes when you get a whole TWO choices for attacks. Even Pokémon let you have four attack options per character and let choose which ones you wanted to an extent.

I know this is going to be a much shorter essay than what I normally give, but I was genuinely caught off guard by the massive amount of NOTHING this game had to offer. It wasn’t engaging, there’s no real mystery as advertised, and every mechanic seems based around parting you from your money first with fun being a tertiary goal at best. And it doesn’t matter that they heard the criticisms of the players and lowered their microtransaction prices; if a restaurant offers you an appetizer of cat s***, you don’t stick around for the main course.

Don’t play this game, don’t give them your money. If the choices are between this game and a Reductor Curse targeting your genitals, I suggest looking the witch or wizard pointing their wand at your junk in the eyes and telling them, “it’s still not as bad as Hogwarts Mystery.”