Mass-market casual games rarely make strides in innovation, relying instead on the appeal of the familiar. Paramount is doubling down on that trend by pairing tried-and-true game forms with popular films from different eras in its new three-pack of femme-friendly PC games developed with Legacy Interactive: “Pretty in Pink” represents the ’80, “Clueless” the ’90s, and millennial “Mean Girls” rounds out the trio. Result is derivative and pandering, but with just enough surprises to satisfy a target audience with low expectations.
“Pretty in Pink,” by far the strongest of the three, plays like a puzzle workbook with a charming level of attention to detail. Fans of the Molly Ringwald classic will appreciate how the movie’s narrative is folded with gentle nostalgia around what’s primarily an item-hunting game, one of the most popular casual gaming genres.
Players must find all the objects on a list inside various cluttered, complex images that recall scenes from the movie.
There are also jigsaw assembly, memory-matching and spot-the-differences puzzles mixed in. Like the other two games in the pack, there’s nothing challenging here, but the variety keeps the simplicity from going stale.
In an engaging twist, collecting optional items will not only let players choose Andie’s prom dress in the end, but whether she ends up with Blaine or poor Duckie Dale.
The “Clueless” game is by far the weakest, distilling the movie down to the characters’ excessive fashion consciousness. It gives players clothing themes like “Beverly Hills Preppie,” “L.A. Grunge” and “Beach Wear,” and then asks them to drag clothes that match those themes onto the movie’s star characters within a certain time limit. Scoring is based on how well the chosen outfits match with each theme, and players can earn bonus points for simultaneously fulfilling the fashion preferences of the character’s boyfriend.
It’s insultingly easy to do well; players can usually toss together any hideous outfit on any paper-doll model within the generous time limits and still score highly. The game does gradually increase in complexity, but none of the added challenges meaningfully increase the depth. Even though it’s an installable download, “Clueless” is no richer than any of the million Flash-based dress-up doll games on the Web. And tedious text conversation scenes between characters illuminate none of the film’s appeal nor its plot — which means players who don’t know Cher ends up dating her stepbrother will be creeped out when they have to impress him with her sexy outfits.
“Mean Girls” offers a more conceptually intriguing take on that film’s high school Machiavellianism. Most of the film’s cast is represented by cartoonish avatars the player must alternately assist and attack, using match-three puzzle combat supported by light RPG mechanics (a straight knockoff of Infinite Interactive’s smash hit “Puzzle Quest”).
The player can defeat opponents either kindly or cruelly, depending on which symbols they choose to match, and her preferred tactic determines whether she’s dubbed a “nice” or “mean” girl in the end. It’s promising, but like “Clueless,” too easy to genuinely require any strategy. The game is also a little technically unstable — when it isn’t crashing, it’s suddenly blacking out its backgrounds or reducing characters to disembodied heads floating in red rectangles.