There are two modes: story mode and Endless Beauty mode. In story mode you go through 40 levels of moving your clients into the appropriate chairs of the salon that meets their needs. Endless Beauty mode is just that, endless. The clock keeps going and you just keep clicking. There are stations tailored for specific services such as shampoo, haircut, blow dry, manicure and hair dye. With hair dye and manicure, several colors pop up with an arrow that is constantly rotating. Your job is to click it at the right moment to get the right color. This is a simple timing game but could cost you customer satisfaction if you miss the color or neglect another client. The customers all have thought bubbles to tell you what they want, the longer you let them wait, their satisfaction rating will drop which is represented by their heart meter.
Along the road to success you will have several interesting clients that will grace your salon. The superstar (that oddly enough has Paris Hilton mannerisms, complete with purse dog) can come in and demand your services. By focusing your efforts on her, you can receive a large tip, sometimes at the expense of some of your other customers. Grandmas like to come in as well, and they leave a large tip as long as you keep them happy and seat them next to clients so that they can gossip. By pairing up women who wear the same clothing, they’ll gossip as well, which can earn you extra money. Men will come into the salon and flirt with the ladies, so it actually requires a little strategy when it comes to placing your clients in the salon to maximize profits. The Hawaiian shirt guy who’s a bit of a sleaze will flirt with the women, even the grannies, so be sure to seat him in the middle.
As you progress through the story, you’ll come across new people as well as upgrades for your shop. When you think “upgrade” you’re probably imagining a bigger and better salon. You do eventually move to a bigger salon, but upgrades are choosing your wall, floor and window color. It would have been nice to receive some real upgrades, because the color of the floor really doesn’t do much. It doesn’t matter if the floor is pink or blue, the whole game is insanely bright and colorful anyway. You do get things added to your salon, such as magazines, T.V., stereo, drinks etc. to give to your clients if their satisfaction meter starts to dip.
The whole idea is to meet the needs of your clients with the amount of time given to you. Each level has a certain monetary goal to meet, if you can hit the expert target, that’ll earn you extra points. You have a superstar rating that continues to grow, and once the meter is full, you can do a superstar makeover that instantly get you $250. The game is very simple, and it shouldn’t take long after the quick tutorial to get into the swing of things and rack up those tips. However, each level is exactly the same. Sometimes you’ll have a special event such as prom night or a bride day, but overall, you’ll cater to the wishes of the same customers again and again.
Despite the simplicity, it can still be quite engaging and you’ll find yourself madly clicking away at the mouse to try to get a high score. The voiceovers are not the greatest feature, as they only repeat the same lines over and over again. The music doesn’t stand out either, but it’s upbeat and fits the mood. Belle’s Beauty Boutique isn’t exactly a deep game, and definitely doesn’t have any educational value. The sole purpose really is to see how quickly you can multitask with your mouse. Thankfully, you do eventually get an assistant but you also need to keep an eye on them to make sure they are working and not on MySpace. I like to think that I’m fairly quick with the mouse, and I use a trackball. Trying to hit some of the expert goals start becoming really challenging, and the only way to do it is to think fast and seat your clients accordingly to make sure they gossip, flirt and give you a fat tip.
Overall, I’m not sure if I’d spend much time on this because it does get old. Not only that, my arm starts to cramp up from the mass amounts of clicking and dragging so it would be a good idea to take frequent breaks. Once the clients start coming in at a faster rate, you do end up feeling a bit panicked and trying to get everyone what they want. Like a real salon, it can be a lot of work and it can be physically exhausting as well.