Before LOLcats, before grammatical atrocities were committed while texting and before 9/11, there were Valley Girls. Remember them? Air headed, ditzy and often blond, Valley Girls weren’t exactly known for their intellectual abilities. These gals show up in popular culture periodically, but I was still surprised when Clueless reincarnated as a video game 14 years after the movie’s release.
Clueless was a surprisingly enjoyable movie adaptation of the classic Jane Austen novel, Emma. It was witty, charming and made me, like, totally envious of the main character, Cher Horowitz, when I was a kid. When I heard about the game adaptation I was both excited and wary.
The basic premise is simple: Cher and her hetero life-mate Dionne (“both named after famous singers of the past that now do infomercials”) are super rich teenagers living large and navigating high school in Beverly Hills. They love few things more than shopping, cute boys and climbing the social ladder. These values are integrated into the Clueless PC game experience.
In the movie, a tech-tacular spinning closet lets Cher choose matching outfits using a touch screen computer. The closet rotates to allow her to grab the pieces she picked. It is what tween dreams are made of. In the game version of Clueless, the closet is omitted, unfortunately. Sigh. Instead you select outfit components from a small number of options, drag and drop them onto a variety of female characters and are graded on the final result. Your efforts are timed. The ultimate goal is to find situation-appropriate apparel that pleases your boyfriend, so you can progress from mall to mall while also improving your relationship. (Feminists step back and take a few deep, calming breaths.)
The grading system is simple on the surface. You are given an A – F ranking; A being the highest possible grade, F being the lowest. Outfits must average at least a C- to progress to the next level (and the next level gives you more clothing pieces as well as more events to dress for). In addition to your overall grade, the characters’ respective potential boyfriends need to like the outfits in order to progress the relationship. Luckily, the guys are easy to please and their preferences are straightforward. So straightforward, in fact, that the qualifications are provided to you in the form of a very short list. Some guys like pastels, others prefer black. Some like short clothes, others like a more modest girlfriend. Pleasing your guys isn’t hard, but figuring out which pieces are A-worthy is an enormous challenge.
You are judged primarily on your ability to conform to very vague criteria. The game provides a lengthy list of desired details for each occasion, but ultimately you have to guess which outfit will work best. There are an infinite number of combinations - you pick a top, a bottom, shoes and the occasional accessory. It can be hard to figure out what to choose until you have played for a while. Forget about color theory or modern fashion – just find the shirt that gave you the A rating last time. This results in hilarious, haphazard and nonsensical combinations of clothes. To some extent, it is quite fun, but I worry that young girls playing the game will want to imagine that they are glamorous and pretty grown ups, not mentally unstable clothes hoarders.
Some of the items were definitely inspired by the original movie, but others, well; I have absolutely no idea where they came from. To be fair, there were some genuinely pretty pieces to choose from, but few of them garnered an A rating. I would have loved to see more emphasis put on pieces that actually look good together, rather than forcing me to choose disjointed items. There is a lot of fun to be had in playing with clothing; but, I think this game misses the mark a little.
Beyond the issues of taste, I would have been a happier if pleasing my boyfriend was removed from the picture entirely. I love fashion and romance, but I also worry about the impact on young girls who inevitably view these characters as role models. Murray will only love me if I wear short, brightly colored clothing? I shouldn’t base my self-worth off of a guy’s approval. Forget Murray. Murray is a manipulative and controlling jerk! Abuse! Abuse!!!
I digress ...
In short, when I first started the game, I had a lot of genuine fun. References to the original movie (including direct quotes) made me chuckle and I thoroughly enjoyed picking out clothes. Unfortunately my interest waned when I realized that finding outfits to fit the listed requirements failed to consistently reward me with good grades. When I started to pick unattractive items in order to progress the game, I lost interest.
Will other people find this fun? A few, I think. If the game is ever offered as a free trial, with the option to pay for more levels if you like it, then by all means give it a try. There is fun to be had. I just don’t know how much I’d be willing to pay for it.