"Beauty is really about style. I Love Beauty: Hollywood Makeover is about the drudgery of applying makeup."
As a teenager jetting to sunny California, you're about to meet the stars up close and personal. Very close, and very personal. You'll tweeze their eyebrows. File down their unkempt nails. Slather their faces with foundation, powder, mascara, and all manner of embellishments. No, I Love Beauty: Hollywood Makeover doesn't escape any of the negative stereotypes of a girly game; it actively encourages its players to become enslaved by cosmetics. Unfortunately, it also locks you into servitude with monotonous, menial labor and meager rewards.
The game introduces over twenty different hair, makeup and nail care techniques, and the stylus is the tool for every minigame. To dye hair, you rub suds all over the touch screen, then repeat the motion with a showerhead to rinse off the bubbles. After that, brush the hair using long downward strokes. Once it's nice and neat, strands can be curled or straightened into a fashionable style. A meter keeps track of the temperature, so pull the heat off at the right moment or those delicate locks will singe.
Applying makeup requires a little more precision. When layering foundation onto the entire face, be sure to avoid wiping it in the eyes and mouth of your smiling customer. Same for tapping on powder to highlight the cheeks. Painting on nail polish has to be the most fun, though. The stylus makes for an obvious brush, but at the end, you blow into the microphone to hasten the drying process. It's a nice realistic touch.
I Love Beauty is an extremely generous game. It provides before and after pictures of each procedure, along with standing tutorials that will refresh your memory about the particulars of every routine. There's also a level of comfort to the stylus controls; players of any experience level should find them amenable. Techniques that require coloring are the best example of their ease. A slight highlight always designates the area to cover, but it's not like you're going pixel by pixel. When you get close to the edge, the color stays inside the outline unless you willfully break through. It keeps the action clean and simple. Of course, that means it isn't so realistic. To apply lipstick, it's acceptable to paint the outside of the lips, then scribble in the rest. That's fine for a three-year old, but not for the most exclusive service in Tinseltown.
Other areas of I Love Beauty start out just as promising as these minigames, but break down in more egregious fashion. The game sets our avatar up in her aunt's popular boutique, where a dozen clients pop in for a makeover. At first, each one gushes about her required look. It may be formal for her latest leading movie role. It could be outrageous flair to promote her hot platinum album. Later on, she'll return to be made up for a different occasion. This is where I need a hook, a story. When a girl's next episode is titled 'Date,' I want the dish. Working in a beauty salon, collecting gossip is part of the package. But the starlets never say another word. Since their body parts – including their faces – look interchangeable during the procedures, this misses an opportunity to make a more personal connection with the player.
The introduction of different occasions is important for another reason. I Love Beauty touts the significance of using particular styles and makeup in varying situations. It would be perfect if you had some input in shaping that style, but here the computer handles everything. The CPU chooses which elements will be adjusted and sets up the sequence. It even dictates little details like lipstick color and the contour of fake fingernails. Since you're not involved in that process, the arrangements quickly begin to feel exactly the same.
In the few instances where it relinquishes control, the computer never provides feedback on your style choices, just your accuracy. I don't have impeccable taste; I painted black nail polish on a client preparing for a wedding. Probably not exactly what she had in mind. “Perfect!” declared the machine. Same deal with jewelry. As long as the accessories match each other, it doesn't matter if they match the girl.
With a little direction, this game could've been a perfect venue for experimentation. Two other modes make an attempt. Freeplay lets you perform any technique with any color, but it's a one-shot deal. The next thing you try could present a completely different model, so you can't compose an entire look. Custom Style lets you adjust and save the features on a limited number of characters; it changes how they appear everywhere in the game. Again, though, it offers no assessment of how the pieces go together.
That separation leaves an obvious void. Sure, the minigames are well conceived, and the controls are simple. There's just no support to keep you engaged after those wear down. Beauty is really about style. I Love Beauty: Hollywood Makeover is about the drudgery of applying makeup.
Freelance review by Benjamin Woodhouse (June 16, 2009)
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