Dress To Play: Cute Witches!
3DS Download | EnjoyUp Games / CoderChild | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | $3.99
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12th November 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
You can gather what your tasks will be just from reading the title, which correctly refers to the fact that the game consists of two parts: Dress and Play. The available modes use these exact names, but despite what is suggested in the word choice, immersing oneself in the former is not a strict prerequisite to accessing the latter. Nevertheless, players will kick-off their experience by doing just what you'd expect: choose from a list of accessories and outfits and proceed to assign your customized character a name. On the 3D Screen you'll find your avatar standing in the middle of a warm-coloured room with various trinkets and wall hangings. From the get-go, the selection of custom pieces isn't exactly diverse, but by continually returning to the Play option and making progress (the conditions of which I'll outline in a second), one can earn new shoes, dresses, skirts, hair bows, and tiaras. For some reason, they've decided to tie play down to this customization aspect but with no physical simulation unfolding to justify such bonds. And this odd relationship for support is ultimately to the game's great downfall.
The actual game component comes in the form of an endless runner, wherein the character you spent a few seconds beautifying is now seen flying through the sky on her broom. Apparently this broom's power source isn't all that magical; a fuel gauge is used to represent how much longer you can continue sailing. What actually keeps the needle from dropping to empty status is, not fuel containers, but stars in the shape of CoderChild's logo. Forcing you to move about are cartoon squids, buzz saws, paper airplanes, motionless fish, as well as large, Boo-like ghosts; all of which are indeed cute in appearance thanks to their simplistic design, often with centered lines for eyes and white outlines that surround their bodies. Though there's very little progression to be had here above a basic level, this doesn't mean that the enemy patterns are identical with every session. It should be noted that the responsiveness of your character (controlled with the Circle Pad, D-Pad, or the face buttons) isn't the most immediate and can take on rather sluggish movement, but it is something that can be overlooked given how amateurish everything is in its design.
When you first get into the Play component, your adventure will begin at 6:00 in the morning, and why this is important is because every time the clock on the Touch Screen strikes midnight, you'll make like Cinderella and... no, just kidding. What'll actually happen is, a heart will appear on-screen so you can push the needle on the fuel gauge back even further. As well, the Magic Hour counter will go up by one, signifying that you've gone through a full day in game time (in our time, that's actually less than five minutes), which you may or may not be rewarded for with each successive Magic Hour reached.
In total, there are 50 challenges that cover everything from reaching a specified number of these progress markers (either cumulatively or in one run), to grabbing a certain number of stars. With each challenge completed you'll unlock a new item to dress your character up with; marking the occasion, a smiling gift box will come in from the left of the screen like a shooting star. If you choose to conclude your game early, you'll give up any gifts earned along the way. But honestly, even during the best of times, no amount of optional challenges or unlockable items can make a solid enough case for this game's overall worth.
When you look at how the game operates and the nature of the flow that takes place, I have little doubt in affirming that Dress To Play: Cute Witches! is one of the most shallow offerings on the eShop, right up there with Sweet Memories: BlackJack. Putting aside the unlocks, the game is completely aimless and it doesn't take long before realizing how empty this all feels. I'm not even sure I feel comfortable with how this game has been identified, just because it's so underdeveloped. I might not have as big of a problem if this were marketed purely as a studio for dressing up characters, but to then, on top of all this, suggest that this is actually two games in one with an "adventure" attached to it, is an extremely generous stance to take; one that demonstrates that somewhere along the way, purpose and engagement were concepts that wound up in the trash bin. The willful constraint isn't cleverly disguised at all, and it's ironic that the game hasn't been dressed up as far as feeling like a finished product.
Often with games similar to this, the customization is just one portion of a broader focus. This can surface in the form of an actual destination to shoot for or, to reference the idea of role play mentioned earlier, it may just be the ordinary affairs of running a business or doing a specialist job, put out on display to potentially inspire or translate real-world concepts as takeaways. And while they may not exert a strong influence on the player, they can still manage to command enough on an interaction level to be seen as successful. But Dress To Play: Cute Witches! has made the customization almost like its sole component to depend on, much to its detriment, and as a result of this, the game just seems like a cheap sell. It feels so incredibly short-sighted that the simulation roots, as clouded as they are, have been given a sense of exclusivity in the sense of cosmetic alterations being the only real goal here. I mean, it most certainly is...cute, but the second you're forced to consider what else this game has going for it, it's a disappointment to discover that there's absolutely nothing for the average user to feel good about, addicted to, or even be distracted by.
The music here is a bit like what you might hear during a title sequence for children's anime series, but not as well-produced or instantly cheerful. The model for your custom character does look good, though, and the backgrounds are somewhat nice to look at as they slowly transition from day to night. But this is me assuming the reaction of someone much younger than I. I found the presentation was smoother without 3D enabled, which is no great loss anyway since the dressing room is really the only place where the 3D usage actually does something, visually. Aside from some very minor framerate hiccups and an accessory not removing itself when I asked it to, there aren't any technical issues to be noted.
Whatever the reason for the developers falling into a rather odd yet preventable trap, they've refrained from embedding the game with worthwhile properties that would give me adequate reason to provide a recommendation. To what ends and under what thinking the team did so, I have no idea. All I know is, it's hard for me to see Dress To Play: Cute Witches! as anything but an unsuccessful creation, with a terribly hollow position that seriously prevents it from capturing the hearts of even the most eager of young gamers.
15/30 - Below Average
Gameplay 4/10 - Too much emphasis on cosmetics, concept isn't supported well with the gameplay component, sluggish movement, feels incomplete
Presentation 7/10 - Good visuals that are in line with the cute aesthetic, decent character models and designs, 3D usage is a bit of a mixed bag
Enjoyment 2/5 - Really lacks a purpose, misguided focus reveals the game to be very shallow, some may be temporarily drawn in by the customization
Extra Content 2/5 - Unlockable accessories and other options to customize your character with, challenges, neither of these will keep you playing
Equivalent to a score of 50% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System