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About the Story
"You hold in your hand a pink, heart-shaped card daubed in rosewater and oil of jasmine ó an invitation to the Princess Philantha's Grand Equinox Ball. In gilded, sweeping, sweet-smelling calligraphy, the card expresses best wishes to one Dame Demitria of Dolcet. You are not Dame Demitria. How did you acquire her invitation? Don't worry about it. You have a long day ahead of you."
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
Magical Makeover is a self-styled parody of over-the-top Flash games 'for girls', namely those whose interactivity consists wholly of choosing outfits. It starts with floridly named makeup products and a rhyming, snarky mirror but delves into a touch of body horror, and into riffs off fairy tales.
This game is generous, in various senses of the word. The writer revels in description, evoking sparkly, colourful images. While the passages got lengthy at times, this was made up for by the wit: the game lampshades tropes from fairy tales and adventure stories. ĎLampshadesí doesnít even begin to describe it - much of the game felt more like an exuberant riff.
The level of story branching was certainly generous as well. As the author says, there are seven possible endings, but I was impressed by how distinct and well-developed each of them were, with their own backstories.
A familiar tack of Twine advocacy pieces: take some problematic social issue, particularly as expressed through games, and make it grotesque and unsettling. In this case, itís a satire/re-appropriation of beauty-oriented games targeted at young girls: beauty products are presented as uncanny magic, and have actually-transformational results with strange consequences. There is a judgy magic mirror.
Mechanically, itís a Sorting Hat kind of game: your choices of beauty product determine which of several branches you find yourself going down, most of which are pure-choiceless. Although the results are weird and are at least informed by Twineís strong taste for body-horror, they donít get so visceral as to make the piece unsuitable for its ostensive audience; and the story progresses away from its beauty-myth opening into fantasy adventure thatís only tangentially related. The on-the-nose theme and long linear sections could easily have rendered the piece tedious, but itís buoyed up by a pleasant Diana Wynne Jones-ish ordinariness-of-the-fantastic charm.
The first time I played through Magical Makeover, I enjoyed the descriptive writing and snappy dialogue, but wasn't sure how sold I was on the game's low-choice structure. But after a few replays, I started to see how the different paths hinted at each other and played off my growing understanding of the game's universe.
"Quirky" can be kind of an off-putting descriptor, but this really is a pleasantly quirky game, just wry and satirical enough to avoid becoming insipid, but just sweet enough to dodge cynicism. I look forward to more work from this author.
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