Looking good is hard work. For those who want to learn or just enjoy playing around with lipstick and powder comes Make Up & Style, attempting a fun and informative take on facial beautification. But is this title good enough to make you blush, or is it only the eye-shadow of a good game?
While Beauty Academy went for a cartoony, mini-game-centric take on make up, this entry is closer to a simulation, providing a variety of realistic faces and 16 tools utilising real colour-coded cosmetics. While the changes in appearance are true enough to life, the stylus generally does not capture the authentic feel of each item. You'll usually have to go over each area more times than you would in real life, and it feels more like filling in a colouring book than applying makeup to a human face.
Career is the main mode, providing you with 23 challenges as you experience your first month working in a beauty salon. How well you do earns you zero to three stars, and you have to achieve at least one to unlock a new level. Each episode begins with a customer telling you what they want and Suzanne, the shop owner, explaining how to accomplish it and why. There are a variety of realistic situations, such as applying the correct makeup to match an evening dress, giving eyes a smoky look and concealing a bruise, as well as a few more fun challenges like painting the German flag on a sports fan's face and getting a clown ready for a party. You'll learn some useful tips this way, such as what goes with what and what goes with everything, but largely the gameplay is like filling in a colour-by-numbers picture. It would also have proven useful to design your own specifications, finding what goes with a certain hair or dress colour, for example, but such a mode is not on offer here.
You're usually given exact directions, though later on things get less specific and you have to rely on what you've already learned. Sometimes instructions are a bit too vague, however, and as you don't know how you've done until Suzanne judges you at the end, it can become somewhat frustrating trying to guess at what to do until you get it right. The biggest issue, though, is that you're never allowed hardly any creativity, so making up your own interesting styles for the computer to judge is an experience that this game is missing. It's quite unfortunate, too, as the only real challenge otherwise is applying makeup exactly as you're told.
Paul also works at the salon. He's more experienced, has a corny sense of humour and is extremely flamboyant. Doing everything short of having him exclaim, "I'm a stereotypical depiction of a gay male!" the game will repeatedly remind you that he is such a depiction, having him pop in to tell you about how his two favourite activities are shopping ("It's so feminine!") and watching TV with Bruce, how he tried on his mother's clothes when he was a teenager and how he too wears make-up. Basing a character on a stereotype is never a good idea – at best it's lazy, at worst it's offensive. Couple this with the game's extreme overuse of this and you've got the added annoyance of writing that's overly pleased with its own perceived cleverness and a joke that was stale to begin with rapidly becoming staler. We don't ask much of video game scripts, but the writing here seriously gets in the way of enjoying the game.
The other modes of play are Freestyle and the similar Photocreator. The former lets you design a face with a variety of specifications, then apply as much make-up as you like. The latter has you take a picture of your own face, pinpoint a few spots and then watch as it's transformed into a somewhat creepy depiction thereof. It does a decent job of filling out cheekbones and such, but the application of cartoon eyes to a human face is disturbing. Still, it provides a good way for people to try out different looks on their own face, and for that it's quite a useful feature.
Make Up & Style doesn't often feel realistic and the gameplay in Career Mode is quite thin, but you'll learn some useful beauty tips and have the ability to experiment on your own face. It would have been extremely welcome if the game added a deeper personal touch, such as a way to inquire what makeup would go best with certain faces or articles of clothing or a mode that judges your creativity rather than your ability to follow colour-by-numbers-esque instructions, and its omission is sorely missed.