If there's one thing that Fashion Tycoon truly achieves, it's the way in which it makes you appreciate just how hard retail workers have it at times. Much like in real life, demanding customers, stock shortages and a lack of staff are just some of the problems you find yourself up against in this game — it's a nightmarish situation, and one poignant enough to remind you to be a just a little bit nicer to the next shop assistant that serves you.
But despite all the challenges that are thrown at you, Fashion Tycoon isn't a stressful experience at its core; in fact, trying to serve 'em all is surprisingly addictive and rather fun. The stress kicks in, however, when a number of game-breaking bugs occur, with which Fashion Tycoon is plagued. As a result, the entire experience is brought down by these, which is a shame as this title has decent elements deserving of better.
Fashion Tycoon falls into the management genre, and sees you running a series of fashion stores. In each of the game's 45 levels, you must control the flow of your customers (who move through the store in a queue system), ensuring each one is served in as timely a manner as possible. Serve them well and you'll earn a tip, which goes towards overall targets you to need to hit to move on to the next level. Unfortunately for you, none of the in-game customers have the sense to pick out clothes for themselves, meaning that you must constantly run between the shop floor, changing room area, dumping area (for unwanted items) and pay desk to serve them at each stage.
As is to be expected, your customers are just as bothersome as they are in real life, all of them wanting to try on at least one item of clothing and some even sending you back to fetch a second item if they didn't like the first. In some instances, the fickle buffoons will even have the audacity to request the very same item again, usually just moments after you've thrown it on the unwanted pile. Regardless of whether it's intentional or not, Fashion Tycoon does a valiant job of poking fun at consumer culture.
Managing your shop floor is done through basic touch commands on the lower screen: simply tap on what item of clothing you want to pick up and where you want to go and the game does the rest for you. It's possible to stack commands, as your character completes everything in order specified. Moreover, your clothes stands only carry a finite amount of items (usually two to four) before they must recharge, meaning that you should only dump clothes if it's absolutely necessary.
This works well, as it prevents you from planning too far ahead. For example, if you give the last pair of trousers to a customer who has just walked through the door, you may find the chap in the changing room doesn't like the shirt he's just tried on and instead, he now wants to try on a pair of trousers exactly like the ones now found at the back of the queue. This results in a considerable delay, which in turn affects the amount which customers will tip you on top of the original sale price.
Trying to manage everything proves to be surprisingly addictive, and as you progress, you'll start to get a good feel for how to most efficiently move around the store. If someone who enters the store on the right wants an item of clothing from the left-hand side, it might make sense to also quickly take payment from someone who has just got to the checkout. Perhaps unfairly, the game occasionally throws big spenders at you who want to buy two items, thus doing a fine job of completely emptying your shelves when you need it the least. It induces a good sense of panic, and encourages you to play in the most strategic manner possible.
Interestingly, you aren't provided with a complete overview of the store. As a result, you need to use the D-Pad to shift the view to the area you want to tap. This would make things a bit more difficult, were it not for the fact that the top screen provides you with real-time information on what's happening in each part of the store. It's a really successful implementation of dual-screen gameplay, as the upper layout is very clear, not to mention the lower screen is left unobscured.
Nevertheless, while Fashion Tycoon may be something of a surprise triumph in the gameplay department, it takes a rather drastic tumble when it comes to its visual presentation and overall build quality. Firstly, there's some confusion when it comes to the scoring system, in which customer satisfaction is calculated; the higher the satisfaction percentage, the less happy your customers actually are; zero percent is therefore the best score, which seems odd from an English language point of view.
To make matters worse, the graphics are generic and bland, although they're not so bad compared to the game-breaking bugs that occur. Fashion Tycoon is riddled with these, the most common one causing the graphics to mess up and, thus, make it unplayable. The further we progressed, the more prominent these glitches became, completely ruining what had initially been a relatively enjoyable experience. In one instance, we even lost our entire game save on the 41st level, only for it to happen a second time at level 43.
Fashion Tycoon is a game with a decent concept and addictive gameplay, but all of this is undone by the game's crippling game-breaking bugs and glitches. Even if you can work through the bugs and your game isn't reset before the last level, you'll likely still end up disappointed, as there doesn't appear to be anything to do beyond the main game. As a result of this, it's impossible to recommend Fashion Tycoon to anyone, which is disappointing, because it otherwise gets quite a lot of things right.