Nintendo presents: New Style Boutique

I know what some of the people reading this are thinking: "Ugh, this looks like such a 'girly game'".

And it does indeed have all of the trappings of that – admittedly rather sexist – categorisation of game: the fashion premise, the pastel shades, the overly positive language you'll read in the screenshots above.

But if you write it off as another pink-hued bit of shovelware, you'll be missing out on a decent (heck, even great at times) game with a lot of strategy and some real hardcore elements.

I know - I was surprised too.

The apprentice

This is first and foremost a management game. Strip away the cutesy stylings and the flowery "you can do it!" language, and you're left with organising and running a shop, customising its appearance, collecting items, getting to know characters, and progressing through a light story.

You're taken on as an apprentice at a boutique, and within a couple of hours you're responsible for its upkeep. Purchasing hundreds of types of clothes and accessories, each with its own fabric quality and look, you must keep your managerial eye on stock levels, and your fashion eye on your customers.

You build a rapport with those who frequent your shop, getting to know them a little as you kit out the town you inhabit in the latest trends and styles. As in real life, some types of clothes simply can't be pulled off by some people, so you'll need to pick out the right outfit for the right person.

Get it right and you'll build up experience and move the game forward, but get it wrong and you'll have a very upset bunch of fashionistas knocking at your door. Visiting the Outlet, you'll pick out items that you think your customers will enjoy, which are in turn dictated by how you decorate your store – punky, sweet, sophisticated: the choice is yours.

Hey good lookin'

The presentation is bang-on too, with the kind of sophistication you just don't expect from an apparently cheaply knocked-together title. The character animations during conversations are beautifully expressive, and the town has different facets to it that beg to be explored.

It's not all clothing, either: make-up and hairstyles are important to any Dapper Dan, and pretty soon you'll be helping people with every aspect of their appearance.

There's more customisation once you get home from a hard day's work. Every time you pick up a new style of clothes from the Outlet, a sample will be delivered to you and you can dress up your avatar whichever way you like. When not at home or work, it's possible to go out and forge friendships with the townsfolk at other locations in the world, such as the charming little Parisian café.

Of course, there are downsides to the release. It's not the hardest game in the world: kitting out customers is mainly just a case of listening to what kind of thing they like to wear, and sensibly picking an outfit to suit.

The game can get repetitive, and at times feels too close to work – there isn't quite enough time in the day to make money for your boutique as well as explore the town. Load times are a shade too long and the music can perish in flames for all I care, such is its twee monotony.

But don't let these niggles put you off. Regardless of gender, if you like management games and have any interest in fashion then this is a really strong release from The Big N. It starts to get a bit grindy if played over very long sessions, but for half an hour chunks it's perfect, with lovely visuals, a good deal of depth, and loads to collect.

Nintendo presents: New Style Boutique

It's pouty, it's pink, it's pretty darn good - Nintendo presents: New Style Boutique is the game to get your non-gamer sister / daughter / niece this Christmas, and they'll never know you've snuck them a shockingly hardcore management game with excellent production values
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