Dress up games, while a fun diversion, are ubiquitous on mobile devices. Love Nikki is one of those games, but it’s much weirder and much denser than you’d probably expect.
Love Nikki is a game that has been advertised to me on Facebook for months, and I resisted downloading it. I am adult, I had decided, and if I want clothes I should just buy them and not dress up a virtual doll. This morning I caved, and downloaded it. Reader, Love Nikki is bizarre and wonderful.
Love Nikki is set in a world where diplomatic disputes, and indeed all interpersonal ones as well, are settled in stylist competitions. In the introduction, you’re told that the reigning monarch has died, and the new Queen was decided by a recent stylist competition. This actually does not make any less sense than any other system of monarchy, but it’s a hell of a way to open up a dress up game. Oh yeah, you’ll also be traversing seven kingdoms and trying to defeat the legion of the Iron Rose, which steals designs from other designers. Somehow, things get way more intense from there.
At first, the gameplay doesn’t feel all that different than something like Style Savvy, where you dress up a character according to a theme and then the game scores you according how well you adhere to it. In Love Nikki, this is framed as a competition versus an NPC, but it initially feels the same as any other dress up game. Gradually, it introduces a few more concepts. When your outfit is compared to another character’s outfit, you also have abilities that can raise your score, or lower theirs. You can tap Smile, for instance, and raise your score, or hit Critical Look to lower your opponent’s. I guess just like the fashion world, meaningful glances play a part in how much people like your outfit.
Scoring outfits is also much more complicated than it initially appears. Each item of clothing is tagged with two categories, like Lively, Sexy or Pure. It’s easy to think that all you have to do is pay attention to those two categories and call it a day. If the theme of your match up is, say, a boyish outfit, you can’t just slap together some clothes that fit the clothing tags and call it a day. The game knows if you’re trying to fleece it with a gauzy dress when it wants you to wear pants. There are some ways to get around this, however—by dying your clothes, you can change the tags for them. By dying a sheer white dress black, it’ll change from Pure to Sexy. Basically, your clothes are Pokémon, and this is how you evolve them.
There’s more ways this mobile game adds depth, including month long fashion contests that are judged by other players, but what I like most about it is that that it turns fashion into a strange fantasy world. That’s what fashion is in real life, actually, but Love Nikki just brings it to the forefront. Well okay, maybe there are fewer spies in the real fashion world than in this game but, you get it. Please play this weird, weird game.