Conde Nast has a hot new iPhone game called "Fashion Hazard," in which you attempt to advance a blossoming supermodel up through the ranks of catwalk superstardom.
Before we swan dive into the game, however, we need a disclosure: Namely, that I am not Fashion Hazard's quote-unquote "target demographic." I am a deep-voiced, beer-bellied, slowly-graying twenty-five-year-old man, and not a sixth grader with a pony tail, a subscription to Tiger Beat, and an upcoming Bat Mitzvah. As an adult male, who is also not a female, and who is also not twelve, I am likely not the person the game's developers designed the game to appeal to. That is clear from the first sentence of the game's snappy iTunes description -- "Put your best stiletto forward to power the next runway star ... or become a Fashion Hazard!" -- an imperative I can only half-comprehend or relate to. It is also clear that I'm not the target demo from the press blitz behind Fashion Hazard, during which Conde Nast execs, over and over again, explicitly pitched the game as a glitzy-yet-adventurous romp for little girls and female "tweens" and not, alas, for self-loathing, overly-cynical, frumpily-dressed East Village post-grad grumps. (Where are our games, Silicon Valley??)
With that caveat of the way: I never really got in to Fashion Hazard. Imagine that.
Fashion Hazard is, you might argue, being marketed to fashionably-minded girls, making my personal distaste for it inconsequential. On the other hand, a game is a game, and this is just not a very well-designed or interesting game. In Fashion Hazard, you choose one of two rail-thin, incredibly-proportioned, ludicrously-named supermodels (the brunette Ellie Redburn or platinum blonde Gabrielle Luckheart) and embark on a wide-eyed quest, to the tunes of a looping Euro-Dance-y soundtrack, to conquer the runways of New York, London, Paris and Milan. You do this by strutting down a series of escalatingly-difficult catwalks in a set of escalatingly-slinky dresses, controlling your character's speed and direction by tilting your phone side-to-side and up-and-down, like you would in the smash iOS hit Temple Run. Also as you would in the smash iOS hit Temple Run, you have to collect glimmering coins ("Bling"), which are either in the middle of the runway or on the sides, and which you have to direct your character into. Several obstacles on the runway block your path to the Bling, which you have to avoid by ducking or jumping: These obstacles include, but are not limited to, oncoming models walking in your direction; audience members throwing beer bottles at your face; stray boomboxes that someone has left in the middle of the catwalk; fellow models who have fallen on the runway and apparently died; and, of course, rattlesnakes.
(Wait, what's that? You've never seen a fashion show with any of these obstacles? Well welcome to 2012, Country Bumpkin! From SoHo to Tokyo, nothing is hotter than shows with ultra-venomous pit-vipers slithering around and constantly threatening the lives of everyone in the building. Bringing your deadly rattlesnake to a fashion show -- sometimes on a leash, sometimes not -- is so hot right now. Killer snakes are the new Von Dutch).
Though not totally, uh, verisimilitudinous, "Fashion Hazard" does retain some aspects familiar to the lives of supermodels (FULL DISCLOSURE: I once considered supermodeling before settling on my current career as a fat, unattractive technology writer). For instance, though there's a timer for each level, you aren't racing against the clock: Rather, you're trying to maintain a walking speed that is consistent with the pace at which a supermodel might strut to best show off a designer's look. There are also bonus sections ("Photo Ops") in which you pose for a group of photographers, and you have to quickly touch their cameras with your finger in order to make them snap a photo. The more Bling you pick up, and the more photos are taken with you, the better you do, and the better your chance of advancing to the ultimate stage:
decades and decades of plastic surgery in the twilight of your life in a futile attempt to regain your former superficial beauty supermodel stardom.
And that's the game. Supermodels, paparazzi, materialism, objectification, drunk people throwing beer at you, rattlesnakes. It sounds a lot like an average Friday night in Brooklyn. What's not to love?
Well, a lot, actually. Like most games nowadays, Fashion Hazard comes with in-game purchasing so that you can level up your experience; here, Conde Nast appears to have gone too far, as the game is incredibly limited in the base level of stuff that comes with your $1 download. There is too much you must buy in order to make the game worthwhile, in other words. Power-ups include -- and some of these are going to sound really familiar to Temple Run players -- "Super Stiletto," with which you can "attract bling without contact" (like a magnet); "Energy Drink," which gives you invincibility against obstacles; and "Photogeneity," which launches you into the Photo Op bonus round. Disappointingly, "turning left" is not one of the power-ups, nor is "delivering a eugoogly."
The other key flaw, besides an over-reliance on in-game purchases (and lack of clear "Zoolander" references), is that the gameplay is somewhat homogenous: After about ten minutes of shaking your little tush on the catwalk, and posing for photos, and dodging murderous rattlesnakes and the supermodels they've killed, you begin to sense that you've plumbed the depths of the game, that you have experienced all Fashion Hazard has to offer. There isn't the ever-pressing forward momentum that drives the best games, no frustration factor that keeps you coming back for more in spite of your better self. The idea of the quest -- of conquering New York, then London, then Paris, and then Milan -- never really hit home for me. I recognize this may be due to my age and my cynicism, though I'd bet that your twelve-year-old daughter might get bored quickly, too: As a reviewer at 148apps wrote, you forget about Fashion Hazard the moment you switch it off. That's not good.
Fashion Hazard is the first iOS game from Conde Nast Digital, and it's a decent initial effort that comes up short of its lofty goal: to be a Temple Run for the tweener female set. Ignoring the oddity of choosing the superficial world of supermodeling as the milieu of a game aimed at impressionable young girls, the gameplay just isn't compelling or magnetic enough. Even for this former failed supermodel, Fashion Hazard just doesn't put its best stiletto forward. Fashion Hazard, thou art an ill-fashioned hazard thyself. Don't get snakebitten with this one: Your daughter will love Temple Run, I promise.