A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Project Makeover is a match-3 puzzle game for iOS and Android devices. The gameplay involves choosing clothing, furniture, and other style elements with funds players earn by playing matching games. Different characters receive makeovers in portions of the app that are labeled as episodes, as a style team helps out, and caustic fashion icon Greta shows up occasionally to cause trouble. The app walks players through each step they need to take, so it's fairly easy to use, and they don't technically have to buy anything -- but may feel like they want to at points to avoid any pauses in playing. Parents should also be aware that although the app positions the makeover experience as a positive, confidence-building event, the focus on fashion and physical appearance somewhat suggests there's a correlation between changing the way you look and being happy, which could send an iffy message.
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What's it about?
Players complete matching games to earn money to spend on clothing, furniture, and other items in PROJECT MAKEOVER. Style team characters guide gamers as they choose hair, makeup, clothing, and accessories for a makeover recipient and redo a room. The matching games involve moving same-colored objects to line up in rows of three or more to remove them, and some rounds feature a fashion theme, such as pairing same-colored symbols to clear a shirt from the board. Booster items, such as a rocket or bomb, allow them to clear more items at a time.
Is it any good?
While you'll bounce back and forth between playing match-3 games and performing character makeovers or room redecorations, it's the focus on spending real cash that's concerning. In Project Makeover, clothing, accessories, and other looks cost coins, and cash players earn from winning rounds can be used to outfit their avatar. While the room redesign aspect involves more options, you're not given many style choices initially, which doesn't provide much opportunity for creativity. You can generally earn enough coins by playing the matching games, but gems, which will buy extra turns if you can't complete a game round, are doled out more sparingly. Plus, once kids run through the five lives they're initially given, they'll have to wait 20 minutes for a life to replenish before playing, which can really slow the app's momentum down.
Of course, there's another option -- to buy a gem package. But these costs can quickly add up fast as the rounds get more challenging. The ongoing makeover plotline is another potentially problematic element. The first recipient, who's referred to as homely and a nobody by a fashion industry character the other stylists dismiss as mean, is presented pre-transformation as a dowdy, unhappy person. One of the first moves players make is to pay to remove her glasses, and she literally sparkles when given a new haircut, makeup, and outfit. The narration suggests she's getting a makeover to help her achieve her dreams -- which, coupled with her reaction to it, presents a somewhat uncomfortable association between physical appearance, beauty, self-perception, and value. Parents may want to talk to kids about that possible connotation -- or help them find another match-3 game to play, if they get too frustrated with the waiting time Project Makeover can involve.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what clothes and other items players spend the money they've earned on in Project Makeover -- and budgeting. Do you tend to manage the in-app currency well or overspend? Do you think the game is designed to help you spend more cash?
What do you value more, inner beauty or the outward appearance of someone? How does this play out in the reactions by characters in Project Makeover?