The Clique: Diss and Make Up
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-08-30 Nintendo DS Adventure E10 (Everyone 10+) Warner Bros. / Gorilla Systems

The Clique was one of those movies that I watched just because I had nothing else to do at the time and nothing better was on... only to completely forget about it after. To the point my husband had to remind me that yes, I had watched it, and to top it off, I had hated it too. Talk about forgetting bad memories...

With my memory refreshed (with thoughts along the lines of what the hell possessed me to watch that movie), I moved on to the game. I really wasn't expecting a masterpiece, but I wasn't expecting to be slapped in the face in the first couple of minutes with the "dos" and "musts" of fitting in, dressing to impress and spreading gossip. Great...

You begin by picking one of the pre-set female characters and get a crash course on popularity from your nanny, since your parents are away. As a recently transfered 7th grade student to Octavian Country Day School, your first task is to put on clothes and see how the items you wear please particular cliques. Then you're sent off to school where you meet Claire, the "new girl" who starred in the movie... and she starts you off in the whole gossip business.

Dress to impress, climb the social ladder, spread gossip. No wonder highschool sucks for teens, just look at these standards! All girls need to do to be accepted is turn into mindless, slutty bitches, apparently. And judging by the pieces of gossip, I'm sure quite a few of them could be used as the starting plot of any random porn: "I heard this gossip about this girl who spilled a drink all over herself... she was soooo wet..." - insert bow-chicka-bow music here.

But I digress (and how!)... moving on.

The game is mostly an adventure. Tap here and there to move between different areas (tap once to walk, double tap to run, triple tap to instantly go there), tap particular dialog options to talk to people or interact with objects. But there are a series of mini-games in between the roaming around. For example, the classroom lessons are "learned" by playing a specific mini-game to that subject. Your schedule (which you build in your first day of school and then again at the start of each week) is composed of two classes per day, and you can pick any combination out of the five subjects: art, geometry, chemistry, gym and home economics. They're not particularly difficult nor interesting, but each offers a practice mode and three levels of difficulty (6th, 7th and 8th grade).

You will have your morning class, a lunch break, and your afternoon class. You are free to roam around the school and talk to people, get some gossip, spread more gossip, get some "quests" from people (here called errands) to earn their respect. At the end of the day, you can choose to go home or take on one of the "jobbies" at the mall to earn some money which is then used to increase your wardrobe options. You can choose one of the mall stores to take on a part-time job: a boutique, a coffee shop, an ice cream parlor or a taco stand.

Strangely enough, it seems like one afternoon of work can earn you insane amounts of money, as I was easily making $400 per boutique session (and you can play it as much as you want in the same day). Pretty unrealistic, but considering that buying a skirt to impress some other clique can set you back $200, I suppose it "fits".

But finally, I found something that I was actually having fun with, the "jobbies". The games are pretty simple and mostly involve hand/eye coordination. For the most part, you receive orders from your customers and have to process them as they come in. The quicker you do this, the more customers you serve and the more money you make. In the boutique you must match the piece of clothing with the color by circling around both. The trick is that the clothes are constantly scrolling by while the colors remain stationary. In the coffee shop you must pour coffees, foam up some lattes and heat up donuts or muffins, then place them on the trays and send a happy customer on his/her way. The taco game gives you four different trays in four colors. The orders appear on the top screen: a colored baggy will tell you which tray to use, and the ingredients shown must be placed in that specific order on the tray. As for the ice cream game, it's a simple grab 10 sundaes, toss them on the counters the customers are at, but you need to keep going back to refill and get 10 more. Again, nothing overly complicated, and they are actually fun.

All the mini-games from the story/adventure mode become unlocked in the mini-game mode after you play them for the first time, so they will be accessible from the main menu.

As for the party... well, yes, I did play enough to get to at least one. Enough favors later, I maxed my reputation with... I don't know, the skull and bones clique... are they pirates? I'm not sure, each clique has a symbol and I'm surely not paying attention to their names. So off I went to the party after work, only to be presented with some random dialog and then a little bit of storyline which advances you to the next day and the next step of the social ladder. Oh, and also managed to find the only two boys who live around this place... I get it, the game is aimed at girls, but I don't see why we couldn't mix up some boys in the school crowd.

I have to say that even with all my complaints about the overall theme, the game is presented nicely. The artwork is really good, even if the 3D models fall a little short. The music is cheery and upbeat, but the tapping sound effects were a bit annoying (especially considering the double tap and triple tap mechanics). On a more technical approach, there are indicators for your "quest" progression in the form of colored circles under the girls you can do favors for, and even the movement arrows turn yellow to show you which way to go next. Still, I really didn't like walking around talking to people only to have them criticize my outfit and basically have a bunch of these snotty little girls saying the exact same cheesy insults over and over. And why should I care if someone's gym socks smelled? Why should I even bother telling that to other people?

In the end, attempting to play a game that revolves around three concepts that I couldn't give a damn about and never bothered with throughout high school just doesn't work. I never worried about dressing like the rest, fitting in and especially not gossip. And no, I didn't have problems making friends, but I also didn't relate to any of the "cliques" in my school. I'd much rather be my own individual, thank you very much.

Just like the movie did, the game also walks a very fine line between harmless and dangerous. While The Clique: Diss and Make Up can be seen as a critique of the different social groups and the way they act, it can also be interpreted as a lesson on how to fit in. And when it comes down to the easily impressionable minds of the target audience, you know the message it passes won't necessarily be a good one.

Special thanks to Sarissa Thrower and Warner Bros. for providing a copy of this title.