Zen Fashion
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-04-17 PC Puzzle E (Everyone) Boomzap Entertainment

Zen Fashion didn't exactly get my attention with its title, but with the magic word, "puzzle". I actually haven't played a casual puzzle game in a while, so I jumped right in.

Zen Fashion could be described as a "match three" puzzle, but the mechanics are actually similar to a connect-the-dots game. You must connect any adjacent flowers of the same kind to clear the tiles, with a minimum of three. The flowers must be touching either horizontally, vertically or diagonally, which makes up for some rather large combos in some cases. You just click the first flower, then drag the mouse over the matching ones to make your combo.

So why the "fashion" in the title? Your protagonist sets off on a trip through Asia, researching traditional outfits and fabrics. The game is separated into 12 areas, each composed of 8 levels, depicting lovely landscapes. When reaching certain levels, you unlock new outfits for your character: a hair style, a top or a bottom piece. Each piece in your wardrobe (with the exception of the starting ones) has one or two Zen Powers that will prove helpful while clearing the puzzles, since they get more and more complicated as you advance through the adventure stages.

The initial tiles you need to clear are golden, which means you only need to match a flower on them once. But there are silver tiles (match two flowers), blockers (match a combo near them to open up the flower) and chained tiles (match two combos near them). Since in the normal adventure mode you are on a timer, every power-up helps. For example, a bomb to replace all the flowers in a particular area, a hand to remove a flower, a lightning bolt that clears a golden flower tile, time bonuses, and a few more. If you find yourself out of moves, the puzzle field will be replaced with a new set of flowers.

By making combos you slowly fill up your power-ups. They will gradually change from black and white to color as they fill, and once they are fully colored, you can use them. There are also numbered tiles that give you a little extra Zen Power when included in a combo.

Zen Fashion has a sort of an achievement system, so to speak. As you play, you will unlock souvenirs for achieving certain conditions, such as filling up your Zen Powers 100 times, collecting 5000 flowers, completing a series of puzzles with extra time or matching a series of flowers in a single combo.

Aside from the Adventure mode, there is a Zen mode where you can play any stage that you have already unlocked in Adventure mode, but without the time limit.

The look of the game is quite nice, with beautiful exotic landscapes as your backgrounds, all sorts of colorful little flower icons as your puzzle pieces, and anime-style artwork for the character, her clothing and hair styles. I was happy to see that there was an actual purpose to the fashion portion of the game, and that it wasn't just something to change the character's look, say like the closet in Diner Dash: Flo on the Go.

I think the only thing I can somewhat "complain" about is the music. Even though it is a relaxing Asian-themed tune, the game could have definitely used more variety in the soundtrack department.

Overall, Zen Fashion is an interesting puzzle, and I am quite fond of the puzzle mechanics and the souvenirs/achievements. I think I'll be busy with this one for quite a while, especially since later levels aren't as easy as they may seem.

Special thanks to Christopher Natsuume and Boomzap for providing a copy of this title.