When I first saw The Clique almost everything about it—from the title to the packaging—rang not so distant bells of Mean Girls, a movie I came to love in my freshman year of college. Mean Girls, although it had a fairly standard, cliché plot of a high school drama movie, had a ridiculously funny take on the unnecessary, terribly catty way girls can treat each other. When I picked up mean girls, I was hoping I would find the same sarcastic take on high school with the witty humor, and well-loved and well–hated stereotypes. The Clique fell short of my Mean Girls hopes, and despite some flaws, the game stands as a so-so high school simulator.
The game begins with your character moving to a new school. From there, you traverse the various cliques (the artists, the nerds, the jocks, etc.) and climb the social ladder, trying to make friends and find your place in the school. The goal of each chapter in the game is to get invited to a certain clique’s party, eventually working your way up to the Pretty Committee, which is made up of four of the most revered and feared girls in school. You befriend cliques by conforming to each clique’s dress code, and running errands for them, eventually earning your party invitation. The story is dialogue-driven with many, many text boxes, most of which are comments from other students berating your fashion sense and the Pretty Committee making sure you stay at the bottom of the social totem pole.
The gameplay is a formulaic and simple point-and-click with a few touch screen-based mini-games at school and at the mall thrown into the mix. The school minigames are loosely based on the academic class you have scheduled for that day (i.e. art is drawing certain shapes, chemistry is tapping and shaking bottles in the correct order, gym is rock-climbing with hazards like falling bowling balls and paper planes. No kidding.). These come in three levels of difficulty and are somewhat repetitive. Minigames at the mall take the role of your part-time job, and your performance at the clothes, ice cream, taco, or coffee shop determine how much money you earn. The clothes department is easily the most lucrative, even if the game occasionally didn’t recognize my stylus’s input.
The day begins with your character getting dressed for school, and wearing different clothes and outfits boosts your compatibility with certain cliques. When you character is shopping or picking out what to wear that day, horizontal meters will show how compatible your outfit is with all the cliques. If you haven’t maxed out the meter, other characters won’t even talk to you. They’ll snub you with a snide comment and wait until you go buy more clothes. After that, you’ll run a few simple errands for them in between classes and at lunch, and they finally stop treating you like dirt and hand you a party invite. The cut scenes at parties drive along the story’s high school romance drama and dating politics.
While much of the dialogue, characters and writing in The Clique was believable, something would ring false with reality and punctuate the story, like the students used bluetooths when calling each other on the phone, or the outer space-obsessed kid who mentions a LARP club. Instructions for gameplay are made up of snappy soundbytes and tended to abuse the word “ah-mazing.” As is a problem with most text-based games, a lot of the NPC dialogue gets repetitive after the game’s halfway point.
The game’s music is for the most part poppy and upbeat, and the number of original vocal tracks is surprising. The graphics are clean and eye-pleasing, and navigation is exceptionally easy. I loved that I could teleport my character to any classroom in the school just by clicking the room I wanted to go to on the map. Moving your character around the room is simple, too, although it’s the first game I’ve had to triple-click on a NPC to talk with them immediately (one click will move your character slowly over towards them, and a double-click will have your character walk slightly faster). One major, major snag I ran into at the end though was when I triple-clicked on a movement arrow and the whole game locked up. Luckily, I’m a rabid game saver, so I wasn’t set back at all, and the error wasn’t repeated.
The Clique has a few bugs, but it plays just like a usual chick flick or high school romance movie—just not on the same echelon as my beloved Mean Girls. With the game’s shopping, dating and pure power-pinkness, The Clique has much potential to be a fun game for younger girls. Just beware of a possibly short replay value and play time.