Mean Girls iOS Review
“In a wasteland of dumb movies about teenagers, Mean Girls is a smart and funny one,” is how Roger Ebert began his review of Mean Girls back in 2004. It is a fantastically simple, but spot on summation of Tina Fey’s filmic debut. Mean Girls was a movie that, in adverts, looked very plain and basic. This made it all too easy to fall into the trap of believing it offered nothing more than a monotonous, boilerplate rendition of what was becoming all too prevalent in cinemas during that period. Instead it turned out to be a very clever, totally unique, and extremely funny film that stands the test of time to this day.
It goes to show you should never judge anything solely by its cover.
I have grown tired of the tower defence genre for a long while now. Somewhere after Desktop Tower Defense became a thing in 2007, PixelJunk Monsters becoming all the rage in 2008, and Plants vs Zombies continuing the trend in 2009, I fell out of love with the genre after years of enjoyment – and I think many others did too. Because of this, the video game version of Mean Girls is something you could quite easily make a snap judgment about. It is a tower defence game afterall, a genre that after that huge initial boom has been over exposed, overdone, and overused ever since. Nowadays only the most stellar genre efforts really stand out. Sadly, Mean Girls at its best offers just more of the same – but usually ends up a rung below even that.
The usual tower defense tropes are out in force in Mean Girls, with enemies rushing along a predetermined path with a one track mind to overwhelm your defences in an effort to reach an object at the end of the maze. Players then drop various forms of defense to try and vanquish the hordes before they reach the end. Options include characters that do single shot damage, characters that cause area of effect damage, and ones that can only shoot in one direction at a time. Mean Girls follows all these well worn genre formulas to a tee – differentiating itself by including various groups, characters, and tropes seen in the movie in an effort to give the game a unique feel. You’ve seen all these moves before, the hair is just a bit bigger this time. But it is not near enough to impress.
Mean Girls (the game) celebrates Mean Girls (the film) with nods to just about everything you remember about it – along with a lot else you might have forgot. The hoards of enemies you face are the “Plastics” looking to get their Tiara back. If you watched the film to the end you will understand. Actually, everyone you saw in the film is here to greet you again – well cartoon versions of them at least – but I think everyone’s likeness is a tad askew in an effort to not get sued. Even though this is a licensed game, I guess they did not pay for the likeness rights of all involved – Danny Devito alone would have cost far too much. All things considered, it’s not the ugliest effing game I’ve ever seen, but I would label it a bit unexciting, flat, and a tad toneless,
All of these references really exemplify the feeling that the game could only have existed due to the film coming before. It makes very little effort to try and stand on it’s own two feet, relying far too much on referential winks and nods to try and impress – rather than focusing on offering compelling gameplay (which always matters most).
Outside of the base Tower Defence gameplay, a few other layers are added atop. Candy Cane Grams – another touchstone from the movie – is used as currency in the game. You can earn this currency by simply playing the game and coming back to play the game daily gives you bonus currency. With enough Candy Cane, you can buy more characters to add to your team of attackers. You can also buy extra one-use items from a shop with the currency. I did not see a “Get in loser” reference when shopping though. Disappointing!
As is the norm lately, you can also speed things up by purchasing virtual currency with real money. To be bluntly honest, I understand when this option is included in Free to Play games – but when a game costs money up front (Mean Girls is currently £3 on the App Store), I abhor added microtransactions to try and squeeze a little bit more out of players. I will forever complain about initiatives like this – even if it is turning into an industry standard.
I remember first seeing adverts for Mean Girls ahead of when it was set to hit cinemas in 2004 – a time before Rachel McAdams learned how to timetravel. Based on marketing alone, I believed I could never enjoy a movie like that. I also remembered how silly I felt after finally getting around to watching and enjoying it. As a result of this, even though the game gave me many reasons to judge it before playing, I wanted to give it a fair shot. Sadly, this initial kindness quickly wore away the more I played. To repurpose a sentence I once read, Mean Girls turned out to be just another dumb Tower Defence game in an app store full of them. Sorry for sullying your words Mr Ebert.
Perhaps a better, more Mean Girls like way, to summarize the game in one simple phrase is like this. It’s just not Fetch.