Renovation was a clear mainstream theme last year among a lot of successful casual games, especially in the puzzle sector, focused on female audiences. During november 2020, creators (company Magic Tavern) of the hit Matchington Mansion, launched their new title “Project Makeover”. I don’t want to talk about history, but I recommend going through this article, where Michail Katkoff described a foggy background of this company. However, according to Sensor Tower, Project Makeover was shortly after launch in top 5 in Apple App Store with 5 millions downloads made 3 millions in revenues (+ another 5 millions downloads and 1 million revenues on Google Play). That’s pretty solid results on this highly competitive and saturated market.
As devs mentioned on their LinkedIn profile, their goal is to create fun “match 3 puzzle mobile games, targeted at female millennials”. So it looks that they created the right mix of classic core gameplay and catching meta.
Core Match 3
The core gameplay consists of traditional match 3 swiping concept. You don’t find anything revolutionary there. Classic powerups and mechanics as you can see in many other titles and lifes, which are refilled by time. Differences in mechanics are only cosmetic. Winning a level give you two currencies:
- Coins – You will spend coins to fulfill tasks, what lead your progress
- Cash – Cash can be spend on changing your’s avatar look, outfits and director’s room decorations. This changes have impact only on self-express and social element of the game.
Finishing levels is the main monetization point in Project Makeover. If you run out of moves, you can purchase additional 5 moves for gems, or you can spend them for additional boosters. They are the only thing that you can purchase directly in the shop. Simple. Occasionally you will get the opportunity to get special decoration items. But only in case, that you will finish level on the first try.
In gameplay I didn’t find any disturbing or surprising moments. The true difference is laying in the meta.
Meta, Story and Narration
The game is divided into episodes. In every episode you will meet a new person, who needs help with total makeover. Every of them has a different backstory, character and job, which fit well with the story and dialogues. You will meet shy nerdy girl, scruffy car mechanic, neurotic chef etc.
The makeover consists from three phases:
- In the saloon, you can change haircut, makeup etc
- In the wardrobe you will create new outfit
- Room – every character have their specific room, which have to be renovated, to fit their new style
These phases are also divided into several specific tasks, each costs some amount of coins. Tasks can have a choice (select the haircut, select which sofa we put here, …) or just do some action, required to proceed (wash the hair, clean room). Figures always react with proper reaction or joke. As I mentioned, every figure which you will take care of is different, so tasks are also often different and unique. What I like the most is the fact that every figure has a unique timeline and order of required steps and procedures. So you will jump from saloon to the room or from the wardrobe to the saloon several times and it still looks very natural. The reason why it makes sense is setting into the story and a format.
The game is stylized as a TV Show, where you are the director. And you aren’t the only member of the production crew. You will cowork with several well-written characters, which are creating a space for developing a story suitable for your TV show episodes. During playing you will also unlock section “drama”. Here you can watch some behind the stage intrigues. For example you will be a witness to an attempt of stealing your production crew for a competitive project. Although the format of these TV shows is very straightforward and repetitive, developers from Magic Tavern understood that they need something special. Something that will help you to stick with the game, their characters and goals. This trend you can see also in other puzzle games, where the basic plot (you inherited an old mansion) and renovation progress is no longer enough. I can recommend this article from Om Tanton on this topic.
Currently, the whole social part of the game consists of the possibility of sending and receiving lives from your friends and visiting their director’s room. Yes, you can also send a rating in the form of emoticons, but it doesn’t have any impact currently. But the whole part of the game focusing on customizing your avatar and director’s room predicts that the social element will play a more important role in the future. At least I expect social based live events and some kind of guilds or teams.
Graphics & UI
The game keeps a clear and simple interface, which works well in combination with customizable 3D models. They are fully animated, which brings life and a feedback to the player’s actions. Basic story dialogues are made only in traditional 2D form with characters showing certain emotions and text bubbles. This solution is simpler for sure and easier to produce, but it does not matter. The character’s design is appealing and memorable, which is important here.
List of mentioned articles
- Power of Storytelling in Blockbuster Casual Games? by Om Tandon
- Matchington Mansion – You Won’t Believe the Truth by Michail Katkoff, Niek Tuerlings and Yours Truly