Love Nikki is the dress-up game from hell, yet I have spent the majority of my college life ideally playing it, trying to appease an overly-judgmental cat with outfits that just got more and more ridiculous as the game went on.  

“Love Nikki-Dress UP Queen” is a mobile game created by Chinese game developer Nikki Games and published by Elex. It’s available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store. It is unassuming, at first. You think you’re getting into it for some fun clothes and styling options, like the doll-makers that were oh-so-popular in elementary school but for adults, so lacking the unique childhood input that decides bright neon pink and green isn’t an eye-sore whatsoever. I decided to get into it because I love creative writing and role-playing games, and it seemed like a fun way to put a face to whatever characters I have bouncing around my head currently.  

I was a little underwhelmed when I first opened the game. The clothes hadn’t been as detailed or lovingly rendered as I’d been led to believe, but that is a product of age. The first clothes you get in the game are low-ranking overall and were the starter clothes in the game, but not useless. You can combine clothes to craft shiner upgrades, a system I usually like, until I wind up needing something that is in the more advanced princess levels, which you can only do three times a day. Normal levels, that are called maiden levels, you can do an unlimited amount of times, so long as you have the stamina to complete them. I struggled for a long time when I first got into the game, because the stamina limit is both low and recharges slowly.  

The game has a story, but I lost interest in it when I realized how hard it is to follow. You have the normal level stories, which you unlock as you go through, but there are also special events which also, occasionally, have stories that go along with the main story. Each piece of clothing has a story associated with it, so does each full outfit, called suits. Keeping track of absolutely everything would prove extremely difficult, but I know there is some emotional draw to it and I want to, one day, go back to the start and read the story from the beginning. The characters and glimpses of personality you get from the clothes stories are fun, though. It makes each outfit more unique, separating them from the protagonist of the game, but that serves to make the world seem more lived in.   

The story follows the main character, Nikki, as she wakes up one day in a strange new world where fashion rules and runway shows are a form of greeting, disdain, and admiration. You get  mixed messages from some of the characters who challenge you to a fashion show. Nikki’s cat, Momo, joins her, seemingly to sarcastically judge her whenever she makes a less-than subpar outfit for whatever specifications the level required. Sometimes it’s clearly stated, other times less so. Luckily, Momo gives suggestions, although he sometimes creates such multi-armed color-clashing outfits that it’s hard to imagine it’d win in any competition, unless it were for the worst outfit. 

Love Nikki has microtransactions built into it. You can spend your hard-earned dollars on either diamonds, the premium currency in the game which you can very slowly accrue by playing, or on certain outfits. Some of the special outfits, called charge-up suits, that you can only get by paying money are cheap, only one or two dollars. And then you have my favorite outfit, which features a blonde angel with wings that drift behind her that are bejeweled with golden highlights in a flowing white gown gently caressing an ice dragon that looks like Elsa failed to tame it, bright glowing yellow birds floating around her head, which is all of $100. One hundred dollars for some  extremely pretty pixels. I have refrained, thus far, from dropping that much on this game at once, but the allure of microtransactions hasn’t been completely avoided. I may have a little pretty pixels, as a treat.  

There has been a relatively loyal and steady fanbase to the game. Though there have been some spots of drama between different factions of fans, occasionally leading to actions like some events that require heavy spending being retired, overall the community has co-existed peacefully alongside the developers. The fanbase has gotten rewarded by requests like more diverse skin tones and make-up options (which really serve as whole new faces for Nikki)  being released, along with getting unique events despite the English server still playing catch-up with the original Chinese server. 

Despite Momo’s judgements on my outfits even when I swear they’re on theme, I still have a fun time playing the game. Sure, when you have a collection of clothes as big as I do, there’s a lot of scrolling, but you can find some really unique combinations! Love Nikki is free to pick-up, even if you’re forever tempted by cute outfits that cost diamonds or real-life money. If you want a fun game to create outfits in, I haven’t found one as in-depth as Love Nikki is. Though you have to work and complete levels to unlock more and more clothes, there’s nothing more satisfying than looking at your closet number and realizing you have more than half the clothes available in the game.