Videogames based on movies typically have one strike against them right off the bat, but what about games based on movies that are themselves inspired by books for 11-year-old girls? That’s a twisted, winding lineage, though not one completely without precedent: Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings, and Agatha Christie novels all followed similar paths. Still, The Clique: Diss And Make Up surely won’t be confused with the aforementioned franchises. It draws inspiration from the 2008 direct-to-DVD movie produced by Tyra Banks, and rooted in Lisi Harrison’s young-adult series of the same name. Over more than a dozen installments to date, Harrison has written about vindictive tweens snubbing and openly mocking everyone in Octavian Country Day School whom they deem to be social and fashion outcasts.
In Diss And Make Up, you play one of those outcasts, a new OCD student with no friends who must climb the social ladder to win the shallow heart of a popular boy you meet at a lame party. To get upwardly mobile, you’ll have to shop for the necessary clothes to be perceived as worthy of conversation to the next-higher clique. Then you do errands for its members, running the gamut from “I lost my soy nuts” to “I lost four CDs.” Although Diss And Make Up throws you in without any real instruction or explanation, that simple formula in point-and-click (or clique?) execution is the entire game. At first, it seems like an impossible Machiavellian nightmare—and on top of all that, the cartridge randomly crashes nearly half the time.
Beneath all the backstabbing and eventual social commentary about discarding your unpopular friends like a snake’s molted skin, this is essentially an oddly captivating collection of mini-games, albeit a very short one. To edge into the next clique, you’ll need to excel at the class they’re most enthused about: The jocks love gym class (indoor rock climbing) whereas the pretty committee only respects home economics (tracing swatches of fabric with your stylus). But that’s all meaningless without the outfits to back it up, which you can buy at the mall with earnings from the four jobs you can do whenever you feel like, like serving as a barista in a simplified, Diner Dash-inspired game. While the intended demographic will likely be enthralled with Diss for its two-hour length, even self-proclaimed older people “too cool” for this can find fleeting moments of fun in this thin school simulator. Hell, it beats reading.