Editor's note: Rachel digs into the free games on Cosmopolitan.com so that you don't have to. We don't normally post reviews on the front page, but then we don't normally get reviews of games about matching shoes and pathologically subservient boyfriends. -Demian
If I asked you to think of ways to describe Cosmopolitan magazine’s content, what would you say? I imagine the list would read something like: sex, fashion, sex tips, celebrities, naughty sex tips, men, and sexy sex tips. Imagine my surprise, then, when I noticed that Cosmopolitan.com has a page called “Free Games.”
In a previous post, I explored how women's magazines cover games and was subsequently left unimpressed by my findings. Basically, most women’s magazines portray games as a juvenile pastime that serves only to distract men from your feminine charms. This strikes me as sad, considering that with the advent of Facebook and iPhone gaming more women than ever play games.
So is Cosmo finally giving games the boost other women’s mags have not? More importantly are the games any good? Find out as I review three of Cosmopolitan's games! Sorry, no sex tips.
When you first begin to play a game of Strip Poker (found here) you're asked to choose the man who will strip for you. They have names like Towel Tease and look like boring, white-bread male models to me. I think I chose Cabana Boy but, as they all looked so similar, it was hard to tell.
Immediately when the game began I was confused. I know how to play poker, but this game didn't make all that much sense. So I clicked on "help" and this is what I got:
First of all, the betting is a lie. The button that says "bet" does nothing no matter how much you click on it. Basically, the game is a watered-down version of five-card draw. The gameplay ultimately amounts to dumb luck. Sure, you can hold cards, but it rarely seems to matter.
This is as far as I got before succumbing to extreme boredom:
No sane woman should spend time on this game. The Internet — hell, any given issue of Cosmpolitan — can provide plenty of nearly naked men to ogle.
When I started playing I was hoping Strip Poker might be a tongue-in-cheek, feminist take on crap like The Guy Game. I was clearly giving Strip Poker too much credit.
Boy Toy is a time management game ostensibly about a man trying to prove his love to his girlfriend. In actuality, it's the tale of the most pathetic man in existence, the titular Boy Toy. All Boy Toy wants to do is make his girlfriend happy. And the key to this Cosmo Girl's happiness amounts to making sure that she never experiences anything remotely irritating. She doesn't want a fancy meal, roses, or poetry; she wants to sit in peace while you eliminate anything remotely bothersome.
Observe what's going on here:
Boy Toy is introducing his girlfriend to his parents for the first time. He's sitting next to her, presumably catching his breath, because in the last few moments he has made coffee, baked cookies, and started a fire. But note that Cosmo Girl is still irritated. Why? Because Boy Toy's pooch is currently humping the chair that Cosmo Girl is sitting in.
That brings us to a running theme in Boy Toy: Boy Toy does everything right, and yet the whole world is trying to ruin everything this poor whipped fellow has achieved.
Just look at this screen:
What really disappoints me about the Boy Toy narrative, however, is Cosmo Girl's lack of imagination. Seriously, if I had a man in my life that eager to anticipate my whims, I would sure as hell think up some better whims. Baked goods?! Really, I expected more from a Cosmo Girl!
Oh, you're wondering about the gameplay? Boy Toy is actually a fairly compentent time managment game. It was short and simple, but it's hard to criticize a free game for that. If you're someone who likes time management games, you could certainly do worse. That said, the controls glitched at times, and like Strip Poker, the instructions were often incorrect.
As you can see, this is almost exactly the same as Bejeweled, except with a lot more shoes. The critical difference here is that you can swap tiles around whether you create a match or not, which pretty much eliminates any challenge unless you're colorblind.
The saddest part about Shoematra's crappiness is that I would imagine that many of the women who play this have also played the real Bejeweled, which, obviously, is a far better game.
So it would seem that Cosmo's games are failures. Even so, I hope they are indicative of more women — and women's media outlets — thinking of games in a positive light.