A leftfield use of the licence, this is a crack at a 'Tiara Defence' puzzler. It's not Burn Book fodder, but it's not exactly fetch either.
If you haven't watched Mean Girls, the classic 2004 high school movie starring Lindsay Lohan, go and watch it right now. We'll wait. Did you see it? Boo, you whore, don't lie. Seriously, go and watch it now.
Deftly directed by Mark Waters (brother of Daniel, who similarly re-defined the high school movie by writing Heathers in the 80s), Mean Girls was a lightening rod for emerging talent in the early 00s. It kickstarted the careers of Tina Fey (30 Rock), Amy Pohler (Parks and Recreation), Rachel McAdams (Time Traveller's Wife), Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), and Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia) to name but a few. Fey's sharp script really cut to the heart of the high school experience, a warzone where new girl Cady took on the school's reigning Queen Bees (known as 'The Plastics'), and destroyed them from within using sneaky guerrilla tactics that would make Solid Snake proud.
And now, just slightly too late to celebrate the movie's 10th anniversary, we have Mean Girls: The Game, an iOS puzzle game that attempts to pioneer the 'Tiara Defence' genre. Styling itself as a semi-sequel to the movie, each of the 20 levels sees you defending the Spring Fling tiara from a new generation of Plastics. You're not alone though, as you can enlist an army of burnouts, varsity jocks and foreign exchange students to take out the waves of Plastics before they reach the tiara goal. Defeat all the waves, and you'll unlock the next level and a series of challenges - but let more than 10 plastics grab a piece of the tiara, and your failure will earn you a mention in the Burn Book like the homeschooled jungle freak you are.
Of course, no Mean Girls game wouldn't be complete without a bit of shopping. Using candy canes (the in-game currency) you can unlock a variety of student cliques pulled straight from the movie to help you in your noble cause to save girl world. Thankfully there's an abundance of these available through gameplay, so there's no real need to buy any additional packs through the available IAPs. The students all fall into the usual tower defence types - some students attack left to right, some have an area effect, and some will fire projectiles from a distance. Each clique type has Range, Speed and Attack rating, and a different deployment cost, meaning a well-balanced team is essential for success.
The levels take place across four areas, The Canteen, The Classroom, The Football field and the Gym. In the initial Canteen levels, the Plastics walk down pre-defined paths to the tiara, and destroying them with cliques will earn you popularity, which in turn you can spend on placing more cliques. Initially you just have to concentrate on placing your cliques strategically, and maintain the balance between adding new cliques and upgrading existing cliques to higher-powered variations.
There's an additional wrinkle too, in the form of your helper character. Helpers take the form of characters from the film, and everyone from Regina George to Kevin Gnapoor (Ohhh, Kevin G!) are available to help out. A different helper is available for free each week, or you can buy them to add them permanently to your collection (A full set will cost you just shy of £12). Unsurprisingly, they each have different abilities, from raising nearby cliques attack power to increasing the amount of popularity you get when you defeat a nearby Plastic.
In a cute twist, these abilities are activated by answering the Mean Girls trivia questions which appear in the bottom right of the screen - just guide your helper to the picture that represents the correct answer and the ability will kick in as a halo effect around them. While it's not exactly the most exciting idea since toaster strudel, it is one of the game's few genuine innovations, and the icons that represent the answers are nicely rendered. The range of questions is quite limited however, and even if you're not a fan, you won't need to have a psychic fifth sense to learn all the answers by rote long before the end of the game. Moving your helper can be sticky also, requiring a pixel-perfect level of precision to drag your helper somewhere useful, causing you to lose out on bonus effects even when you get a question right.
While there are a few new gameplay elements sprinkled in as the game progresses (most notably during the later Gym and Football field levels, where placing your cliques will alter the Plastics path, effectively letting you create elaborate tunnels of death), the gameplay fails to evolve. There are only a handful of enemy units that stay the same on every level, so apart from the four different locations, there's not much variety either. It doesn't take a Mathlete to work out that almost every level can be won by spamming the playing field with the cheapest clique, and the five bonus challenges are identical for every level.
Mean Girls: The Game isn't as cynical a cash-in as you might expect - it's well illustrated and animated, and the characters are far closer to their cinematic counterparts than the fugly gargoyles that were used for the long forgotten Mean Girls DS game. But you can't just throw in a load of quotes and fan service and expect to get an amazing game - that's just like, the rules of feminism.
It's not as if the iOS platform is starved of good examples of the genre either; between the Geo Defence and Plants vs Zombies series lies a huge reservoir of awesome (and often free) tower defence games that have more content and ideas than this one. Perhaps the game's biggest failing is that unlike its cinematic counterpart, it's not remotely funny and has no edge, relying almost entirely on quotes and callbacks to generate goodwill. A more fitting tribute would be a game that is funny in its own right, adding to the Mean Girls legacy, rather than simply cut and pasting of it.
Look, we're not going to tell you what to do - if you think Mean Girls is fetch, you wear pink on Wednesdays, and you love tower defence games like Amber D'Alessio loves hotdogs, then this is a perfectly serviceable effort. But be warned - if you touch this game, you will get chlamydia... and die.