“Just saw the stats on last week’s column,” Carl said, cornering me on the way out the front door. “Got an explanation?”
“Surprised me too,” I said. “Who knew we had that many Dukes of Hazzard fans? Good thing for me you put it in the bag. Couldn’t have made my quota of candy bar money without it.” I winked and shot him the finger-guns.
“I’m talking about all the fun you seemed to have,” Carl dead-panned. “These assignments aren’t jokes. You will suffer accordingly. In here, I’m in charge.”
“Maybe in your own mind, chinpo, but I wrote the most-read article for this website, so I’m taking a personal day. I need to get to the mall before all the good parking spots are taken.”
Carl smirked, chewing his lower lip in thought. “The ‘Mall’ you say? Interesting . . . Go ahead and take that personal day. I’ll have your assignment waiting when you get back. Don’t worry–you won’t have to pick from the bag.” His smile showed a few too many teeth for my comfort, so I dodged past him out the door.
I returned the next day to find Mary-Kate and Ashley: Magical Mystery Mall sitting on my desk with a sticky note on the jewel case reading, “I’ve got a Japanese/English dictionary too, ‘chinpo’.”
Well, kuso . . .
Mary-Kate and Ashley: Magical Mystery Mall was nothing like what I expected, although to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect beyond ‘game aimed at tween girls’. My previous experience with this type of game was Barbie Explorer, a mostly competent Tomb Raider clone. Rather than a single game with a single style of play, 2000’s Magical Mystery Mall (developed by n-space and published by Acclaim) is a collection of mini-games meant to entertain for short periods of time instead of providing 80 hours of cut-scenes, dialog, and character development. The twins’ shopping spree goes awry when they purchase a pair of friendship charms from a fortune teller who warns them never to join the necklaces together lest bad things happen. When you’re a teenager and an adult tells you not to do something, of course, the first thing you’re going to do is defy authority: Mary-Kate and Ashley connect the charms, and BLAMMO! Time stops, the exits seal up, and it looks like the pair are about to live out their own Dawn of the Dead fantasy minus all the zombies. Then they realize six stores (and the information kiosk) remain open for business. Five of these stores hold magical gems that must be added to the necklace; once Mary-Kate and Ashley have all five, the spell will be broken and they can finish their shopping spree.
Fash is looking for models and photographers to create the spread for their next sensational show. My job was to pick an underage girl, dress her from head to toe in outfits of my choosing, then take pictures while she modeled on the catwalk, and I’m pretty sure my name’s now on a pedophile watch list for writing that sentence. [You’re welcome. –Carl] I comfort myself with the weight of the first magical gemstone in my pocket.
Music Nation needs a killer music video at the top of the charts. All I had to do was pick from a variety of dance moves choreographed by Darrin Henson, work them together into a routine for either Ashley or Mary-Kate to perform, then swap out the game disc for a music CD of my choosing and watch the routine unfold to the beat of my own tunes. In hindsight, having Mary-Kate rock out to Stan Bush’s “The Touch” from The Transformers: The Movie soundtrack is unlikely to help my ‘please take me off the pedophile watch list’ case. At least I have the second gem as consolation.
Just Say Snow charged me with outfitting a girl with the proper gear and sending her on a downhill snowboard race against an opponent in a best-of-three competition to determine who rules the powder. Having used Mary-Kate in the past two events, I could tell Ashley was feeling jealous and ignored so I put her on the slopes. Her mood improved considerably as I helped her collect special snowflakes so she could buy new boards to race with. It took some time, and more than a few face-plants, but finally the third stone was mine.
Lizzie’s Lunch nearly broke me. When I’m not serving up word salads here at RGM, I work in retail. Playing a game where my job is to help the girls deliver food to a bunch of impatient, overbearing knob connoisseurs is ‘fun’ the same way as explaining to the nurse practitioner that I had no idea how that Rubik’s Cube got stuck there. I suffered through five shifts of this crap, on roller skates no less, in order to finally earn enough money and tips to acquire the fourth jewel.
My final assignment loomed before me at Catch A Wave, the place where all the boys hang out. With Mary-Kate and Ashley as my assistants, I set out to immortalize the two cutest boys in the world with the lens of my camera while they playfully duck behind the scenery and play keep-away with their youthful good looks. I was nothing if not persistent and finally had the pictures I needed to secure the fifth magic jewel and break the curse.
Unfortunately, I will never know how things turned out for the twins. The police are not buying my story about doing all of this for the sake of writing about a video game. My trial is set for February 1st. Donations for my legal expenses can be sent via Paypal.
This is not over, Carl. There will be blood.