The thing that you must never, ever forget about Zoonami’s powerfully loveable hairdresser sim is that it’s a powerfully realistic hairdresser sim, too. Okay, maybe ‘realism’ is the wrong term for a game starring a chatty radish. Let’s try exacting instead: Bonsai Barber is exacting.
Magic water bottle aside, there’s something singularly tense about Bonsai Barber’s snipping and shaping, you see. Partly, it’s because it’s all so tangible: that comb really conveys a sense of bristly weight as you part twigs, while the shaver buzzes through brittle leaves in a manner that seems to reference the barely-controlled aggression of a real-world hedge strimmer. There’s more than that, though: there’s the constant, nuanced feedback from your vegetable victims sat in the raised chair, there’s the real-time fluctuations of the scoring, bringing a touch of the stock market to your salon, and there’s the pressure that comes from a shop filled with impatient clients waiting in line. That sweetcorn is getting impatient! Hurry up!
There’s the feel of the controls, too: uncommonly precise for a Wii game, if you ask me. I’m blessed with a congenital hand tremor, for example, and – yep – there it is reflected in my scissorwork as the blades judder nervously around the edges of a haircut template, each snip taking me closer to disaster. I could never keep a drawing within the lines in a colouring book when I was a kid. Now that I’m an adult – and a make-believe barber – I can never really give Reg Wedge the hairstyle that he truly deserves, either. (I make up for it, though, with all that time spent just combing his gorgeous locks back and forth. Do I ever.)
So maybe realism is the right word for Bonsai Barber after all. Or believability, at least. I believe in my invariably shaky barbershop performances in Zoonami’s game far more than COD makes me believe in my skills as a soldier, or than Hot Pursuit convinces me I could cut it as a speed cop.
And that, in turn, only renders the scope for improvement all the more intoxicating. Mangle a cut today, and when I check in again after a week or two, my vegetable victims will be back for more. Maybe then I won’t mangle them quite so badly. Maybe.
Bonsai Barber is available for WiiWare right now, and if you don’t like it, it’s over between us and you can have your stupid ring back.