I t's been almost 9 months since BlueStub.com reviewed new casual games - We totally burned out of reviewing horrible "match 3" games during that time frame. That having been said, the last year may not have provided massive innovation (see Joel's rant at gamezebo.com here), but it's at least fun to again play some fun new casual games.
Belle's Beauty Boutique (download free trial here) from Grab Games (now Demand Media) is a good example of some reasons to at least hope for progress, although let's not get too excited. It's an extremely fun derivation of Tapper or Diner Dash, as this "service" category is now being defined.
I originally dismissed Belle's for lackluster graphics, and derivative gameplay. Having spent a bunch more time on it, the game is really fun. Basic concept is the usual, you run a beauty salon, and you have lots of different customers showing up with different needs. What I like is a closer-in view of the character, allowing players to feel a little more attached to "Belle". In addition, the different beauty chairs (hairdryer, haircut, nails, etc) start to show interesting characteristics, the user can start to modify the shop as you progress, and the graphics/sound are sparse, but appropriate for the game.
In total, the game just nails it for a casual game audience interested in this beauty metaphor. My guess is the demographics of this game are far lower in age than the typical 35-yr old casual game female player, and that's a good thing for the industry. Now if we can only merge in our latest Meez API, which should really resonate for our users.
Verdict - Go get this beauty salon/Diner Dash right now here
Diner Dash - Flow on the Go - download free trial here