One of my oldest memories is of a time when my sister wouldn’t let my Ghostbusters action figures bust ghosts in her Barbie doll house. The exclusion was my only major exposure to the toy.

I did watch the hit 2023 movie, which I enjoyed. I think it was a fun idea to focus on the generational impacts the toy had on women rather than try to contrive some sort of hero’s journey out of it. Wait… it was a hero’s journey! That structure shows up in the strangest places.

Anyway, that’s not the reason I bought 1993’s Barbie Super Model. I did it because I’m still recovering from one of the worst games I’ve ever played. I need some comforting shovelware. Gosh, did I get it.

Barbie Super Model Barbie dreaming about vehicular homocide.
Screenshot by Destructoid

If you’re a supermodel, what’s your super power?

This may surprise you, but I am not a supermodel. I know very little about fashion in general. If I’m not going anywhere special on a given day, I’m usually wearing one of a variety of colors of the same tank top and a pair of jeans. I only really learned to match colors and patterns as a teenager, and it’s something I still have a shaky understanding of.

Barbie is a supermodel, on top of being an astronaut and a veterinarian. She’s been invited to compete in “the National Super Model Competition,” which seems like a strange sport but probably actually exists. To compete, she has to travel the country and memorize things. “A super model has to look her super best all the time. You never know when a photographer is going to take your picture!” Barbie says in the instruction manual.

Gee, Barbie, that sounds time-consuming and exhausting. Wouldn’t you rather just order in and play Streets of Rage all evening?

Barbie passing on the center of the road straight into an intersection.
Screenshot by Destructoid

Don’t you tell me to smile

I wasn’t really sure how you’d make a game about being a supermodel, but suddenly, my mind is flooded with ideas. Most of them are more in line with the Princess Maker series, but Barbie Super Model is more like Paperboy if it constantly interrupted you with quizzes.

A level starts off with Barbie making her way through a location, going toward the right-side of the screen. As you drive her pink Ferrari down Hollywood Boulevard, weaving through traffic like a self-centered cannonball, you eventually come across a handbag lying in the road. Like any woman would, you drive up to it to see if it’s designer.

You’re instead presented with a magazine cover with Barbie on it. She’s wearing some outfit, and it’s your job to memorize exactly what it looks like. You’re then put in a change room and need to put together that same outfit as accurately as you can. You first slide Barbie behind a privacy screen, and she then appears about an hour later in a different garb. These range from lavish dresses to what I’m pretty sure is the outfit the Beastie Boys wore in the Intergalactic Planetary music video. You change the three main colors of the outfit and then get to see how poorly you did.

Then it’s back to reckless driving. You continue imperiling pedestrians until everything suddenly stops, and you’re taken into a studio to practice your, uh, posing routine. Your catwalking? I don’t know. You need to guide Barbie along a path and press the correct button for each of the four nodes on it. Once again, this is memorization more than anything. You just need to remember the walking code.

Barbie dressed as one of the Beastie Boys maybe.
Screenshot by Destructoid

A supermodel’s super memory

Keep it in mind, as you speed back down Hollywood Boulevard back to the left side of the screen. At about the halfway point, you see a camera on the ground. Run it over! It takes you to yet another magazine cover, which depicts Barbie in a hat. Once more, memorize it within the half-second it remains on screen. You then need to replicate the hat she was wearing, the earrings she accessorized with, and the color of her lipstick, eyeshadow, and nails.

Then it’s back to driving until you’re abruptly dropped on the catwalk. Remember the code from when you were in the practice studio? Now’s the time to copy that. From memory.

You’re then given your score, and you’re sent to your next destination. You find yourself rollerskating in Hawaii. It plays exactly like the Ferrari sequence but with less chance of vehicular manslaughter.

Then you do it again while walking in Vail (Colorado, apparently).

Then you do it again in New York.

And then you’re done. That’s the whole game. By the time this article is posted, I will have spent more time writing, editing, and preparing it than I did actually playing the game. I completed the game twice. And then there was also my first attempt, where I got to Vail and died because I had trouble judging the trajectory of rogue snowballs and slipped on the ice repeatedly. This is all on the highest difficulty, I should add, because there are only two. The second one says you’re a “Junior Model,” and I am way more capable of memorization than a mere junior.

Barbie on the Catwalk
Screenshot by Destructoid

Don’t give up, kid

I find it really amusing that so much of Barbie Super Model comes down to memorization. Isn’t a sharp memory what all little girls dream of? But what really tickles me is that it actually manages to create an interesting challenge from trying to remember images and sequences you saw mere moments ago. The fact that it gives you the runway sequence to remember, then forces you through another travel sequence interrupted by yet another memory game, is actually a compelling challenge. I mean, assuming that you don’t just write down what the sequence is.

You get scored based on how well you perform in the various mini-games and how many bonus pickups you grab along the way. Shockingly, there’s actually a score threshold to whether or not you win the game. Yeah, there’s a bad ending that encourages you not to give up on your dreams of super modelry and to try again. Me? I only got the good ending. I have the impeccable memory of a supermodel.

I only know the bad ending even exists because, while researching the game, I heard it mentioned in passing. It sounded so bizarre that I had to look further into it and discovered someone speedrunning the game to get the bad ending, completing it in less than four minutes.

Barbie flat on her butt
Screenshot by Destructoid

Don’t ask me, I’m just a girl

Hi-Tech Expressions is the publisher behind Barbie Super Model, and that logo is still burned into my mind from playing the DOS Mega Man games. Tahoe Software Productions is credited as developer, but according to MobyGames, Bonsai Entertainment also did work on it. I can confirm this because Bonsai’s site is still up, and while the company still seems active on mobile platforms, they obviously haven’t updated their website since the early 2000s. I love this so much. It’s like opening up a time capsule to a simpler time.

Wait, what the hell is this:

Zeram maybe
Image via Bonsai Entertainment

It’s running in Windows 3.x, but I can’t find any evidence of a game called “Zeram.” It has a suspended ceiling with fluorescent lights and what looks to be a tile floor, but the walls next to the protagonist depict store facades. It’s incredible. I feel like I need to play it. Maybe I should email the company.

Anyway, back on topic. Barbie Super Model is, unsurprisingly, mere shovelware. At this point, that can practically be considered as praise coming from me since at least it wasn’t torturous to play. The only friction I hit while playing the game was, ironically, when I kept slipping on ice, but I’d argue that Barbie’s immense cushion of hair would have protected her from any head injuries. That required me to restart the game exactly once, which, as I mentioned, is maybe 15 minutes long. Though, obviously it will take most children longer to see the ending, since girls don’t know how to play video games.

Zoey Handley

Staff Writer – Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.

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