Reviewed: November 15, 2010
Released: October 26, 2010
More than two years have passed since I reviewed the last DS The Sims titleóThe Sims 2 Apartment Petsóand at that time, I must admit that I wasnít terribly impressed. Understandably, itís not easy to get a game of the scale and style of the original Sims series on the PC to translate well to a gaming console, let alone a handheld. This time around, though, The Sims 3 for the Nintendo DS does a surprisingly respectable job, all things considered.|
With The Sims 3, DS gamers are perhaps for the first time able to experience something at least somewhat akin to what PC gamers have been playing. Granted, itís still significantly limited in comparison, and it would be unfair to expect otherwise for very practical reasons, but this iteration is leaps and bounds better than the last handheld Sims game and, finally, provides a life simulator on the DS with some amount of depth.
Like the original The Sims 3, the DS version gives players the ability to control the virtual life of a customizable Sim and to dictate that Simís career, personal development, and social activities. There are definitely some differences, if youíre familiar with the PC version. For instance, the game only allows three households total, you can only create one Sim per household to begin with, and the maximum household size is two Sims. This means your Sims canít have families, but given that the DS Sims 3 has an Everyone (rather than Teen) rating, your Sims canít WooHoo to reproduce, either. As far as Iíve seen, itís also impossible for your Sims to die, and they donít get fat or age.
The Create-A-Sim process is also fairly similar, providing a number of skin color, hairstyle and color, eye color, and clothing options. Facial features can also be further modified to some extent, and, as with the other ports of Sims 3, you can choose from a number of personality traits that influence your Simís behavior. DS Sims have the usual needs (Hunger, Energy, Bladder, Fun, Social, and Hygiene) and can choose to learn any of seven skills (Athletic, Charisma, Cooking, Fishing, Handiness, Logic, and Painting). There are also six classic Sims career paths to choose from (Science, Culinary, Criminal, Law Enforcement, Professional Sports, and Business).
The town of Beacon Bay fortunately includes a number of houses that you can move your Sim into, and your home can be later remodeled in basic ways: you can knock down and build walls, change the flooring and wallpaper, and buy new furniture and appliances. Unlike in the PC version, you wonít be able to change the color and pattern of the furniture (or your Simís clothing, for that matter), but the game comes with an adequate selection of pre-made items, given the scope of this handheld version.
Beacon Bay has most of the usual amenities from the original Sims 3, too, including a stadium, police station, city hall, school, bistro, diner, grocery store, lighthouse, military base, business building, science facility, and theater. Although the town isnít completely seamless as it is on the PCóyou canít just zoom out from your house to see the entire townóyou enter a town view once you leave your home lot, and some public open spaces (like the park) are seamlessly and immediately available in town mode. Overall, the implementation is a decent simulacrum of The Sims 3ís distinctive seamless town experience and provides a similar gameplay feel.
One perhaps easily overlooked feature that won points with me was the interface itself, which was intelligently designed to take advantage of the DSí capabilities and format. The touch screen serves as the main point of interface, and the stylus can be generally used like a mouse to click on menu buttons, Sims, and game-world objects. Meanwhile, the designers were smart to assign the direction pad and four buttons to camera maneuvers, such as rotating, zooming, and panning, so that adjusting the camera is as smoothly and intuitively accomplished as possible. The top two trigger buttons are used to scroll through informational panels displayed on the top screen, which often explains selected icons, like your Simsí moodlets and wishes. The result is a simple, easy-to-learn, and functional interface that uses icons and text that are easily readable on a small screen.
I have to admit that Sims 3 on the DS was a bit difficult for me to get used to, coming from the PC experience, but it plays decently well. Sims, as before, can befriend, woo, and marry Sims, as well as make enemies. Opportunity events pop up once in a while and are on a relatively short timer: they must usually be completed within 5-10 Sim hours, which is much less time than given in the PC game, and the deadlines can be difficult to meet.
The handheld game also introduces Karma Powers (similar to the Lifetime Rewards in the PC version) unlocked through play that give your Sims certain benefits or disadvantages. Each power must be found in a scavenger hunt-like mini-game involving tracking down a particular object in town, and tracking them down can be a challenging diversion.
At a suggested retail price of $29.99, The Sims 3 is priced like a typical DS game and will probably keep someone entertained for quite a few hours. The graphics and sound are, as to be expected, not nearly on the level of those youíd find on the consoles or computer, but theyíre modestly sufficient, given the scale of the game. It also seems generally bug-free from my run-through of the game, except that it sometimes freezes when I try to return to the main menu to select another household after saving the active game.
All in all, The Sims 3 for the DS is probably the most worthwhile handheld port of the series yet, and gamers who want to play the Sims but donít have a game-worthy computer or stationary console system can finally enjoy some of the proper Sims experience. If youíve already got the heftier PC or console versions, though, I wouldnít bother unless youíre really dying to Sim on the go.