Reviewed: October 2, 2007
Released: September 18, 2007
It seems like every time we turn around, EA has found some new angle in which to milk its stalwart Sims franchise. From its early days as a city-simulator, to its more recent history as a life-simulator, the Sims has consistently driven people to be more concerned about financial success and happiness in their virtual life than they have been in their actual life.
The Wii saw its first Sims game last year with the multiplatform release of The Sims 2: Pets. This time around, the Wii gets a Nintendo-exclusive release of MySims (also available for the DS), which takes a less-intensive view on resource management, and results in a kid-friendly experience that is somewhat like a low-cal blend of Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon.
MySims takes a markedly kid-friendly approach to the Sims franchise, forgoing most of the trademark bathroom duties and kitchen detail in favor of light farm work and Lego-style building tasks. The main job your particular Wii character will have to perform is to supply a solid stream of woodworking projects to appease the needy residents of your self-proclaimed Wiitopia.
The game starts by allowing the gamer to design his or her character using a rich assortment of body types, hairstyles, and clothing fashions. Once a character has been decided upon, the game quickly drops the character in troubled town that is in desperate need of new residents.
The first hour of the game acts as an introduction, with the Mayor of the town introducing the gamer to the concepts of constructing homes and buildings, growing and collecting fruit and flower-based essence, and fabricating wooden set pieces out of the character’s workshop. It is best to pay attention to this first hour, as the majority of the game’s tasks will require one or more of those skills to succeed.
The entirety of the game centers on making the town more attractive to future settlers. This can be achieved in a number of unique ways. The easiest way to bring new people is by renovating existing structures to make them look more appealing inside and out. This is performed using Lego-styled set pieces, which can be manipulated about each structure using the Wiimote as a pointer and the nunchuck attachment as the manipulator. Items can be picked up, rotated, and placed in a point-and-click manner.
External jobs give a finite plot of land with which to stack the building block pieces and lawn ornaments. From this outer shell, the game interpolates an indoor layout in which furniture can be added and arranged and walls can be painted.
The second goal is maintain a cheerful vibe amongst the existing townspeople, by helping them complete household chores, surprising them with handmade gifts, or by simply spreading around hugs.
If this all sounds too cute and cushy for your liking, then MySims probably isn’t going to be worth your time – the term “feel-good” doesn’t even start to describe the mushy-wushy gigglefest that is MySims. Of course it is possible to turn that all on its ear and dish out a dose of negative energy, but when the goal is to be as nice as possible there really is no reason to ever attempt to do so.
The controls are quite simple to pick up on, but they sometimes become a bit too fidgety during the building sequences, often not responding properly to the necessary forward and back movements. While it can be a tad frustrating during the home building sequences, it can be downright infuriating during the woodworking sections, when pieces won’t lie where they should.
The game also has some difficulty explaining itself well, especially regarding the use and collection of essences. The game does not do a good job detailing the importance of collecting the fruit and flower-based items (which require planting, watering, fertilizing and harvesting), and what exactly you are to do with them. I couldn’t tell you how much time I wasted trying to figure out why my first gift of a podium and three apples would not be accepted by the Mayor, until I realized the “three apples” referred to an apple-essence paint job (on three blocks) and not three apples in hand. There are a few other nebulous moments that will leave gamers scratching their collective heads, but none are too complex or frustrating.
As corny and shallow as the gameplay sounds, there is definite enjoyment to be had in the overall simplicity of MySims. My six-year-old daughter has spent countless hours planting trees, growing essence and cutting lumber and never tires of the game. I myself have whiled away an hour or more simply constructing freeform wooden statues to place about the land. The game never puts on too much pressure, and doles out new items and areas at a pace just steady enough to keep the gamer interested.
MySims won’t win any awards for Wii visuals, but the game does carry a certain sense of charm that really makes it very comfortable to work with. The game areas might be dotted with carbon copy set pieces and texture maps, but the overall look of the bigheaded characters gives the game an almost anime-styled appearance that is sure to appeal to the younger set.
The building pieces range from Victorian to blocky modern, and can be mixed and matched to suit. The end result is a but cartoony and simplistic, but creative gamers will find a lot of enjoyment making hybrid homes that look like a Victorian Painted Lady commissioned by the offices of Frank Lloyd Wright.
The game comes through a bit blocky in its 480p widescreen support, but the distant isometric view keeps defects at a minimum. Zooming in and out is possible, but can prove to be a bit sketchy when trying to hit a mid-range sweet spot to provide the best detail, without sacrificing range. This is especially important during the building and woodworking segments, where zooming (and panning, for that matter) becomes necessary for the accurate placement of pieces.
Simlish and looping background music makes up the entirety of the sound design in MySims. Well, that’s not entirely true, there are a few sound effects strewn about – birds chirping, axe blows to a tree trunk, even a pile of 2x4’s falling off a table – but that is pretty much all you get. Still, this is a Sims game, and Sims games have never been lauded for their aural presentation.
For those not in the know, Simlish is the fictional language of the Sims that simply uses emotive expressions and noises to define the onscreen happenings. Much like the Lego Star Wars games, a questioning character might simply utter the word “Huh?” and then upon figuring out the answer will utter “oh!”. Simlish gets a bit more complex than the Lego games do, with full-on nonsensical (but strangely understandable) conversations. The overall effect is quite cute, and doesn’t weigh the gamer down with a bunch of unneeded details.
Most hardcore Sims loyalists will laugh at the shallow simplicity of MySims. With no bathroom duties to attend to, no kitchen fires to protect against, and no ambulance-driver job to report to, MySims is definitely geared towards the younger crowd.
It’s only too bad that the kids have been playing games like Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon for so many years now, because MySims doesn’t quite cut the mustard that those games have already produced.
Still, there is a lot of fun to be had in MySims, whether it just be playing around with the set pieces, building the countless woodworking projects, or helping the neighbors in the enjoyable set of mini-games.
MySims is a great introduction to the Resource Management genre for younger kids, but experienced adults will find the game a bit vanilla for their tastes. They can only harvest so many essence fruits and build so many shelving units before they will be longing to feed, clothe, and shower their hipper, cooler, adult Sims.
Really, the biggest enemy of the MySims is its pacing; the open-ended nature of the game allows for hours and hours of busy work, but at the cost of any real excitement.