Review: MySims DS

The Sims has evolved into something less casual and inherently more “hardcore,” at least in terms of how much of a timesink it is. EA has taken a direct approach in order to try to rectify this strange situation, as well as reach out to those gamers who are as casual as casual can be who need to game in much smaller, much easier to digest chunks. As Sims games evolve, so do the layers of strategy and planning necessary in order to play the game like an old pro. EA’s MySims brand effectively targets those who find the sim genre appealing but who do not have enough time to learn its intricacies or those without enough time to really sit down and enjoy it.

With Wii, DS, and PC versions available, the MySims brand has expanded to include several different types of games including racers and even mystery in the upcoming MySims Agents. In anticipation of the latter, I’ve spent many hours with the portable MySims for the Nintendo DS. As a gamer who would much rather be fragging or grinding, I must say I was thoroughly surprised with what’s offered in this cutesy, Animal Crossing-esque division of the Sims I grew up with (and drowned, burned, and abused). Unfortunately, you can’t do that with these Sims. What can you do? Spend several valuable hours of your life tinkering about with some of the cutest characters this side of LittleBigPlanet.
sims1[1]Instead of weaving your own story with your own characters who speak that amusingly horrible Simlish and depend on you for basic functions and shelter, the stage is already set for you. As a brand new resident of a small town, you are tasked with transforming the low-rent podunk into a happening “It”-town in order to both attract new visitors and future residents, and as always to keep current residents happy. This is accomplished in a number of different ways: running errands for townsfolk, popularizing several different sports, beautifying the town with plants, trees, and other flowers, and simply being a great member of the community. In order to do so it’s necessary to finish a number of different mini-games, most of which are genuinely interesting diversions such as playing raquetball, planting flowers, making leis, and other random ticks on your in-game to do list. Much like Animal Crossing, which the game borrows heavily from, running around on a regular basis will become second nature. Of course, you will be required to finish the same types of mini games over and over after a while, resulting in gameplay that feels just a bit too much like work and no longer like a fun title to bring with you on the go. Fortunately, you won’t suffer from too many repetitive tasks if you can manage to keep progressing at an expedient pace.
MySims operates within a day and night system that works rather well. If you don’t quite feel like waiting for time to pass, there are convenient beds scattered throughout the town (and in your own humble abode) that may be used to advance time. Several shops and residences are not available between certain timeframes, so using these beds truly is to your advantage.
sims2[1]As you run yourself ragged around the town doing your best to restore its status as a five-star dot on the map, you will eventually unlock several new areas. New areas bring different challenges with them as well as new faces. Unfortunately, interaction with fellow townsfolk is nowhere near as entertaining or silly as in Animal Crossing or in many of the other titles that MySims seems to draw from. Often you’ll hear the exact same phrases repeated multiple times from different citizens, which will grate on the nerves. It would have been interesting to hear different tidbits from in-game acquaintances, though I suppose developers did not find that it was exactly warranted.

Rather than the super-realistic Sims that we have come to know and love, MySims are blobby, 3D people that offer little customization. In that department, the game fails to impress. Still, I should expect as much from a DS port — the alternative Wii title likely offers much more by way of making your Sim completely yours. Your inventory is managed quite similarly to Animal Crossing, and as such if you have enjoyed that game previously you should feel right at home. Decorating your home is much more intuitive than in the latter title, however, with a useful grid that acts as a handy guideline when it comes to placing furniture and various niceties. I appreciated that aspect, as my Evangelion shrine (complete with hand-drawn portraits of the cast) in Animal Crossing suffers from severe design dilemmas.

The road to a five-star town is not easily reached — I have not yet done so at the time of this review though I have spent several hours aiming to do so. Often I find myself wandering around town aimlessly simply to repeat prior mini games. It’s like a compulsion, and one that you should most certainly hope for in any kind of life sim. Though this entry is quite obviously aimed at casual gamers and the younger set, it is not devoid of any of the charm and immersive qualities you would expect from a “real” Sims title. For a DS game this is well worth your money, especially if you’re looking for a simple time-waster that you can pick up and play whenever your schedule dictates, hardcore, casual, or anywhere in between.

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