Should you make them your Sims, too?

Posted on October 2, 2007 at 2:16 am by Eddy Fettig

With the breakthrough series that is The Sims, EA has seen fit to attempt to emulate their success in a new form on the Wii. An adorable art design and a focus on creativity form the bulk of this charming title. The end product is the quirky casual title MySims, a unique "simulator" that places a lot of power in the control of the player; in turn, it sacrifices many of the elements that make The Sims what they are.

The basic premise of MySims revolves around the Sim that the player creates to represent him or her within a cutesy town that once saw better days but now has a dwindling population and many buildings in need of desperate repair. The Sim created at the outset serves as the player's avatar and possesses a special ability to take "essences" from normal objects and transform the world around them, building houses, furniture, and using essences to decorate them. The crux of the game is to build things -- and that's about all there is to the gameplay.

Using player creativity as its core, MySims sets players loose in an organized way; after fixing up a house, a workshop, and completing a couple initial tasks for the current residents, new Sims will progressively appear with new personalities and thus new needs and tastes. Most time spent playing will feel more like work than anything, as harvesting essences from everyday objects and using them to build furniture is the order of the day: every day. Sure, the Sims can be interacted with, but there is little point to this aside from obtaining special essences -- give a Sim a hug and earn "Happy" essences, be mean and receive "Sad" ones, etc. The crucial element of artificial social interaction -- the entire crux of Sims -- is lacking. The quirky and completely adorable interactions Sims will have (as well as their trademark "Sim-speak") breathe life into the cube-headed creatures with plenty of charm to spare. However, they never seem to actually affect anything in the grand scheme of things. Furthermore, the player has no control over any Sims aside from his or her own avatar created at the outset, as every other Sim introduced is a preset person with an already determined appearance and personality.

This evidence concludes that MySims is distinctly lacking in the core aspect of the franchise thus far -- it sounds a lot more like Animal Crossing, doesn't it? Running around a town full of already established characters, performing chores and earning objects to add more flair to the town...Very similar -- in theory, at least. MySims, however, does not keep track of real time in the same manner that Animal Crossing does, meaning that holidays don't exist, and days and nights last only a few minutes. Furthermore, the many side tasks (bugs, fish, fossils) contained in the world of Animal Crossing have all been rolled up into one: essences. Essentially, the title isn't really like Nintendo's town-sim, either. Instead, MySims rests somewhere in between these two concepts and is unable to truly reach its potential.

The main redeeming qualities of MySims are its undeniable charm and focus on creativity. However, the interface's sub par construction sets up unnecessary barriers which hinder its own intended audience from enjoying what it has to offer. For one, if the primary mechanic of MySims is to build objects, then why is it so difficult to do? While experienced gamers will get used to its awkward-feeling setup in a reasonable amount of time, casual players (the intended audience) may struggle with using the pointer with the ridiculous amount of precision needed to craft objects. There are also mounds of unclarity as far as teaching players about the interface for building objects, not to mention that the grid being built upon is based on uneven numbers, meaning that it's near impossible make many things even -- an important aspect of building anything, from furniture to houses.

Finally, many details gamers take for granted seem to have been ignored here: loading times are a common event, occurring much more frequently than would be expected. This game's certainly not pushing the processing power of the system, making it inexcusable to have five-to-ten second loading times cropping up all over, with other briefer loads sprinkled throughout. Frame skips also plague MySims, especially when the sun sets and rises. While these are more aesthetic in nature, it is still quite difficult to believe that this game requires all of the effort that the Wii must put into running it, and they bog the pace down, making the chores performed feel even more tedious than they can be to begin with. When developers fail to clean up these messy aspects of game design, it can feel as if the product was rushed out the door.