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This is the sequel to last year's 'My Sims', which I played to completion on the Wii. Completing the game was largely due to an obsessive personality trait, as by the end it was really annoying - you had to practically rebuild the whole town in five different ways in order to get all the different Sim characters to appear.
The crux of both games is collecting 'essences' around the world, and these are used in various ways as building blocks for houses and furniture items. You can find essences growing on trees, or you can mine for them, prospect and dig them up, or fish for them.
My Sims Kingdom builds on the essence collecting idea, and adds more steps into it - so now rather than just building the house/restaurant and its furniture, first you have to unlock a scroll which gives your wand special powers to build particular items. So, the way the essences work is different, but the premise is the same: collect essences and build stuff.
There are essences to be gained from relationships with the other Sim characters in the Kingdom, too, but this still seems to be a minor part of the game, and you have to follow a set line of questioning in order to get the characters to do what you want them to, so there doesn't seem to be much choice in how the relationships go anyway.
When we first opened the game in our household it was a fight to nab the three memory slots.
The storyline in the second game is more complex, with different islands to unlock, and more variety of special items being awarded throughout the game, but to get these - guess what? You have to collect essences. And do what the Sims tell you. Most of the time you can't even choose the order in which to do things, you just have to do them in the order that will make the game work.
My Sims Kingdom looks the same as the first game, sounds the same as the first game, and a lot of the characters are the same, too. Most of the essences are the same, with a few new ones. The way you find essences is also, um, the same.
When we first opened the game in our household it was a fight to nab the three memory slots. Suspecting that the game would be as boring as the first one, I suggested that we all work on one game, but the kids weren't having any of it, and they have argued over whose turn it is to play ever since. I think the fact that you are basically told what to do, so you can't go wrong, as it's a linear game, appeals to them, and it is a very easy game to play.
Having said that, we struggled sometimes on the building screens (as we used to with the first game) as sometimes the building blocks just don't do what you are trying to get them to do, or you can't get the right viewpoint - or, worse still, your 'helper' Sims, who follow you around everywhere, get in the way and stand where you are trying to build things!
The children enjoy a bit of friendly competition between one another, to see who has unlocked which island first, or completed which scroll or building task first, but this is usually just a measure of who had the most spare time, as there is almost no skill involved - only in remembering where you find which essence. They also enjoy watching one another play, as the story is quite appealing on a cartoony sort of a level.
I suspect the game is a much better experience on DS, since you could play it while sitting in front of the telly.
However, my own verdict isn't so good. After a couple of hours of play (once I finally got my turn!) I found myself wishing that I could move another TV into the room I was in, so that I could play the game and have something to entertain myself with at the same time, and that says it all. I probably will play it until I've found everything and unlocked everything, because there is part of me that enjoys collecting things and unlocking things, but it is a monotonous, tedious process.
I suspect the game is a much better experience on DS, since you could play it while sitting in front of the telly. I don't think that's much of a compliment, really. I also suspect that the touchscreen controls might make the building screens easier to use than the Wii-mote.
If you want a nice, easy, cartoon-style game for your kids to play you'd be better off waiting for Animal Crossing - at least that will have an intelligent level underneath it, whereas this just doesn't. Your 5 year old might be able to play it but they will find the constant fishing, mining, prospecting and digging for essences so tedious that you will have to do it for them. And you'll soon get bored too.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: