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Unless you have been away from planet earth for the last 10 years, you undoubtedly have heard of a little franchise from EA called the Sims. What started as a spin off from their main Sim City brand grew in popularity and stature until it swallowed up all other life sim games and became the epitome of vicarious living. Whilst micro-management of these needy individuals or Sims if you will, may not be everyone's cup of tea but has proved the worth of a game with such wide appeal. As has been more recently achieved by Nintendo with the Wii, the Sims was able to open the gaming door to all sorts of people who previously wouldn't have considered themselves gamers.
With this in mind, it was inevitable that EA would want to sail its chief casual gamer franchise onto the wide open waters of the Wii's wide market appeal. Although they couldn't resist porting some existing Sims games to the Wii, they also committed to a proper re-working and re-imagining of their brand to better fit the Wii aesthetic and the so-called, touch generation. After a year or so of development MySims now emerges to be a game that looks to be ideally suited for at least the younger end of the Wii's gaming audience.
MySims is probably the visually striking game to come from the EA stable for the Wii. Other games have concentrated, with a good degree of success, on implementing the Wii controls rather than the Wii look-and-feel. MySims adopts a look that is a sugar coated version of the Mii's. The characters have the clean ident-a-kit feel to them, but with saccharine colours and patterns. Whilst you may not be able to customise the characters as much as the Mii's, there are enough permutations for you to generate a good deal of attachment to your on screen alter ego. Add to this the ability to tailor their Sims-speak babble voice and you have the makings of some super sweet characters.
True to form for a Sims game the interactions between the different characters are as endearing as ever.
The environments again pick up this clipped, cartoony aesthetic. Within this the world is populated with various believable curiosities and artefacts that are simply asking to be push and poked. As you explore your neighbourhood it gains a personality all of its own. This inevitably leads to the various other inhabitants with whom you are sharing your little goldfish bowl world.
True to form for a Sims game the interactions between the different characters are as endearing as ever. As touched on above, the babbling tongues of Sims-speak makes another appearance. This is the intelligent use of what in other games we would call voice work. Here though the voiced sounds are a cross between various languages. Whilst there is no way to make sense of the words spoken, the tone and inflection communicate the sentiment of each sentence. This is a real boon for younger players, who don't have to follow complex dialog or listen to strange accents to understand the on-screen interactions. Rather, they simply get a sense of what is happening from the tone, and respond accordingly.
The whole game seems to have the younger player in mind. At first this seems something of a mistake for the series. Although on reflection you realise that this is not a replacement of the main Sims game, but a division within the franchise. They could have easily called this game My First Sims Game, but I guess the marketing gurus won and the shorter snappier, camel cased title won the day.
This being a Wii game, the controls obviously play quite a substantial part. We were happy that some effort has been spent on simplifying the controls from My Sims Pets on the Wii that were, to be frank, way too complex and over engineered. With the game being built from the ground up with the Wii in mind, the controls make a lot more sense. The Wii-mote is used for pointing and dragging. The Nun-chuck is then used to move your little guy or gal around the screen.
This control combination worked pretty well, although my four year old still struggles to 'get' Wii-mote pointing.
This control combination worked pretty well, although my four year old still struggles to 'get' Wii-mote pointing. We settled for a team approach to the game, I controlled the pointing with the Wii-mote and she ran around with the Nun-chuck. This actually worked pretty well and was a great way to pass a few hours with her, working together to solve puzzles and run errands.
The Wii-mote pointing comes into its own when you are performing some of the Lego-style furniture building tasks and quickly navigating around the screen. This furniture building feature at first seems a little laboured, but after a while turns out to be a pretty ingenious approach. Not only does it provide a great little mini-game, but also creates a good deal of attachment to the different items of furniture in your house. Rather than arriving ready assembled as in the Sims, this is more of an Ikea 'some assembly may be required' approach.
Overall, this is a game that has benefited from a longer germination time than other games on the Wii. The decision to pen a new title rather than continue porting their existing franchise is one that will pay dividends for EA. It does what previously seemed impossible; it manages to further widen the audience of the Sims brand. Now the younger players in our families can share the joy of sculpting an on-screen version of themselves, and live out their child like dreams and fantasises.
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