Destructoid review: MySims

Recently, EA’s farm was blessed with a birth. A hybrid animal — one part Sims, one part Animal Crossing, one part Strawberry ShortcakeMySims emerged from the barn, took a deep breath of country air and embarked on its first unsteady steps.

Does it trip over its own legs or gallop like the majestic centaur? Hit the jump to find out.

MySims (Wii)
Developed by EA Redwood Shores

Released September 18, 2007 

Nex

In the past, The Sims — and forefathers SimCity, SimEarth and SimMarxistDystopia — relied on unparalleled levels of customizability to give gamers titles they could theoretically play indefinitely. Obviously people enjoy being able to endlessly build, rebuild and mold the world in their own image, and The Sims has been a huge success. MySims, however, combines that ego-stroking God-complex-enabling gameplay with the sort of cutesy mission structure you might find in a Harvest Moon title. There’s no way to die, no one ever explodes, and the world is never destroyed by aliens, but until you bring that adorable bee girl a fridge, you won’t ever earn enough arbitrary ‘essence points’ to advance in the game.

Speaking of essences, they represent the game’s currency. Each of the different essences can be found in a ridiculous number of iterations from the ‘spooky’ essence embodied by pumpkins and decrepit trees to the ‘tasty’ essence demonstrated in wallpaper festooned with adorable gingerbread men. These differing essences can be gathered in a number of ways as well: from conversations with Sims, from overburdened tree limbs, or from running fetchquests for your adorable fellow townies. Your earned essences can then be used to create fancy new decorating pieces you can offer to fellow Sims in exchange for their affections; think of it as PlaySkool’s My First Hooker only without the color-coded VD.
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Why would you want these adorable balls of cute to love you? As you impress Sims and rebuild their shattered town, you unlock new areas in which you can earn even more essences.  Also, as the town begins to look even better, you draw in more Sims on which you can practice your virtual charmin’ skills. Sadly, that’s the entirety of the quest system. There’s no big payoff at the end and aside from feeling mildly pleased at having made fictional characters happy, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Then again, Sims titles have always been about the journey, and not the destination, and like its forebears, that’s where MySims shines. The ability to create furniture literally brick by brick is intensely addictive in exactly the same way your childhood LEGO set was. Of course, the similarities to those Dutch blocks was almost certainly planned from the outset, and is easily one of the most engrossing and well-implemented parts of the game. You WILL spend as much time cobbling together refrigerators and couches as you will talking to the town’s inhabitants.

Control in MySims is managed entirely through the Wiimote and nunchaku. Thankfully EA opted to go with the less-is-more route, so there will be no point at which you’re tearing your rotator cuff during gameplay. All the movements are simple, easy motions that can be accomplished while seated. While my rheumatic joints appreciated this, the learning curve when first attempting to put together a complex chair or desk is the sort of thing that might drive young children to fits of rage.

Unfortunately, the game is marred by technical issues. MySims occasionally hiccups seemingly randomly and while this behavior doesn’t occur often enough to destroy one’s enjoyment, it does suck you out of the title from time to time. Also, unlike previous Sims games, the exterior customization of buildings is not reflected on the interior. While you can make a two tiered Wright-ian nature-meets-technology loft, the insides of the place will rely entirely on whichever Sim you choose to place there. Every iteration of Roxie Road’s ice cream shop will look like every other, and while it isn’t a gamebreaker, it is vaguely annoying.

MySims falls far short of perfect, but it’s still the sort of thing you could get lost in for days. Given more time to mature, I think the title could have been the new official look for future Sims games — thanks to the exceedingly adorable character designs — but as it stands, it’s merely an above-average Wii title.

Score: 7.0 

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Leigh Alexander

I must agree with Nex that MySims is impossibly, unforgivably cute. When you’re kind to other Sims, you get “happy” essences, with which you can paint or decorate – and I quickly accumulated tons of them, simply because one could watch those adorable little people chattering, hugging, playing and tickling each other all day.

Paint with essences and the patterns that cover the walls and floors reflect the essences used. Does your pal like apples? Give them apple wallpaper! Apple carpet! Wall-to-wall apple! Sure, it looks horrendous – those tender aesthetes who love Sims games as practice for their doctoral thesis in interior design will be a bit frustrated, since you generally must make things look hideously tacky to please the other Sims. But man, it’s all so cute, as if every happy little face were designed expressly to make me hate myself for hating this game.

More likely, the tooth-rotting sweetness of it all is an insidious ploy. The adorable little people are trying to distract me from the fact that MySims is really little more than furniture slavery. If you’re acclimated to, say, an Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon kind of thing, where you’re given several different areas you can balance at your leisure, this can be tough to get used to. The first time a Sim sent me on an errand to perform the maddening, eye-squinting, wrist-wriggling, hair-pulling exercise in mutant depth perception that is furniture-building in MySims, I said, okay, all right; guess this isn’t going to be my favorite part of this game. When she asked me to make some more, I figured, fine, guess I won’t be doing many favors for this chick. Seriously, building furniture in MySims is like playing with Legos – the fingernail-chipping, can’t-take-apart-the-flat-ones, can’t-find-a-head-for-the-policeman, what-the-hell-is-this-piece-for part, not the fun part.
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And they just kept asking me to keep at it. New folk moved into town – oh, still more furniture? Hi, nice to meet you! Let me guess – furniture! It quickly dawned on me that there really isn’t much else. Everyone kept telling me they needed me to save the town – but really, they needed me to be their servant of carpentry.

Nex did mention the occasional hiccups and lags – add to that absolutely intolerable loading time. Whenever you enter or leave any building or area, it’s a good time to put the Wii remote down and go get a drink, or go to the bathroom, paint your toenails, or read a novel. Any game set in a player-governed world must have a sense of fluidity from one area to the next, or it just feels disjointed. Even if it’s not a particularly sophisticated place, that continuity needs to be there – and when you’ve got such long lapses every time you’ve gotta go in or out of somewhere, that’s a real problem. What’s the fun in building houses if you dread going in them for the wait?

The building houses is fun. Shaking trees, prospecting or fishing for essences provides some temporarily engaging, lightweight entertainment. The Sims themselves are adorable, with their little outfits and Sim-babble. The array of clothing you can pick and purchase for yourself is impressive, and it’s fun to be able to customize your Sim’s voice. But a Sims game without a sense of world, without the ability to customize architecture (as Nex says, it’s irritating that the inside of your house will be a featureless slab no matter how many rooms you add on the outside), and with that drive-you-crazy furniture building at the core of gameplay? It can barely be called Sims Lite. It isn’t even a Sims game at all, really.

Caveat – might be great for kids. In fact, I’m not so sure that isn’t the intended audience, and that it isn’t inappropriate for me to consider this game from the perspective of you guys. The stuff I find tedious might be simple and engaging for young folk. And MySims is so cute. Did I mention how cute it is? I mean, will you just please get it so that the little people don’t feel bad about themselves? I mean it. Do what I did; hug the package and tell it, “Aw, I didn’t mean it. You’re… you’re not that bad. You’re a good game; really, you are.” Then sigh, and put it in the back of the cabinet with Dino Crisis or The Bouncer or whatever else you probably won’t ever play again, and then feel really, really bad.

Score: 6.5

Final Score: 6.75
Verdict: Rent it, if you’ve got a God complex

Earnest Cavalli
I'm Nex. I used to work here but my love of cash led me to take a gig with Wired. I still keep an eye on the 'toid, but to see what I'm really up to, you should either hit up my Vox or go have a look at the Wired media empire.