Over the last few days, I’ve been sequestered in a hotel room roughly 300 feet from EA’s Redwood City campus. The obvious assumption is that I’m here to “acquire” copies of Rock Band via a Hollywood-style heist with a wacky cast of characters including Mos Def and John Lithgow, but unfortunately that’s not true, or even remotely believable. No, ladies and gentlemen, instead I’ve been summoned down here by The House That Trip Built to have a little romantic time with MySims, the upcoming Wii-ification of EA’s long running cash-cow The Sims, and a title that many have already written off as merely more teat-manipulation on behalf of a company known for rigorously working a teat.
So how did it turn out? Is it a viable new avenue for the series crafted with love, patience and a reverence for the historical iterations, or is this the kiddy equivalent of that football game they’re ever so proud of? Hit the jump for answers, pictures and a creepy anecdote about my affections for certain NPCs.
MySims is a title that drags the extreme customization options of The Sims to a home console and mashes them together with an RPG-lite quest system similar to that found in Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon. Of course, the similarities to AC and HM don’t end there as even the cutesypoo art style is reminiscent of those two titles’ adorable Japanese look. The developers were the first to point out the similarities, but they assured us all that there is much more to MySims than there is to either of the aforementioned games.
The most striking difference is in the item creation system. In most games an item is a static object that at best, talks to you from time to time or offers you a place to sit, but in MySims most objects are amalgamations of a series of tiny blocks decorted for maximum appeal. Complex, right? Thankfully the dev team took a cue from LEGO and designed everything to be interlocking with visible points of contact where they adhere to each other. This makes a system that could easily have wandered off into the area of extremely frustrating into the sort of thing even really stupid children could easily grasp.
The art direction is a mixed bag. Don’t get me wrong, I find the game intensely adorable and as charming as Paul Newman after two shots of whiskey, but I think this same cuteness is going to be the title’s biggest detriment. Those of us who can look past what is traditionally considered a “kiddy” style can have a lot of fun with the game, but a good deal of the gaming community will find that the bright colors and characters who you want to hug and buy tiny cakes for questions their masculinity in the same way that frilly dresses on guys or kittens inside of shoeboxes might. I often proselytize towards those lost sheep of the glories of the world of cute, but in the end there’s just no pleasing those people.
There are a few issues with the game as well. Even on the final build there are occasional momentary freezes and the loading time when entering or exiting a building — while reasonable at first — gets more annoying as you have to enter more and more buildings while travelling around town. Also, as I told the developers, this game absolutely screams for downloadable content. They agreed with me and said they would like to do it in future versions of the title, but that no one has really been able to do it properly on the Wii so far. While that’s true, being the first to do so would have won them all gold stars from me.
I’m almost done here, but before I go I want to highlight one specifically awesome feature of the game: the NPCs. In past Sims titles, the people you interacted with felt almost generic due to their art style and the fact that they were functionally just normal people, whereas in MySims the dramatic art style and overly stylized emotives make every NPC an important character with their own background, likes, dislikes and adorable outfit. Roxie Road — the girl in the bee costume in the gallery below — epitomizes this intense affection you develop for the NPCs and while they’ve removed the ability to create romantic relationships, the combination of her intense cuteness, her sunny demeanor and her quirky OCD-ness instantly made me want to befriend her in-game and draw hearts around her name on the cover of my Trapper Keeper. Perhaps the best compliment one can pay this game is that it makes you care about who you’re meeting in a way that previous Sims titles didn’t, which lead to graphic torture and murder of virtual characters — a feature also not found in MySims.
I’m not going to hyperbolize and say MySims is on the same level as recent releases like BioShock — a favorite amongst the devs I spoke to — but it does what it set out to do with aplomb. For those who found The Sims too generic and dull, MySims adds a ton of personality to the old formula and provides direction to those who couldn’t dig The Sims simply because there were no handrails to guide them through the sandbox. Combine that with the customization system that will suck away hours of your life, and MySims provides a unique gaming experience on a system that (at least in theory) is known for its unique experiences, and even with the minor issues I stated above I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an alternative to your standard blood-soaked shooters.