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The Urbz: Sims in the City (DS) artwork

The Urbz: Sims in the City (DS) review

"It didn’t take The Sims Hot Date/Vacation/Makin’ Magic/Bustin’ Out/Livin’ Large/Unleashed for me to realize that Maxis had tapped the well of originality. With all the busty expansion packs and “deluxe” versions of the original game available, I find it somewhat surprising that The Urbz: Sims in the City has even met a release date. After a while, you’d think a developer could no longer include any more content within a life-simulator. However, Maxis has decidedly taken a leap towards a story-dr..."

It didn’t take The Sims Hot Date/Vacation/Makin’ Magic/Bustin’ Out/Livin’ Large/Unleashed for me to realize that Maxis had tapped the well of originality. With all the busty expansion packs and “deluxe” versions of the original game available, I find it somewhat surprising that The Urbz: Sims in the City has even met a release date. After a while, you’d think a developer could no longer include any more content within a life-simulator. However, Maxis has decidedly taken a leap towards a story-driven Sims that stands its own among the somewhat stale expansions. I’m accustomed to the “urban” look Maxis had acquired within recent years, and it comes as no surprise to me that my Sim is now living on the streets, trying to make a reputation for itself.

Enter early 2000. I am sitting alone at home, micro-managing several houses, assuring myself that my appliances are all in order, taking care of the hygiene and appetite of numerous fictional families. It’s a lonely existence. Though I can invite friends over, the cast is limited, and the relationships I could build are both tedious, and not worth following through with. I never became attached to a single Sims character back then. Nothing about the game (excluding the house-construction) even appealed to my hardened senses, as a modern gamer. Carrying all the mannerisms that I can expect from myself, and my companions in every day life, the realism packed into the original game was nearly terrifying for me. I had always wanted to take on an entity, and control their life, but I didn’t want to have to micro-manage like I do in my own life.

That’s where The Urbz: Sims in the City hits a rough spot. Throughout the game your character will respond to your commands depending on his/her “motives”. Motives are the trivial things in life, including: Hunger, Hygiene, Energy, Social, Comfort, Bladder, Fun, and Room. I found this system to be intuitive, if not demanding. You’re for the most part going to be running around filling all eight of your Sim’s motive bars, until the virtual being is content. Think of a Sim as a pet, the ideas stem from Tamagotchi, and its ilk. In fact, exclusive to the DS version is “Splicer Island”, where you can create five of your own pets, to house and take care of. You can of course chose to ignore the motives, but progressing in the game, maintaining relationships, and keeping a job may prove difficult if you allow yourself to do that.

For the “average or casual gamer” there’s a lot to like about The Urbz: Sims in the City. If you’ve played Animal Crossing you’ll have a fairly good idea of what the game’s premise is all about. Running errands for fellow citizens is optional, moving forward in the game is always plausible, but isn’t always the best choice, and there’s plenty of things to do on the side while you slowly work your way up the corporate (and social) ladder. It’s easy to become side-tracked by the hustle and bustle of every day urban living. This lively community proves to be consistent, interesting, and full of stereotypes. Once you’ve come into the possession of your own property, you can decorate, and fill it with everyday appliances which will help keep your motives in check. Interior improvement on the DS feels a little limited, with only a few items available to spread throughout your already crowded homestead.

If you’re looking for those home-managing qualities, then The Sims 2 (for the DS) is on the horizon, and should satisfy that hunger. However, the core of The Urbz’s gameplay revolves around social relationships, and creating a meaningful reputation for your Sim. The reputation aspect of the game branches over four paths. The four social-classes shown in The Urbz are: The Artsies, The Nerdies, The Streeties, and The Richies. For each of these classes, you’ll have to fulfill a certain degree of prestige, and knowledge before gaining a higher ranking. To reach the higher end of a “Rep Group”, you’ll have to entertain the group’s members, and essentially mold your character around them.

When interacting with fellow Sims (it’s a motive, and is required for some missions) you’ll need to become slightly cynical, and always aware. Much like a real-life relationship, you have to make sure to touch on topics of interest, and keep yourself in high opinion, or feel their scorn. Conversations are navigated on the lower-touch-screen, which is far more convenient than having to scroll through the options (see the GBA version). This also allows for the top-screen to properly display their facial reactions to what you’ve said throughout the conversation, and view a relationship meter which gauges your affiliation on a scale (minimum -100, maximum 100). Once you’ve built a relationship reaching “100 points”, then you can be sure that you’re a part of this Sim’s life. They’ll give you presents, kiss you, and possibly even move in with you, if your pad’s “hip enough”.

View of your character remains isometric throughout. This isn’t always the most convenient view, and can make the areas somewhat difficult to navigate. This also allows for plenty of unneeded confusion. For example: you may have to circle around a trampoline several times and face it from various directions before a arrow indicating that it’s an interactive object will even appear. This is especially annoying when you can’t exactly tell what’s what, with such tiny on-screen models. Every character appears to be somewhat blocky, and they all have this tendency to crowd doorways, and get in your way at one point or another. Everything’s given a polished-over look from the Game Boy Advance version, and the visuals are a lot clearer-less headaches.

The soundtrack has been urbanized to an extent where it feels a little silly, and extreme. Your Sim likes to moan, and make strange noises, but the dialogue is thankfully all in text. Staying true to the original, you still hear the random sputtering of a language I’d assume to be French. The actual voices are still sub-par for the DS, and are transferred directly from the GBA game. What’s left is a sloppy product that’s still passable, but is more enjoyable on mute.

I’d like to recommend The Urbz: Sims in the City, I really would! But there are a few glaring faults that left me detached, and unable to replay the game after my first venture. Firstly, The Sims is far too close to real life. Keeping your Sim content, and his/her motives raised is a job in itself. Secondly, beyond caring for your Sim, you have to participate in mini-games that feel less-than-rewarding at times, and are more of a chore then they really should be. “But they’re supposed to be jobs!”, you say. That’s fine and all, but when I buy a game, I expect to enjoy myself, not live someone’s life for them. Also, the micro-management was a primary reason for the game’s length, which comes off as artificial, to me. This is where I admit to Sims life being too hard, and ask to move back in with my parents!

Overall: The Urbz: Sims in the City is a longer-than-average game for the Nintendo DS, that should keep you entertained until the next batch of Nintendo games roll out.


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Community review by Calvin (July 23, 2005)

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