MySims (Wii) review
"If you found Animal Crossing to be a hugely addictive work of genius and cuteness – or even if you just thought it was pretty good – and you’d like to have a similar experience on the Wii, MySims will supply that experience. It’s not as deep or longevous as Animal Crossing, but the basic setup is the same (uncharitably you could say it’s a ripoff) and so are many gameplay details. "
If you found Animal Crossing to be a hugely addictive work of genius and cuteness – or even if you just thought it was pretty good – and you’d like to have a similar experience on the Wii, MySims will supply that experience. It’s not as deep or longevous as Animal Crossing, but the basic setup is the same (uncharitably you could say it’s a ripoff) and so are many gameplay details.
The game is officially a child of the Sims line, but it is a significantly cuter and less stressful offshoot which removes all of the regular Sims hard slog, or what folks like myself would say was everything they disliked about The Sims. First, in visual terms, it’s out with the semi-realism and in with little Animal Crossing style bobble-headed folk. What I found most refreshing about this change is that the Simlish language suddenly sounds appropriate and delightful when spoken by these Chibi-heads, while in all the other Sims games it just annoyed the crap out of me. Or maybe I just never got over the ‘you need to make people go to the toilet’ thing. If you’re the kind of (SICK?!) person who enjoys having to manually direct characters to relieve themselves, to eat, etc., you will miss those aspects in MySims. The worst thing that can happen in this game is that some townie ends up not liking you. This situation can easily be remedied by lavishing that person with gifts, or by clicking on ‘Be Kind’ a lot.
In MySims, you take on the role of the newly arrived boy, girl, man or woman in a picturesque town. The place used to be thriving, but now isn’t, and Mayor Rosalyn wants you to use your special ‘building powers’ to make the town over and start bringing it to social life again. The place has only a handful of residents to begin with and plenty of empty lots. These townie Sims will ask you to build various bits of furniture and décor for them in your workshop, supplying you with the blueprints. Installing the décor makes your pals happier and increases the town’s star rating. The more stars you have, the more Sims are attracted to live in the town, and the more blueprints and new town environments you’ll have access to.
There are six personality/aesthetic types in the game, and each Sim is a fan of two of them, and might hate a third. The types are tasty, fun, cute, spooky, studious and geeky. Spooky basically means Goth, so if there was ever any doubt that the schticks of goths have been happily co-opted by the mainstream, MySims erases it with ten thousand magnets. The spooky characters dress fashionably in purple and black, hold seances in their houses and say things like, ‘Luckily, my flowers always die.‘ They also cry, feel sad or get scared when you are kind to them.
The world of MySims is laced with Essences, each of which belongs to one of the personality types, and injecting these essences into the objects you build (really, painting the objects with them) is the way to impart a particular character to the object which will appeal to the matching personality type. So red apples you pluck from a tree are obviously Tasty. Dead wood from a tree you’ve cut down is Spooky, yellow blossoms are Cute, a clownfish you pull out of the lake is Fun, etc. Essences can be shaken out of trees, dug out of the ground after using a metal detector and collected in numerous other curious ways you’ll discover as the game progresses.
The serendipity of day-to-day life in your town is where most of the cuteness and surprise lies in MySims. You’ll find your friends doing all kinds of stuff if you just wander around – throwing parties of various kinds, reading, cooking, eating, dancing, having picnics, playing videogames – and you can join them in pretty much any activity you see them doing. The expressiveness of the characters’ movements and their jibber-jabber voices as they have their fun is incredibly charming. Occasionally you can obtain rare essences by doing these things, but mostly they’re just for fun. The extent to which you’ll dig this stuff is a measure of how much you personally buy into and care about the game's world, or don’t, because when it comes down to it, the tasks that will actually progress your game are extremely repetitive.
The principal one is building furniture and decor for folks. This takes place in a 3D gridded workspace where you manipulate building blocks using the Wiimote. Blueprints provide a snap-to grid and ideas, but you can build outside the blueprint so long as you still cover the indicated key spots. The trouble is that the controls here are pretty dodgy. Blocks can wobble all around the spot you want them to go, or end up ten feet behind where you wanted them to go and on the floor as well, due to tricks of perspective. There’s a potential creative element in making objects, but with the sheer amount of building expected of you and the awkwardness of it, it’s almost inevitable that you will stop exercising creativity and just resort to doing the minimum amount of work necessary, using the snap-to grid and then hastening from the building screen as fast as possible.
The other major area of toil is in cultivating sufficient essences to be able to satisfy your Sims’ requests. They say stuff like: ‘I’ll need a hot tub with forty crab essences!‘ which will then prompt you to go in for a serious bout of fishing down at the wharf. Planting essences to grow essence-sporting trees works the same way the fruit did in Animal Crossing, though the trees here grow in about six real minutes and are far less fragile. While essence gathering can get tedious, especially where the metal detector is concerned, it also has that compulsive resource management quality about it. The one that has kept pulling me back to this game night after night.
In terms of overall consequence, you can’t really mess up in MySims, and your relations with the Sims don’t carry much weight. When playing Animal Crossing, it was possible to feel sad when one of your favourite animals just up and left you, knowing there was no guarantee you’d ever see them again. That game exhibited some independence from your control, of the kind that a book or film does, which leads to emotional effect. In MySims, you choose whom to invite to town, where they will live, what their house will look like and how it will be decorated. You can move or evict anyone you like without consequence, and the same goes for being amusingly mean to someone just for the sake of collecting the emotion based essences which pop out of their heads.
The shallowness could be regarded as a missed opportunity or gameplay weakness, but then again, MySims clearly isn’t aiming for gaming profundity. This title very much suits a cute-seeking Wii crowd, younger players who could do without the headaches of grave consequence in their longer lasting games, or just anyone who enjoys the concentrated, animated videogame presentation of all our human foibles. The game fares best in the last category. If you don’t invest enough imagination in the experience, you’re going to have the sensation that all you’re doing is building hundreds of pieces of furniture. I still believe that if you enjoyed Animal Crossing, you will enjoy this, and catch a whiff of the previous game’s spirit.
Community review by bloomer (June 27, 2008)
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