MySims, released on the Nintendo DS and Wii, is EA Gamesâ€™ latest attempt to bring The Sims franchise to a new audience. While the Wii game looks to be reasonably well-rounded, the DS version has been touted as â€˜the perfect portable companionâ€™. Itâ€™s a subtle statement that implies that because the DS is a portable platform, we can settle for less. Iâ€™m not so sure I agree: the Animal Crossing port to the DS from the GameCube is a perfect example of how a degree of complexity can be retained, even on a â€˜lighterâ€™ platform. But Iâ€™m digressing here.
MySims for the DS is all about reviving a town thatâ€™s down on its luck. Just about everyone has moved away, and there are only a few lonely losers (oops, I mean hopeful optimists) still holding the fort. Lucky for them, youâ€™ve just arrived in town, and thanks to a few strategic beautifying techniques employed early in the game, the tourists start to trickle in.
Thatâ€™s what the game is about, really: entertaining tourists, making friends with the locals, and beautifying the town and the surrounding areas. For the most part this is achieved by a series of mini-games, including one where you have to guess the right type of conversation in order to improve a touristâ€™s mood. If you succeed, you earn some coin; if not, well, youâ€™re outta luck there. As you achieve certain milestones (measured in â€˜starsâ€™), large-scale events occur, such as the opening of a new section of the map.
The mini-games themselves are pretty varied and fun - if you like mini-games. Thereâ€™s racquetball, parasailing, fishing, lei-makingâ€¦ ten different games in all. Some of these have a point â€“ for example, if you achieve a certain rating in parasailing, it becomes more popular as people hear about it, and consequently increases tourist numbers in that area. At the same time, as with all mini-games, the fun only lasts for so long, and the fact you only get one â€˜goâ€™ at a time leads to no end of frustration (for example, if you want to fish, you need to select the â€˜go fishingâ€™ icon, then select â€˜yesâ€™ when you are asked â€˜do you want to go fishing?â€™, then select the fishing rod from your inventory, and read the instructions (even if you have done it before), before you are finally able to cast your lure. To make it even more frustrating, the controls arenâ€™t that responsive, meaning you can often wind up with nothing for your efforts, at which point you have to start all over again, or ultimately give up). Compared to Animal Crossing, where you simply equip your rod and then press a button to cast, MySims seems to employ needless fussing when really people just want to actually get on with the game.
Other comparisons to Animal Crossing are also obvious, unfortunately to the gameâ€™s detriment. The look and feel is of a slightly-boxier looking AC world, and even the furniture items look to be ported directly out of this title, as are the fish silhouettes. Like AC, MySimsâ€™ intent is to focus on the customisation of your little town, but the number and variety of items are so small that even collecting things gets old fast. Your character is given a house early on in the game, which you are then able to decorate to your heartâ€™s content â€“ but thereâ€™s no real reason for its existence: you can sleep in any bed in the game, and sleeping only serves to make the time go by faster. The complexity and wacky unpredictability of Animal Crossing is what is missing from MySims, which leaves you only withâ€¦repetitive conversations with random tourists that change four times a day (but who can always be found in the same place every time), no real lasting relationships with any of the locals (they say the same thing again and again, ad nauseum), and clunky mini-games (the racquetball game and fishing in particular).
Iâ€™ve not had the chance to play the Wii version of this game, but from what I have read, it offers a far more complex and well thought-out environment. That said, I am disappointed with the latest trend, where what looks to be a great game on another platform is an ultimate disappointment on the DS. The fact that the DS is a portable console is no excuse for a lack of complexity; AC as well as the GameBoy Advance version of Harvest Moon are testaments to this â€“ and they didnâ€™t have to resort to mini-games to achieve greatness.