If thereâs one thing EA has definitely learned by now, itâs that gamers love animals. We love cats and we love dogs. We especially love Laganaphyllis Simnovorii. And Nintendo gamers, they love pets too, if the selling stats for Nintendogs are anything to go by. Even if they look like piĂ±atas, we love them. Animal games are played by gamers and so-called ânon gamersâ alike. Theyâre friendly, accessible, and most importantly, you can leave your kids alone with the animals without worrying they are going to unlock the easter egg to find the part of the game where you kill the prostitute.
The game takes place in the great outdoors, which may have a certain degree of novelty value for hardened gamers. To interact with your animals (the whole point of the game), you drag food to and from your backpack, place it in front of an animal, and watch as the food disappears. Once the animal trusts you a little, you can waggle your Wii pointer over the animal a bit, and, Nintendogs-style, it will roll around as if youâre giving it a tickle. You can also pick it up for a bit of a shake, which represents âplayingâ with the animal. Thatâs essentially the extent of your repertoire.
In addition to patting and feeding animals, you can waggle your Wimote over a tree to knock it down, or waggle your Wimote over flowers to get them to produce a seed. Once the seedâs on the ground you waggle your Wimote over the seed to âplantâ it. Sometimes itâs hard to highlight seeds, especially when they are in the vicinity of other things, like beds of flowers. Keep waggling. Eventually youâll waggle for long enough over the right seed. OK, so Iâm being facetious about the waggling. The controls did leave a lot to be desired in my opinion however.
There is a degree of strategy to the game, that comes with new areas of the world map that you unlock once you do well enough in your current one. Planting seeds, making animals happy, and getting new animals to move in all contribute to the happiness score of your area. Generally youâll find that when you move to the next area youâll be presented with some more challenging objectives to achieve. My favourite was helping a beaver to make a dam (first by making him happy, and then giving him sticks), which then flooded the small river valley and created a lake.
SimAnimals is cute. Cute works. Cute is good. When you make an animal happy, it gets a big red heart that appears over its head. If it likes you, red hearts appear next to your Mii face. (My Mii face is cute too.) Cute will only get you so far, however. As much as I love cute squirrels and deer, birds and beavers, unless Iâm having a meaningful interaction with them, dragging them around on top of various objects (including each other) loses its fun quotient pretty quickly.
Of course, SimAnimals is never going to have the depth or breadth of The Sims 3. Itâs a family game and in that regard, I think it succeeds. The problem is that once you move past the initial learning curve, the strategy basically consists of planting plants, waggling around and keeping your animals happy. Ultimately, while collecting new animals is definitely appealing, and the baby animals are particularly cute, the game was too limited for it to be one that Iâll add to my collection and continue to play. Then again, if you have a special someone in your life with whom youâd like to share some cute animal moments, SimAnimals might just be the ticket.