On paper EA’s MySims seems like the perfect game concept for the Nintendo DS. The machine has already proven it can play host to vibrant ‘virtual worlds’ thanks to Nintendo’s best selling Animal Crossing: Wild World. The enduring allure of the ‘Sims’ brand is also a massive plus point and the appeal of the game is even more considerable when you look at the moves EA has made to produce a more ‘kiddy-friendly’ version of their virtual social simulator.
Almost from the outset MySims pays homage to Animal Crossing. The premise of being a new guy in a new town is near identical and the presentation is very similar. Many of the tasks forced upon the player are direct lifts from the aforementioned Nintendo smash hit (planting flowers, anyone?). Thankfully there’s enough here to ensure that MySims doesn’t end up looking like a straight copy, with some interesting mini games helping to pass the time.
The aim of the game is to restore a run-down island to its former glory. This is achieved by wandering around and generally being a first-class citizen. Many of the characters you meet are a little down in the dumps and require some TLC in order to bring a smile back to their cute, super-deformed faces. During conversation you’re expected to select the correct icon in order to keep the chat flowing, but when the options are ‘be nice’ or ‘be nasty’ it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to work out which is the one to choose. It’s a crying shame that you’re not allowed to select actual replies at this point – this section of the game is terribly basic and not especially engaging.
Once you’ve run a few errands and enticed more settlers to the island with your sterling community work, the game beings to pick up pace considerably. As the populace increases steadily, so too do the options available to the player. Mini games are unlocked gradually and provide a mild diversion from the game proper. They’re simple affairs, not requiring much more than a few button presses to complete, but they serve as a nice aside. Don’t expect them to hold your attention for long, though.
The construction aspect of MySims on the Wii was a real selling point and helped elevate the game to levels it would otherwise have failed to attain. Sadly this intriguing feature has been removed from the DS edition. You still possess a modicum of modification options but it’s a far cry from the system seen in the home console version. It’s possibly a little naive to expect such an aspect to be carried over to the portable edition but that doesn’t prevent the inevitable disappointment you’ll feel if you happen to own both versions. If you’ve not experienced the Wii instalment then this is obviously less of an issue.
Graphically everything is attractive and colourful, but somewhat charmless. You can tell the developers have struggled to condense the wonderfully expressive characters seen in the Wii version into the DS hardware. Models are generally low-poly and rough looking, but on the whole you certainly can’t accuse MySims of being abhorrently ugly. The music is cheery and befitting of the visuals, but becomes annoying after a few minutes play.
MySims is ultimately crippled by a lack of depth and content. Within the space of a couple of days you will have witnessed pretty much all the game has to offer and there’s precious little incentive to keep playing after this point. Whereas Animal Crossing succeeded in crafting a living, breathing world that almost felt like it existed regardless of whether or not your choose to step into it, MySims is far less immersive and convincing. It doesn’t trick you into thinking the townspeople have lives of their own to lead – something Animal Crossing was able to do terrifyingly well.
However, having said all that it’s worth noting that MySims is undoubtedly aimed at younger gamers who will be less critical of such shortcomings. Those who found the depth of Animal Crossing: Wild World to be simply too daunting will feel more comfortable here; it’s just a shame that EA couldn’t have fleshed MySims out a little more so it didn’t divulge all its secrets in such a short space of time.