Posted by Stuart Reddick
The Sims franchise enters the animal kingdom
The forest is tranquil. The birds are flying peacefully in the sky and the bears are patrolling the ground. Swans swim swiftly downstream and rabbits hop around in the meadow. What could possibly go wrong in a paradise like this? But wait, the predator levels are increasing in the area, outnumbering its prey. What are you going to do? One of the rabbits is about to be eaten by that predator. Are you going to let the rabbit be killed or are you going to step up to the bat and restore peace and harmony to the environment?
In a nutshell, that is what you do in SimAnimals. Your goal is to make sure that each living organism is in harmony with its environment, and with that comes the responsibility of making sure that the number of predators doesn’t overtake the number of prey. Animals can reproduce during the night to replace the ones who get devoured, but who wants to see cute little rabbits be eaten by its predators!?
In SimAnimals, players take control of a hand icon by pointing the Wii Remote at the screen. You can basically pick up anything using the hand, such as trees, animals and plants. Your objective in each level is to create the perfect environmental paradise possible. By feeding your animals and caring for them, the animals will respect you in return.
The game begins at the end of a forest, near a large, brick house. Before long, you will be out in the wilderness befriending mice, rabbits, and squirrels. By feeding them food, you gain their trust and they will allow you to pet them. Be warned though, petting an animal without acquiring its trust will cause the animal to freak out.
Besides animals, plants and other living organisms need to be cared for. You can pick up plants and plant them somewhere else, as well as get seeds from them so that you can grow even more plants. Plants are also food for herbivores and omnivores, so don’t be surprised if you see that your vegetation has been wiped out.
But for every herbivore and omnivore in your environment, there is also a carnivore. Once those meat-eating beasts start patrolling your land, things can get pretty upsetting. Whenever an animal is eaten by a carnivore or omnivore, a little gravestone appears on the side of the screen, including a picture and name of the victim.
At the top of the screen you can find something called the Happy Bar, which increases when you care for your wildlife properly. To keep the bar full you have to pet and feed your animals and show them that you care for them.
Once you have reached a certain level of happiness, players are able to progress to the next part of the forest. Each level has its own unique objectives to complete, like trying to lure a rabbit home using carrots or making sure that the beavers can build a dam to stop the flow of pollution coming down a stream. None of these objectives are difficult, but they are a little time-consuming.
Despite all the fun I had with SimAnimals, the game has some obvious faults. It suffers from long loading times and the length of the game is too short. In my first play-through, I managed to complete the game in less than five hours. I should probably let you know though that I rushed through the game’s story mode and didn’t bother completing some of the secondary objectives.
Graphically, SimAnimals doesn’t look that great. I appreciate Electronic Arts making the game look cute and cuddly, but at the same time, I wish they had made it look a little more realistic. I should also mention that the backgrounds look rather dull. Nevertheless though, the game does a good job of creating a forest-like area.
At the end of the day, I felt that SimAnimals is a rather unique life simulation game. It may not be as polished as some of Electronic Arts’ other titles, but there is still plenty of fun to be had. In the end though, I felt that an online mode would have benefited the game tremendously, as would a longer story mode. Wouldn’t it have great to visit other people’s forests? Despite its shortcomings though, SimAnimals is still a great game.