Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Developer: EA Redwood
Publisher: EA
Release Date: Sept. 18, 2007
System: Wii (reviewed), DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: The Sims, but cuter.

0:01 The EA logo flashes by, followed by some super-cute, super-rounded Sims pushing the game title into place, smiling and waving all the while. Oh my are they endearing.

A black-haired girl in pigtails and a sushi chef with a sushi hat are disturbed from their activities when houses start falling from the sky and morphing at random. It's madness! No, it's just another day for the Sims... everyone seems pretty happy with their state of affairs.

0:03 I name the town Wiiville, for obvious reasons. Mayor Rosalyn P. Marshall tells me the story of the town... that I just created. Hmm. It used to be full of life and happy, unique Sims thanks to a super-powered freak who built things using "Essences." But then he left and the Sims, atrophied after generations of not having to lift a finger, were left in squalor. People started to move away. But a new person who can use essences! Who could it be? I have a guess...

Build-a-Sim time. There are an impressive number of options for everything from hairstyle to dimples, but you have to cycle through them one by one. You can even choose a voice and pitch. One worry -- the loading is kind of jerky and the frame rate gets jumps up and down... and the game hasn't really even started yet!

0:07 I name my buck-toothed, blonde-haired, dark-skinned, bewhiskered boy Ug Lee, for obvious reasons.

0:09 Ug walks himself to town hall to meet the mayor. I get some slantwise views of the town, which doesn't look too worse for wear. Everything is extremely brightly colored, even if some of the buildings are falling apart.

0:10 So the Sims speak in the usual Pidgin Simlish, but also their words appear as text in boxes on the bottom of the screen. Odd. Mayor Rosalyn: "Oh I love paperwork so much!" It takes all kinds I guess. Even wholly unrealistic kinds.

0:11 The mayor apparently has nothing better to do then lead me to my new house, so I follow her out. "Oh, no! There's no house here! How embarrassing..." And the award for understatement of the year goes to... "Well, you're a good builder, so let's try building now." Jeez... first you don't have a house for me, now you make me build it on my own! Talk about presumptuous!

The loading hasn't been too bad so far, but it's relatively persistent... maybe five seconds or so every two minutes or so, every time the scene changes. It's getting a bit annoying.

0:16 The house-building tools are pretty intuitive -- pick up a bock and slide it into place with the remote, rotate it with the control pad. It's a bit weird building a house out of huge blocks instead of walls and the like. I finish up a pretty basic block house, but before I can check out my handiwork, though, the mayor drags me off to find out about "essences."

0:18 I really like the dual Nunchuk/pointer controls here. One hand shakes a tree with the remote, the other moves my Sim to collect the fallen fruit with the control stick. Easy as pie.

0:20 "Splash in fountain" should be an option in every game. EVEN GAMES WITHOUT FOUNTAINS!

0:21 The map has the nice feature of letting you mark a location and guiding you to it with an on-screen arrow. Nice touch for a guy with no sense of direction like me.

0:22 I finally get to inspect the inside of my house. It's sparsely decorated with a mirror, a bed, a dresser and a kitchenette for one. What am I, Amish?

The "be mean" option causes me to bop the mayor in the back of the head. I pick up the teardrop shaped "sad" essence she drops and add it too my bag. That's right... I thrive on other people's sadness! MWAHAHAHAHA!

0:26 I've got to build my own workshop, too? What's wrong with this cheap-ass town?

0:29 I do the workshop up right, with skylights, a picket fence, a lawn gnome, and a pink flamingo on the multi-tiered roof. It's a thing of beauty. I could play with this building designer all day.

0:33 I'm building a chair in my workshop now. Everything snaps into place so nicely. You can stick to the 3D blueprints or go nuts and build outside them. I make a monstrosity of a chair that looks more like four chairs stuck together. That's right. I've gone MAD WITH POWER!

0:35 It's twilight now as we walk to place the Franken-chair in my house. While I'm at it, I place my bed in the living room, which gives my house a 1% "tasty" rating. Placing an apple on the floor raises it to 2%. Who knew?

0:38 Mayor: "Brilliant! That's how to redecorate your house." Er... did you see the apple on the floor? Or the bed in the living room?

0:39 That's it for the tutorial for now. The mayor tells me to talk to people about town and gives me blueprints to make some more stuff. I put on my finest cowboy outfit and get ready to go out on the town!

0:41 ...after a quick nap that is. Unlike other Sims games., there seems to be no biological need for sleep. So what's the point? Just to watch my Sim nap? Cuz that's a little creepy.

0:42 Ug wakes with a start and I get two "scary" essences for my nightmarish trouble. So I guess it was a good dream?

0:44 Mini-game time. I go fishing for essences in the pond outside my house. Just point at the bubbles, hit B and pull. I catch four rainbow trout, six clown fish and two tires. Ha!

0:47 Another mini-game... prospecting. This one just involves walking around until the metal detector goes off and tells me to dig. I find some cement blocks and some eight balls. Groovy.

0:48 In the hotel, Buddy the bellhop busts out a Game Boy. He seems annoyed when I interrupt him to talk. Then he tells me is to get see the mayor. Boring.

0:49 I practice being "nice" and "mean" on buddy. Oh man, the animations are SO CUTE. So far I've blown him a kiss, patted him on the back, and socked him in the nose, the last one leading to a huge, cartoony dust cloud fight (which the bellhop won). Buddy's reaction to all three are priceless!

0:51 An on-screen tip keeps telling me to go to see the mayor, so I guess I'd better do that. But first, let's remodel the hotel! Yay!

0:53 I reduce the hotel to a mere shadow of its former self -- just a sliver of a building. Yet when I go in it's just as spacious as ever. What is this, a Harry Potter book?

0:54 Always take time to smell the daisies. AND THEN DESTROY THEM BY STOMPING WITH YOUR HUGE BOOTS. BWAHAHAH!

0:55 Poppy's flower shop is nice, but I can't seem to... oh, what's the word... BUY FLOWERS in it. Seriously... what's the point of a flower shop that won't sell you flowers?

0:57 The way to the ranch is blocked by rocks that I can't get through. "Maybe if you had the right tool." Nice to see the town will get bigger later.

0:58 "Nekkam bazarka... blerp!" the Mayor tells me. This roughly translates to "Build me a podium, jackass! And make sure it has four red apples on it! Or else!" Roughly. Nowhere in there does she say what's in it for me.

1:00 Between playing slapfight with the mayor, splashing in the fountain, and planting apple trees, I seem to have forgotten all about that task. What was it again?

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes
Why? Great interface, open-ended structure and some of the cutest characters I've ever seen.

This review based on a retail copy rented from GameFly.


Kiki said...

So it's Animal Crossing+ for Wii, by EA?

... dear god I'm probably going to buy this!

Shauna Magill said...

I think this looks adorable, but the Wii is so ... unattractive. Sigh. Hopefully it comes out on the PC

Anonymous said...

I think you named him Ug Lee because you love "Salute Your Shorts" on Nickelodeon.