Reviewed: October 28, 2008
Released: October 28, 2008
First released for the Nintendo DS and Wii systems, MySims is a cutesy sandbox spin-off of Maxis and Electronic Arts’ successful The Sims franchise. Like the Wii version of the game, the PC MySims game involves your Sim character moving into a rundown, zero-star town that could use some serious revitalizing. Naturally, at the request of the town’s mayor, it becomes your Sim’s job to rebuild and restore the town to its former five-star glory.
As it’s based on the Sims franchise, MySims expectedly has some features similar to the original Sims games: you begin by creating a highly customizable Sim character, have the opportunity to build and decorate homes and other structures, develop relationships with various NPC Sims through interacting with them throughout the game, and guide your Sim to success. Nevertheless, MySims is definitely a completely different animal from the original Sims games and is designed to reach more casual—and likely younger—gamers that enjoy colorful, cute graphics, as well as a more structured game that’s easy to pick up.
The game begins with the creation of your custom Sim. Sim creation doesn’t differentiate between males and females, but otherwise, there are a lot of hairstyles and hair colors, skin tones, eyes, mouths, outfits, glasses, facial decorations, and voice sets to choose from. If you change your mind later, aspects of your Sim’s appearance can also be changed later using a mirror or dresser item.
Unlike in the original Sims games, however, you won’t need to address your Sim’s mundane everyday needs like hunger or toilet activities. Instead, the focus is on building houses and furniture, both for yourself and for other Sims in town. Frankly, if you’ve played Animal Crossing, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of what MySims is like, except you’ll be dealing with Sims instead of animals, and you’ll be constructing all the items yourself. Depending on the kind of gamer you are, this might be a point of attraction or a turn off.
MySims provides a linear plot to drive things along, as the town will need to be rebuilt step by step, and various Sim characters—like the pizza chef, the mad scientist, the martial artist, and even ordinary townies—will only be attracted to move in as you make your neighbors happy, usually by helping them with various tasks. These tasks usually involve building one or more furniture items, which you manually put together yourself.
Furniture building is a frequently repeated process that involves selecting pieces out of an array of available building blocks, rotating those pieces as needed, and setting them in place. Like a 3D Tangram puzzle, it’s probably a great educational activity for training spatial reasoning, and it’s really not as hard as it sounds: required pieces are highlighted in green, and when pieces are selected, the game lets you know which pieces fit where in a ghosted-out 3D diagram of the object to be built. Plus, you can improvise on your creations by adding or changing nonessential pieces of the object, allowing for a great amount of customization. Considering that each item in the game needs to be hand-built by you, item creation makes up a large part of the game and is likely to be the main deciding factor as to whether you’ll enjoy or dislike the game.
In any case, there’s a lot to unlock and keep gamers occupied. Not only are there many item blueprints to collect and characters to meet, there are multiple areas that only become accessible as you earn more stars for your town. Each area has a different atmosphere and provides access to new Essences—items used to customize otherwise plain objects, walls, and floors with unique patterns and paint colors. These Essences can be collected from virtually every activity in the game, such as interacting with other Sims, fishing, gathering flowers and fruit from trees, and digging in the ground.
Moreover, not only do certain building tasks require certain Essences, different Essences attract and repel Sims based on their interests, a detail that makes item building slightly more interesting. Additionally, items, walls, and floors can all be edited after the fact, and because money isn’t even mentioned in MySims, there’s no limit to how many times you make changes as long as you have the Essences you need. Be prepared to spend a lot of time finding and gathering Essences, though.
The PC version of MySims also offers an online feature that isn’t in the Wii version, a “Shared Garden” (either your own or a friend’s) that you can travel to from the train station in order to meet with MySims-playing pals, chat, swap items (including buildings and furniture), and show off your personal online garden. Each player’s Shared Garden has a selection of Essences not available in the single-player game, providing encouragement for players to visit others’ online gardens.
Interactions with other players here works much like they do in most MMOs and includes a decent selection of emotes and private messaging. To access the Shared Garden, you’ll need an EA account, and only one registration is available for each copy of the game (each serial number), so be careful when buying used copies of the game since online access won’t be possible if a previous owner already used up that registration.
It may not push the limits of PC gaming graphics, but MySims is graphically pleasant enough, and the minimalist graphics suit the game. The graphics are simple and cute, with stubby-legged Sim characters that have the childlike look of Japanese super-deformed artwork, somewhat reminiscent of Animal Crossing and Lego men. The look is very similar to graphics you’d find in many family-friendly Nintendo games – cheerfully colorful and cleanly rendered with simple, rounded shapes. Similarly, the characters are smoothly and charmingly animated. The dizzying camera movement, though, could be a bit better, and I surprisingly experienced some occasional performance issues despite the simplistic graphics.
The pleasantly upbeat soundtrack and amusingly nonsensical Simlish dialogue will be familiar to players who have played other Sims games, a reminder that MySims is still a branch on the Sims tree, even if it looks and plays differently.
Retailing for $29.99 upon release, MySims isn’t too damaging to the pocketbook and really is a pretty decent game for people who enjoy Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, and other cutesy sandbox titles, as well as children just getting into gaming. There’s a lot of content to unlock, as well as a long list of Essences to collect and additional areas to explore, so it could potentially keep an interested player coming back for a while.
In short, MySims isn’t really much like a traditional Sims game at all. There are no needs meters to watch, no life aspirations to fulfill, no career ladder to climb, no close social relationships to cultivate, and no genetics to combine—you’ll probably want to stick to the main Sims line if you’re looking for any of that. The simplified gameplay, however, is certainly more accessible and the content optimized for more casual and younger audiences.
Most of the game revolves around building objects and collecting Essences, though, so if the idea of spending most of your game time rotating blocks and picking up resources doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I’d go ahead and pass. For players that enjoy Animal Crossing-type sandbox games, though, by all means, give this one a shot. It could also be a great title for introducing The Sims or PC gaming to a young player, as it’s both child-friendly and educational, while allowing players to stay social by connecting with and trading with friends.