Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 04/05/11

People in your pants

The Sims quickly became a smash hit and one of the biggest video game franchises of all time on the PC. While the series has made many attempts at handhelds and consoles, they have never matched the success of the console iterations. Well, The Sims 3 has debuted alongside Nintendo’s latest handheld, is it a runaway hit like the PC versions, or is it another mediocre Sims spin-off? Or worse?

The Sims 3 feels like Sims-lite. While it would have been very possible for EA to create a game identical in features and mechanics as The Sims 2 on the 3DS, they chose to go the easy route. Even the first Sims game years and years ago allowed multiple neighborhoods and families and child-rearing. The Sims 3 on the 3DS takes away all of these features. It strips The Sims formula down to the very core, and the result is an unsatisfying game plagued with issues, but there are a few redeeming qualities.

One of those redeeming qualities is the well-designed interface, the clever use of the touch screen, and the decent visuals. While the game certainly doesn’t push the 3DS to its limits graphically, it’s still nice and the eyes with a solid framerate. The 3D effect, unfortunately, is practically non-existent for this game outside of the menus, which is a major problem for a system that hinges itself on the use of 3D visuals. I turned the 3D on and off for this game repeatedly, but really noticed no difference. There wasn’t a whole lot of depth to be had, and there were no pop-out effects either. The only part of the game that looked impressive with the 3D turned on was during the menus, which had a sort of layering effect seen in Super Street Fighter IV: 3D edition, and a nice amount of depth.

But what about that user interface I talked about. The game is very user-friendly, probably because it’s so damn simple in design. Instead of creating a bunch of different families and managing the lives of multiple people in a single household, players only need to take care of one Sim, and later a Sim that they can get married to. Neighbors will still stop by to be interacted with, and all the basic functions of any Sims game still goes on like getting a job, improving skills, building houses, buying furniture, and all that jazz. While it’s disappointing that all the big features and improvements the series has made during its evolution have been tossed aside in favor of nearly mind-numbing simplicity, newcomers to the series and gamers looking for a quick and easy fix of Sims action may appreciate the simplicity of 3DS version of The Sims 3.

I really liked how EA utilized the touch screen and the 3DS’s dual screens. The top screen is used to show a close-up view of what’s going on in the life of your Sim, while the bottom screen always shows a top-down view for ease of use. Using an appliance or getting your Sim to move somewhere is as simple as tapping on the touch screen, plus the view can be altered easily with the touch screen controls as well. Instead of having to juggle between the two different views of zoomed-in and zoomed-out, this clever use of the dual screens makes for a much smoother experience.

Unfortunately, that’s really all the good stuff I can say about The Sims 3. The rest of the game is either painfully mediocre or worse. The simple approach to the Sims formula is good for some people, but those looking for a deeper experience will get burned. Beyond taking care of your single Sim and moving them through life, there really isn’t anything to get excited about. There’s a “karma powers” gimmick that gives players the ability to cause natural disasters and other tragedies for their Sim to deal with by doing well in the game, but what’s the point in destroying something you have to work quite hard to build and maintain?

Another gimmick that falls flat on its face is this new gameplay feature that allows users to take a picture of their face using the 3DS’s cameras and then have the game create a Sim based on those facial features. I found this feature to be broken, really. The game seemed to make random Sims that looked nothing like the people being photographed. To be quite honest, the Mii Creator that comes built in with the 3DS manages to make more accurate representations of how people look, which is shameful on the part of EA.

The usual Sim babble makes up the audio, and that’s really all that needs to be said about that. The game sounds loud enough I suppose, and that really covers everything. There’s a StreetPass feature where if you walk by another person with your 3DS in sleep mode (and with StreetPass turned on), it’s possible to have other peoples’ Sims join your neighborhood in a similar manner to how Miis can interact using the same technology. And then there’s helping your Sim through life in the most basic, simple ways imaginable.

The Sims 3 on the 3DS is pathetic considering what the system is capable of. The amount gameplay features that were cut out of this iteration of The Sims 3 astounds me, not to mention the loading times are painfully long. I’d liken The Sims 3 on the 3DS to a Ferrari that only has seats in it. It’s stripped down to its essentials, but had the potential to be great. Hopefully EA learns from its mistakes and delivers a quality Sims game to have on the go sooner rather than later.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Product Release: The Sims 3 (US, 03/22/11)

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