Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Redwood Shores
Release Date: October 28, 2008
I'll preface this review by saying that I haven't played much of the original MySims title on the Wii, and while I have played more than enough Sims at some point in my life, it's been a while since I sat down with the series. Thankfully, though, MySims Kingdom for the Wii doesn't require much working knowledge with either title (or titles in the proper Sims universe, for that matter). It manages to stand alone quite well, offering up a pretty solid entry into the Sims world while using a building mechanic and story-based gameplay that are actually pretty well done.
There are a lot of Sims references here, stuff that's going to be instantly familiar to the fans of the series. The weird gibberish speak is still present, along with some of the strange behaviors present in the individuals who populate the world of MySims Kingdom. There's still a heavy emphasis on the interactions between your character and the other residents, and while we've long since expanded past the one home setup that the original Sims used, Kingdom seems to favor exploration more so than a lot of the prior Sims titles, making the experience feel more like a lighthearted RPG than anything else.
When Kingdom begins, you'll design your Sim from a variety of choices, with my end result looking a bit like Harry Potter. From there, you'll be introduced to a few of the characters from the story side of things and taught some rudimentary tasks, like hunting down a few pigs for a local villager. After that, you get to take part in a competition that ends up granting you the main ability of the game, which is the creation of various items to overcome specific goals and tasks that are assigned to you. By completing these, you unlock more items that you can use to build the world around you, which in turn makes the citizens and friends happier and easier to deal with.
You'll be guided with your tasks early on, but it opens up a bit later. You'll always have something to do, though, so there's not much random wandering or lack of direction. When someone needs you to do something, a little icon will pop up over his or her head. Every so often, you'll need to coax a particular person into a certain mood to unlock information or a needed quest item, and there's a certain amount of trial and error involved here. This marks one fault with the game, in that there's no real way to mess this up, so you can keep on guessing at which option you need to select until you get it right. In fact, the game will cross out any choices you've already made in a conversation, giving you a better clue of which direction to go with the speech until you've finally nailed it. I understand that the game is going to be geared toward a younger audience, but it takes some of the challenge out of it for those of us in the older crowd.
Thankfully, this need for simplicity works well when it comes to actually building things. There are a couple of menus to navigate, but they're easy to bring up and don't get in the way of what's occurring on-screen. Once you've selected a piece to build, you simply point and click, and rotating things around with the d-pad is simple enough. Later in the game, certain structures will require multiple components, but there's always some type of overlay or X-ray view to give you an idea of where you need to place something, without much need to move the camera around to figure out placement.
My only gripe is the occasional grind you'll need to do for components to build your items, usually involving mining for materials or shaking down trees for wood. It's a bit too much like resource grinding in RPGs and slows down the pace for the game, especially considering that everything else feels pretty brisk and the overall pace is spot-on. It might throw off younger gamers a bit, and I'm not sure that they'll care about having to constantly shake the Wiimote to knock loose materials from a wall nearby the spot they're trying to fill up with gears. I'm not sure that there is a better way around this than the mechanic used here, but it felt a little out of place to me.
Visually, Kingdom is pretty much on par with the previous MySims title. The idea of setting this in a fantasy world with various climate types opens up the design more than the original title, and the theme fits well with the core cartoon style design of the game. It's not going to be the best-looking title on the Wii, but it's bright, colorful and definitely stands out as something unique with a look that's pretty recognizable. Likewise, the audio fits the lighthearted theme, and although the soundtrack failed to produce anything memorable for me, I never found it to be particularly tough on the ears either. The gibberish Simlish is always a nice touch, and it ends up being as charming as always.
I'd definitely suggest MySims Kingdom to the younger gamers out there, and while I don't think that it's going to offer much long-term appeal for the older crowd, young Wii owners will probably enjoy the building mechanics, light questing, and social interactions and links between the characters. The design is sure to appeal to them, and I think MySims Kingdom does a pretty good job of drawing in younger gamers to the Sims franchise and introducing them to some of the series' basic mechanics. It's a pretty good stepping stone to a series that can be a bit overwhelming to younger gamers, and it's worth at least a rental.
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