The MySims series started off as a simpler version of The Sims geared toward younger gamers, a move made evident by the fact that it appeared on the Nintendo Wii first. The Sims were transformed to look like more detailed Miis, and players were given full control over constructing and decorating their various buildings. The game was a hit with the intended audience, and soon the game went off to explore different themes and genres, including adventure and kart racing. This time around, EA has decided that the game should not only branch out into exploring another genre but other consoles as well. MySims SkyHeroes is a shooting game that is available on the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and while it might not exploit much of the newfound power it has gained, it still provides a good overall experience.
As far as plot is concerned, it follows in the tradition of previous MySims games with its simplicity. The skies of the Sims world aren't exactly friendly with the evil Morcubus lurking around. Using his paid mercenaries and tremendous wealth garnered from his company, MorcuCorp, he's taken over the skies and forced everyone to pay heavy fines for traveling by plane. Those unwilling to pay will be grounded for life. You play the role of an ace pilot who's somehow crashed on an island and suffered a bout of amnesia in the process. The kind people of SkyForce took you in and nurtured you back to health. Once you discover you're a great aviator, though, you take it upon yourself to help SkyForce team up with the other rebel air clans to take down Morcubus and MorcuCorp for good.
The bulk of the game is spent in Story mode. After creating your character and selecting your plane type, you'll be sent off to various missions that consist of one of two types of gameplay modes. The first is dogfighting, which, as you expect, is essentially aerial deathmatch. Players are given a time limit to rank in the top three by the end of the match. Aside from a machine gun, they're given a cache of missiles that replenish over time as well as special weapons that can be picked up on the battlefield like multiple missile shots, orbital cannons, shields and speed boosts. Unlike other games of this type, points, not kills, become a determining factor in your placement by the end of the match. Killing enemies nets you large points, but inflicting damage on them also gets you points. Consequently, getting hit or inflicting friendly fire on your teammates makes you lose points. Depending on your placement by the end of the match, you can earn various new parts for your plane or new characters to use in the multiplayer and quick play modes.
The second gameplay mode is racing, which plays out similarly to some of the racing events in Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo 64. Like that game, you'll be flying through the air in checkpoint-designated laps. Passing each checkpoint gives you a temporary speed boost. Like dogfighting, your weapons are still intact, minus the missiles, so eliminating the competition is highly encouraged. Depending on your finishing position, you'll also receive more characters and weapon parts at the end of the race.
At the core, both of the aforementioned modes are enjoyable experiences, and while the story mode features a few deviations in the way of boss battles, the bulk of the mode lies with these two activities. Unfortunately, neither experience is flawless, and a few things hamper the fun a bit. With races, you'll be constantly plagued with rubber band AI. No matter how far ahead you are in the race, the game ensures that there's someone either at your tail and ready to pass you when given the opportunity or shooting at you and hoping you explode before reaching the finish line. Placing in each race the first time around is still possible, but scoring gold medals takes a bit of luck. For combat, the issue of damage comes into play, as it seems like shooting anything but enemies will result in some type of point loss. Even though shooting at mobile guns is almost encouraged from an Achievement/Trophy standpoint, it's simultaneously discouraged since it deducts from your point total in the match. With the arcade nature of the game, careful shooting shouldn't be expected, and penalizing the user for that seems counterintuitive. Again, like races, you'll get medal placement at the end of each match the first time around, but it's much tougher to get gold medals.
When it comes to multiplayer, it is fairly limiting. The dogfighting and racing modes are available for up to 10 players in both free-for-all and team configurations. Offline multiplayer is limited to two players, with bots filling out the rest of the roster, if desired. The performance doesn't degrade over split-screen, which is nice, but it's disheartening to have only two human players in multiplayer matches. While the online mode would have satisfied the appetite for more human competition, that also becomes disappointing since, during the review period, there was no one playing the game online. The demo shows that the code is stable and the experience is lag-free, but with no one playing the game, none of that really matters. If you finish the story and want more action, it's offline or nothing at this point.
The controls are well done and easy to grasp. For the most part, your analog sticks and triggers do the brunt of the work, so the process of controlling your plane is simple. The left analog stick controls your plane while various directions on your right analog stick initiate tricks like barrel rolls and dives. Your R1 or R2 buttons control machine gun fire while L1 or L2 controls missile use and special weapon use. The only time face buttons are used is when you want to pull off sharp turns with the Triangle button, brake with the Square button, or hit the acceleration with either Circle or X. The scheme, while simple, feels natural since it mimics that of first-person shooters instead of the more complicated controls found in flight sims, and when you consider that this is a title marketed toward kids, simple certainly works better.
The sound is good in some areas and confusing in others. The effects are nice and loud, but the music isn't exactly what you expect it to be. The rousing score is reminiscent of old movies featuring large dogfights and does a good job of making each race and mission feel more important than it really is. Each of the characters' voices is spoken in Simlish, the official language of the Sims universe. Like the other games in the series, hearing it spoken is endearing, but the delivery could have been much better. One thing hampering it is the vocal inflections. While most of the lines don't require any special emotions to be conveyed, there are times when an angry line is said with joy or dialogue with some sad tones is delivered indifferently. While the lines are gibberish, you'll also catch a few times when the same line is said for both long and short dialogue, rendering the whole thing senseless.
When it comes to the graphics, it's evident where the series' roots lie. The Sims look as good as ever, with some good details to their clothes and very clear expressions on their faces. Their animations are also well done, with no visible abrupt or noticeable shifts in animation. The environments look fine, as each one is bright and colorful while the particle effects are good enough. The overall look is clean, cartoony and simple, and that's not a bad thing, but the next-generation version looks exactly like the Wii version in every way, shape and form. Aside from the higher resolution, you don't get any of the perks that come with the increased power, like increased frame rate or better lighting and shading. It still looks good, but if you were expecting a big graphical jump with the series' debut on more powerful consoles, prepare for some disappointment.
Like its previous offshoots, MySims SkyHeroes feels like a "lite" version of other, stronger games. In this case, players feel like they're playing a watered-down version of Crimson Skies for the original Xbox. The dogfighting isn't as strong as that classic title, and plane customization is limited, but it remains a fun title, and the fact that there's nothing like it on the PS3 certainly helps its status despite a few gameplay issues. The one big knock against the game is the online multiplayer, though, and if you plan on spending a majority of your time playing against others online, the barren community ensures that this disc will get little rotation in your system. If you're looking for a good single-player experience or if you don't mind multiplayer with bots all of the time, though, you'll find this to be a surprisingly good title.
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