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NDS Review - 'The Urbz'

by Nathan Mourfield on April 5, 2005 @ 12:10 a.m. PDT

For the first time, Sims are living in the city where reputation (rep) is everything. Players will custom-create these new Sims, called Urbz, by customizing their unique style and building their status to become the biggest "player" in the city.

Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Griptonite Games
Release Date: November 17, 2004

The Urbz: Sims in the City for the Nintendo DS is the latest in EA's Sims line, following in the vein of Sims Bustin' Out. The Sims series is less of a series of games and more of a series of addiction, the phenomenon being hard to comprehend. All of the Maxis simulation titles (SimCity, SimAnt, whatever) have had some sick level of addiction to them, but the Sims' slice of that very lucrative pie has been the worst of the bunch, being some cross between a soap opera and voyeurism. Urbz is significantly horrible in this regard.

I let my brother-in-law play Urbz while we were over at my in-laws house when I first got the title, and he played it until the battery on the DS ran out, although it was fully charged when he had begun. Throughout the weekend, he kept playing it until the battery ran out. I would understand this behavior in a 15-year-old game addict, but my brother-in-law is in his late 20s and has kids of his own. As weird as that is, I kept "losing" my DS for the rest of the month, finally catching my wife, Mrs. Pacman-is-the-newest-game-I-play herself playing Urbz.

At first, Urbz looks to be a straight port of the GBA version with a little additional content and touchscreen capability tacked on, which is pretty close to the truth. The Urbs follows the multi-zone style of previous titles, making this title essentially an expanded interpretation of the "Bustin' out" concept, and this, like its forebear, is more of an adventure title than a simulation. The plot is simple, Daddy Bigbucks is trying to buy the entire city, and it is up to the player to stop him. This isn't exactly original, more like a tried and true plotline from many a bad movie.

The graphics for the Urbz look pretty on par for GBA titles, and there was no effort to clean up the graphics for the DS. It seems like the game was just expanded outward to fit the larger game screen. This can be forgiven, given the need to get this title out for the Nintendo DS launch. Additionally, a player who had previously played Sims Bustin' Out would understand the graphic qualities of this title. Audio for the Urbz fares no better, being that they are also a straight port from the GBA title. I found that they were neither truly annoying nor distracting, but they weren't exactly amazing either.

The addition of the touchscreen capability was inconsistent in a design methodology. Having to use the touchscreen to open a saved game was a questionable decision and seems to be more of a showcase for the feature rather than an attempt at an effective interface.

I really wanted to like this game and was willing to overlook the minor design flaws, but I enounctered some more significant problems. During the artists' mission, the player has to collect 100 pieces of trash. Aside from the fact that the number 100 is excessive, all of the trash piles disappear from the game when this happens. This is either the most incompetent testing I have ever seen in a software package, or carelessness on the part of the overworked developers.

Do not get me wrong here. Until the player in the game hits a glitch, Urbz is an addicting game, but this addictive quality sours instantly when the player hits a significant bug. What is even worse, most of these glitches appear later in the game, showing that the testing plan wasn't carefully followed. Some bugs would require a bit of luck or considerable foresight to figure out, but significant bugs are ones that constantly crop up for most users and would stop gameplay or drastically hamper it.

Urbz: Sims in the City is a highly addicting title with some major bugs to it, which makes for a horrible experience for a serious "Sim" fan and would rank up there in the "toss the DS against the wall" level of frustration. Even though I absolutely love these types of games, I highly recommend that fans of the genre stay away from this title.

Score: 5.0/10

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