vee vee im happy
There is something engrossing about watching an object or animal with a life cycle so much more condensed than our own move through pivotal stages of existence. For some unearthly reason it feels like a privilege to see an entity go through the same progressions that we stretch out over years in just a matter of minutes, hours or days. Not only does it let us reflect on parts of our own lives, but also it is empowering to feel like you have some control over that which you’re witnessing. This is a process that Electronic Arts has managed to perfectly encapsulate in The Sims. As you play, you happily see numerous lives being lived out in glorious Technicolor with the satisfaction that you are the god responsible for it all. The Sims 3 on the 3DS doesn’t do anything to mess with this formula; however, it does feel like a compressed experience of something that could have been much larger.
The Sims titles have been such a gleaming success over the years because they are based on one simple concept: to create a character and, within the virtual world, keep that character happy. I had never played a Sims title before, but oddly enough I knew a little of what to expect when I first popped in the cartridge. I was already familiar with the range of control I could have over my character/s from what I had gleaned from trailers, reviews and gameplay, and was well aware that this was a game that might just suck me in when I wasn’t looking.
It didn’t quite get its hooks into me straight away though, because The Sims 3 seems to expect that you’ve played one of the previous games before, with early tutorials and character creation a little more flimsy and convoluted than needed. Certain options include a multitude of things not familiar to a first time user, which led to an uncomfortable first few hours finding out the meanings and results of each. A nice option to create the likeness of your Sim from a photo taken by the front facing camera of the console feels like a homely and comfortable touch, though, and usurps some early indiscretions.
When you finally bumble through the opening moments, the unsettling feeling of being slightly abandoned by the game doesn’t really abate. Most of the controls are intuitive, but I still spent too much time early on trying to work out what the game was actually asking me do - though this is not to say that the title is without any direction at all. Right from the birth of your new Sim you are asked to assign several character traits which will be attached to your avatar’s personality. These range from having a powerful mind to deal with logic, to maybe preferring life as a couch potato. It is a pleasant process that, even though feels like fluff, at least engages you to think about the life you want your character to lead. This is all then finished off by choosing your overall career goal and with this, The Sims 3 at least provides several strong through-lines for your creation to follow in order to enhance their moral fibre or make their ultimate job become a reality.
Choosing your goal for life might be a simple affair, but it is still understandably a complex mechanic controlling every aspect of a character’s life, from when they should wake up to when they should plant the first kiss on a potential love interest, and for the most part EA do a good job of streamlining the whole experience. Actions, which are easily marked with the stylus, are always made relative to the context of their situation, meaning that you can never spend a romantic night with a freshly made autumn salad, and consequently you can never chop up and cook a friendly neighbour. Even though certain choices went above and beyond my small understanding of the game at the outset, I was still able to get my avatar fed, watered and off to work no problem while learning. The game is mainly built around micromanaging the ‘Moodlets’ which pop up several in-game hours before a certain emotion or action is about to kick in, and as I became more familiar with this system it was very easy to start delving into more of what The Sims 3 offered outside of the house.
Being such a huge part of everyone’s life, it is a missed opportunity that, for the most part, The Sims 3 on 3DS takes care of your career for you. Picking a job is as easy as picking up a paper and life is simply played in fast forward whilst your Sim is away earning precious money. The downtime does offer an opportunity to buy new furniture and generally spruce up your chosen living quarters, but it would have been nice to have made more of that part of life where many of us probably have some of our most diverse relationships. One thing about having the career of a Sim happening ‘off stage’ is that when you are home from work, there is very little time left to start forming meaningful relationships with any of the other Sims that feverishly hang around your front door.
Though you may not have the time for it, it is comforting to see such a bustling array of life moving past your house. From clowns to hippies and shady looking men in braces, EA have made this a town that feels well populated by more than mindless NPCs. Chatting to these characters is easy and it’s certainly pleasurable to see how different avenues of options create certain reactions. With all this colourful life hanging around it is mighty handy that The Sims 3 includes a live track of every character you have had an interaction with, which includes a measure of how friendly they are to you and if they consider you a romantic interest or not, so it is simple to filter down the relationships you’ve have to find the people that you get along with best. After several hours of meeting a good dozen NPCs, though, I found that I was only employing this filter to just find that one character that I got along with best and went on to ignore pretty much everyone else. The issue is that there is simply not enough time to interact with everyone who is eager to speak to you, and sometimes the behaviour of the NPCs can be so erratic and unpredictable I tended to prefer to not actually hang around with any of them at all.
One of the other problems with relationships and indeed the game is that seeing all the action on screen, can be a challenging prospect. To build successful relationships in The Sims 3, the key is in watching the animations and reactions that are occurring between the two characters. However the cameras to change the view on both screens are nothing but cumbersome and clumsy at the best of times, meaning that you can regularly lose track of conversations happening on screen or even put your Sim in a bad mood because you can’t see where you need to go to fulfil an oncoming Moodlet.
I had no issue with The Sims 3 until I decided to step out of my house and start to try and build a connection to the greater world around me. Relationships are far too overbearing at times, and the other places you can explore are simple squares which either feature basic shopping venues or more waiting around while the action takes place off screen. The two town locations are essential to visit in order to stop your Sim getting cabin fever, but there just isn’t much to do in these locations that enhances the experience in any way. There are clubs to dance at, places to eat, antiques shops to browse, but all these are click-and-wait moments where nothing happens on-screen, aside the time ticking by. Just like with your on-going career, there are large parts of The Sims 3 on 3DS that bypass what could have been much greater interactions. In fact, it says a lot when sitting in the library and watching a Sim reading a book is more engrossing than taking them to the movies or a nightclub.
There are several 3DS features that have been included to try to justify the inflated price when compared to other portable iterations of The Sims 3. The 3D screen is arguably the biggest selling point of the title, with the large top screen being used solely as a showcase for the extra dimension. It is a disappointment then that the bragging top screen means you get a cluttered touch screen and a visual effect that adds nothing to the title, feeling like little more than a redundant gimmick. Alongside this there are the more useful options which include ‘create a Townie’ in order to populate the surrounding areas even more with NPCs of your choosing. You can also complete specific ‘wishes’ to gain Karma points that can be used to affect your environment - tilting the system to cause an earthquake, for example - and the StreetPass system has also been utilised to allow you to exchange Sims on the go. These might be new angles for the series, but it feels like the exclusive extras barge in on the experience in attempting to justify their inclusion.
At times, The Sims 3 really seems as if it is a quick and simple port from the earlier DS version. It certainly feels like a ‘portable’ title, with only a certain amount of pursuits and actions available to the player. This doesn’t make performing these actions any less engrossing, addictive or fulfilling, but even as a first time player I still felt like my experience was being limited.
Slightly clumsy at times, and tutorials are basic, so first time players may struggle getting to grips with how The Sims 3 plays.
Character animations are quite charming, and body language and facial features manage to permeate through some lacklustre environments and design.
Simlish is a pleasant language to listen to, and the soundtrack, though repetitive, is helped by the inclusion of artists such as Deadmau5 and Hot Chip.
For a good few pounds less you can likely get the same title and experience on the DS, minus the 3D and other functions that feel like taped on extras.
Though it is a full and immersive title, The Sims 3 does bear the hallmarks of being a port without much consideration for the increased capacity and capabilities of the 3DS, with some struggling controls and awkward presentation to boot. This doesn’t stop it though from being an utterly addictive and joyous experience. From stumbling along a treadmill to studying in a quiet library, The Sims 3 taps into all that makes watching life pass by such a fulfilling experience, and EA have managed to capture that feeling by the bucket load.
vee vee im happy