Tuesday, February 17, 2009

MySims Kingdom (Wii) Review

Welcome to the 300th post on SuperPhillip Central! Let's take a look at the sequel to the successful MySims, MySims Kingdom. Released in North America around the end of October, we'll see if this game's improved on the minor problems of the original. Additionally, do you folks like the new way I've presented the score of a game?

My Kingdom for A Sim

While a lot of the world is in love with the ever-expanding traditional Sims franchise, Electronic Arts opted to create a new take on an old favorite for Nintendo audiences. No, no! Don't leave! I'm not insinuating the "kiddie" or childish stereotype, I'm referring to the abundantly charming one which the original MySims possessed. The sales and success obviously were well enough for EA to decide to green-light another MySims for Wii. This time we have MySims Kingdom, and while the original MySims was all about helping to build your own mini metropolis, Kingdom involves much more loftier goals such as saving a kingdom. Is MySims Kingdom one that you'll want to crusade for?

Once upon a time there was beautiful kingdom-- a flurry of differently themed islands-- all ruled by the cupcake-chomping King Roland. For years his majesty's kingdom flourished, and all of his subjects lived in pure bliss. Recently, however, most of the kingdom has fallen into disrepair, and a savior is needed to make right all that is currently wrong. Thus, King Roland announces a contest to crown a brand new Wandolier, a Sim who is bestowed a magical wand able to build and create-- and all without those nasty zoning laws, too! Depending on the character the player chooses, a young boy or girl (I'll be going by boy for my own case), a farmhand for an overly bossy middle-aged woman, gets persuaded by his friends, Lyndsay and Buddy, to enter the contest. Besting a seafaring captain and a selfish and conceited princess, Roland's daughter, the player's Sim gets the honor of being the kingdom's Wandolier! Charged with the responsibility to fix the problems of the numerous isles of the kingdom, the three friends head out on a tiny boat, setting sail for adventure.

The kingdom needs a new Wandolier.
Are you up to the challenge?

While the aesthetic of MySims Kingdom is decidedly geared towards the younger mindset, the dialogue and cast of characters are endearing, charming, and humorous enough for the older crowd as well. The writing in the game is top-notch. Seldom was there a scene or conversation that I didn't chuckle or at the very least crack a smile. Lyndsay and Buddy are your helpers and close friends throughout the game. Lyndsay is an adventurous explorer type, a more serious character-- at least compared to Buddy who is pure comic relief. His childlike naivete is beyond hilarious. Then you have an entire cast of clever and comical characters such as my personal favorite, Dr. "The F stands for ROCKETS!" F, a trigger happy scientist ready to blow up whoever and whatever... FOR SCIENCE!!!

Those who played the original MySims will be happy to know that the technical problems that plagued the first MySims have been fixed in Kingdom. No longer is there framerate issues, graphical slow-down, or long and numerous load times to contend with. The character models have a wide range of animations and facial expressions giving them even more variety than ever before. The game is a delight to look at. There's really nothing that comes off as an eye-sore or repulsive to the eyes. Now, of course, if you're one of the few who can't go back to playing PS2-quality presentation after playing your big-budget blockbuster on your HD consoles, then you probably won't like the look of the game unfortunately.

While one island might be bright and cheery,
another like Spookane might be dark and foreboding.

Once the player arrives on a given island, certain NPCs will have problems that only the Wandolier can solve. These include renovating the interior or exterior of their house, leading a pack of animals to a specified point, or connecting electrical or water pipes and gears in a puzzle-like challenge to open a mechanism like a gate or turn on a control system of some type. Of course, it's not as simple as that. Usually the player's given a magical scroll which states how many of a given essence they need to unlock the items the scroll has sealed. Essences are found in a variety of ways such as shaking trees, pulling weeds, prospecting, mining, fishing, and interacting with various household objects like sinks, bookshelves, and couches. Once all of the necessary essences are acquired, Lyndsay, who was entrusted by King Roland with the magic pouch, will turn scrolls into usable pieces of furniture. This is much more streamlined and less tedious than how things worked in MySims where essences were used to build furniture piece by piece. As each task is completed, the player is awarded a special gift whether it be a new scroll, outfit, or furniture. Each task also gives the player King Points. Once enough points are earned, new islands are unlocked for even more exploration and Sim assistance.

Most tasks will involve construction. Thankfully, the controls for these heavy-duty jobs are full of ease. Early on, the game will show the suggested locations to place various objects. It's just a matter of placing them, and off we go! As the game progresses, this luxury is removed, but by that time a person could start their own Sim home construction business. Building and furnishing homes isn't without its limitations though. Each task has a set amount of types of objects needed. Each construction piece, whether it be building material or furniture, has at least one interest value attached to it. Different Sims have different interests. For instance, Goth Boy wouldn't be caught dead in a coffin full of cute things, so he wants his house full of spooky items-- as if sleeping in a coffin wasn't spooky enough. Placing enough items in his house that satisfy the prerequisite will pass the lover of the night's task. Of course, most Sims have multiple interests which makes things more complicated. As for the overworld controls, things are adequate on this front, too. MySims KIngdom uses motion control to shake trees-- an honest use of the term "waggle" right here-- as well as to mine essences from rock and to fish.

Unfortunately your available attire at the
beginning of the game is severely limited.

There's plenty to do in MySims Kingdom and secrets to reap in the rewards from. Hidden goodies such as costumes, figurines, and treasure chests abound for the player to discover. After King Roland commends the player on saving his kingdom, he awards an entire island dedicated to whatever the player wishes. Most players will reach this point at around 10-15 hours in. My ending playtime clocked in close to 24 hours when all was said and done, and that was even with phoning several construction tasks in by just building fifteen cabinets on top of each other and painting them as desired...

While MySims Kingdom is a wonderful experience, I'd very much love to see the idea expanded. As it stands, all that is needed to be buddy-buddy (not to be confused with the lovable character Buddy) with a given Sim is to spam the "Be Nice" option. I'd love something closer to the actual The Sims line of games. Obviously not to that complicated of a level, but certainly not as basic a level as we are left with now. I'd love a return to building and taking care of my own town as in the original MySims whereas in another mode it's an adventure premise like the bulk of MySims Kingdom. Perhaps EA could utilize and refine that jump mechanic to add some simple platforming to the mix. Two unique experiences in one unique package.

Meet characters Sim and Sim-like!

MySims Kingdom is an incredibly charming, full of character, comical, and entertaining game for all ages. Kids will appreciate the cute characters, exploration, and building while adults will appreciate the clever dialogue and ability to build without the hassle of cleaning up afterward. For anyone with a passing interest in entering the friendly kingdom, there's really no harm in trying the game out for yourself. Those who played and enjoyed the original MySims will very much appreciate the effort and fun put into this year's installment-- especially if they want something other than an Animal Crossing-lite from the series.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]


Jude said...

Maybe adults will like the cute characters and exploration too, ya with? You could do without falling into old stereotypes of what it is "adult" and what isn't. That one little line made it sound like you were a movie critic providing a summary to an animated flick---there's always an obligatory "kids will like this, but adults will like this" bit at the end. Which is nonsense, because I'm 25 years old and I probably like Disney movies and anime more than most ten year olds. Hell, Wind Waker is my favorite Zelda game and I'd be lying if I didn't say it had a lot to do with the cute, expressive art-style. To put it simply, it is immature to deem certain art-styles as immature.

Unknown said...

Completely agreed. Unfortunately, the video game industry is still a severely immature one. How many times have we've seen folks on message boards or even in the media get turned off by the likes of Mario, Sly Cooper, LittleBigPlanet, and Jak (which turned darker) just because they perceived them as too "childish"? The majority of feature-length Disney movies (not the tween crap seen on the abomination Disney Channel) are suited for everyone while the video game equivalent of Disney, Nintendo, are seen as childish still? Some even have the audacity to pretend they've outgrown Nintendo. It's just horribly sad how far this industry has to go.

Great point, and I really appreciate the comment!

Jude said...

Thanks for the response! For a minute there was I worried that I had been a bit rude, but I'm glad to see that you also agree that the industry has a lot of growing up to do.