This past weekend EA invited us out to experience three of their new games under the Sims label which has expanded far beyond its humble beginnings as a city building simulator. So far in fact that one of the next games under the license, MySims Kingdom for the Wii, isn’t really a simulation game at all. No, while MySims Kingdom has many of the properties of a Sims game — like building and designing houses, and creating adorable characters to play as — it is in fact at its heart an adventure game almost devoid of the life living gameplay that was the foundation for the series. This doesn’t make it bad, just different and one of the sure signs that the Sims label is no longer relegated to simulation games.
I guess it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since last year’s MySims for the Wii was clearly moving away from the simulation gameplay towards a more friendly “build and construct for fun” game. In fact the entire MySims label is about just that, building for fun. We were told that EA is looking at the MySims characters like the Muppets, where you had the same characters like Ms. Piggy and Kermit but in totally different situations like space (horrible movie) or a pirate island (great movie). In short, a MySims kart racer can’t be that far off. But enough about EA’s marketing creations, what is MySims Kingdom and how does it play? I spent plenty of time with it and found out.
To start with, MySims Kingdom is not a sequel in any way to MySims but a completely different game. The player takes control of their user created character and quickly becomes the Wandalier of a kingdom made up entirely of islands, each of which has a different theme like western or animal reserve. After creating a character, the player proceeds to become the kingdom’s new Wandalier, which is a made up word for a guy with a wand who can build houses and other contraptions out of thin air. The king of the kingdom tasks you and two of your friends, who MySims fans will recognize from the previous game along with plenty of other characters, to help the people of his kingdom in whatever manner they need. Obviously that manner revolves around constructing houses and gear contraptions with your wand.
You can’t just go building things willy nilly though. You’ve got to have essence in order to construct objects and you also need the proper scrolls that teach you how to construct different objects. Basic gameplay revolves around obtaining a scroll, finding the material you need to complete the scroll (wood, cherries, smiles, etc.) and then building a house that pleases the person whose tasked you with a job. Houses and buildings need to meet certain requirements. For instance, the visitor’s center you build for the woman running the wildlife park must have a certain amount of nature elements around it and a certain amount of “cute” points. Thus you, as the builder, must place objects that have nature and “cute” points without running out of essence. Of course if you do run out of essence, you can just go get some more by shaking a tree or trading for it. Supply management is not a big deal in the game as it was stressed over and over to us that creating was the main point.
The first “level” was very basic, teaching the player how to handle everything. I went out and was tasked with finding the materials to make stairs. For this I needed apples and wood. I shook a tree for its apples and cut it for its wood. Finally, returning to my scroll carrier and having her produce the recipe for stairs. I could now place wooden stairs next to a cliff that had been blocking my way and move forward. The next challenge was placing some gears between a rotating mechanism and a gate that need to be opened. Once I collected the materials for gears by pick axing a wall for metals, I went and connected the proper points and opened the gate. Finally, I had to make a house for a salty old sailor to throw a party in. Once again I collected the materials, found enough essence and started building, designing around his needs for different aspects. I then left the island and went to another one where I continued this pattern.
The controls are very basic, with some waggle movements thrown in for things like chopping down trees or using a pickaxe to mine. Placement is all done with the Wii remote, which worked very well, and movement of the characters is done with the nunchuck. Sometimes it was a bit challenging to get the screen the way I wanted it, but it never hampered me to the point of not being able to play.
As the player learns more things, their houses can become more robust and better decorated, or their bridges become more refined, or their gear machines become more complicated. While the creation side of what I played was a good deal of fun, the collecting part became tedious rather quickly. However, it wasn’t really designed to entertain me, it was designed to entertain a family, so I can’t really say that it missed its mark. However, I hope that as the game progresses a more robust style of play develops, though robust and games like MySims Kingdom don’t always go together.
What did entertain me was the writing. For a game with such a cutesy characters and blatantly obvious puzzle mechanics (at least in the beginning), the thing had some hilarious writing. One of your ever present sidekicks, Buddy, is a complete idiot and spews some of the funniest stuff in gaming I’ve seen. I almost thought that I could sit through eight more hours of the same gameplay to experience his character alone. Also, the king looks like King Friday from Mister Rogers, which we were told was totally unintentional but still made me happy.
From what I played of the game it just isn’t directed at the more mature gamer. I think I’d have tons of fun with it if I was playing next to a younger cousin or something who was excited by building the houses and collection the materials, but for me as a gamer it overall felt very bland. Now there are a plethora of islands I didn’t get to experience so the game could branch out easily and become far more in depth, but it really doesn’t need to. It fulfills its own goals very well and branching away from them would make it not the game it is supposed to be. Thus I would say that I’d love to see the puzzles get more complicated and the gameplay a little bit more well rounded, but the game already plays well from what I saw as a light, family friendly affair.
There will also be a DS version of the game which I didn’t get much time with but played around the same basic mechanics with a bit more of a slant towards mini-games.
For the latest screens of MySims Kingdom, hit the big gallery button below.