The Sims 3 (3DS) Review
Developer: The Sims Studio / Publisher: Electronic Arts / ESRB: Teen (Crude Humor, Mild Violence, Sexual Themes) / Played on: 3DS / Price: $39.99
When EA announced that it was going to squeeze the 14GB PC life simulator, The Sims 3, onto a skimpy 3DS cartridge, I was skeptical at best. During a late night play session, however, when my Sim is late to work, his girlfriend has flooded the bathroom floor with crap water, the oven is bursting into flames, someone just stole his computer, and all my Sim wants to do is play chess, I realize: “yep, this is a Sims game.” Unfortunately, in this ultra-compact and bug riddled state, I still don’t want to play it.
In many ways, Sims 3 on 3DS emulates its big brothers on PC and consoles just fine. I can completely customize innumerable Sims and populate a digital world where I deck out my house, move up the corporate and social ladders, and work towards a lifetime ambition such as astronaut or leader of the free world. But a game so ambitious as to “simulate” life requires an enormous number of overlapping systems to keep you in control and give you that thrill of being just one step ahead of overwhelmed. In this truncated edition, however, certain vital systems, such as mood meters and traveling to town have been drastically changed, and others, such as calling help services and aging have been dropped altogether.
The excuse that the game has fewer options because it’s on a portable device would hold up fine if the gameplay had been simplified accordingly, but you end up getting caught trying to perform the same tasks you do in the larger versions of the game with fewer tools to do so. For example, when my Sim gets home from his job as podium polisher to the mayor, he feels the need to improve his charisma. Compliantly, I send him into town to study at the library. When he arrives in the town square, it turns out he’s got an alarming amount of urine packed inside that little bladder of his. Of course, the 3DS’ screens are too small to display all those status bars Sims players are used to, so instead, your Sim’s most eminent needs, such as hunger and sleep, pop-up as moodlet squares between two and three Sim-hours before that need goes critical. It’s a workable solution, but in a situation where you might have planned an entire outing based on your Sim’s statuses, you can now only roughly guess when your Sim might have to pee or eat. After using the restroom at the gym, I get a few hours of reading in at the library only to discover that my Sim will be both insanely sleepy, and starving to death in three short hours—NO!
Back home, I notice that something odd has occurred. Apparently, my Sim has somehow slipped through the time space continuum and has returned home at exactly the same time that he left. For some reason, when you go to town, you’re on town-time, and everything stops back home. It’s deceptively nice because it seems like you have a ton of extra time in your day just by spending some of it in town, but just because you don’t lose home-time, your Sim’s stats still carry over between areas, meaning my Sim is dog tired and ready for dinner at 5:30 in the afternoon. A huge part of The Sims is time management, and this throws a major wrench in the works. It means the delicate biological clock I’ve created for my Sim is completely thrown off. He’ll now want to wake up at two in the morning, and be too tired to further his socializing goals the next day.
On top of all that, this game has bugs crawling out of its jaggy little ears. After my first failed attempt to learn charisma, I went into town the next day to buy a book on the subject so I could read it at home. That very night, my Sim’s girlfriend somehow managed to get the thing to levitate in the middle of the bedroom, and no number of “read” commands or console resets could coax my 50 Simoleon book down to earth. Later, I needed to mop up a puddle that my Sim was dangerously upset about, but somehow he couldn’t see it despite standing ankle deep in water. Finally, and I’m not sure whether it’s a bug or just bizarre design, but in other versions of The Sims, getting into another Sim’s pants is about as easy as getting into your own. Here, it can take upwards of two Sim-hours of chatting to get someone to call you a friend. To get a little Woohoo action, you’d better be in it for the long haul.
In terms of 3DS specific gameplay, there’s StreetPass, which allows you to trade your custom Sims with others as you pass them on the street, and via the camera, you can snap a photo of yourself to have a playable Sim generated that shows you what you’d look like as a hideous monster. Something I found very disappointing was the fact that even though the 3DS comes with a 2GB SD card on board, you can still only save one Sim life at a time, meaning you can drop any notions of sharing a single copy with a sibling or significant other.
The Sims 3 looks pretty good (wait for it) for a 3DS game. Scenes are just as full of shapes and colors as you remember from the HD counterparts, and it’s usually pretty easy to tell what a Sim is feeling just by looking at its face. That said, textures are often flat—shirts appearing to be surgically fused with flesh and the like—and the three dimensional (not fancy stereoscopic) images on the top screen are severely aliased.
Speaking of stereoscopic 3D, let’s discuss how well The Sims 3 utilizes your shiny new device’s hallmark feature. With Nintendo’s AR Games as a standard, The Sims 3’s stereoscopic 3D ranges from OK to eye melting. Cranking the 3D to max blurs most everything, and because you spend most of your time directing your Sim via the top-down perspective bottom screen, you’ll have to wait a few seconds for your eyes to adjust every time you want to look at the 3D image on top.
If you’re into jazzy elevator music, The Sims 3 has got you just as covered as any other Sims game, and the series’ staple Simlish is just as endearing as it’s always been. I do have to compliment the inclusion of a radio in every starter home. Keeping one constantly running in the home provides a persistent indoor boost to mood, and I’d be lying if I said the radio tunes aren’t as catchy as all get out, in Simlish or not.
For all its faults, The Sims 3 on 3DS is a serviceable way of getting your pretend life fix on the go. As a launch title, it’s frustrating that the game’s 3DS features aren’t better tuned. And the profuse number of bugs make it tough to take your Sim’s life seriously—after a while, you’ll likely just throw up your hands and resign to coming up with maniacal ways of ending his or her life. The game suffers most from trying to be a fully featured Sims game on a platform that just can’t sustain it, thus making even its high points little better than mediocre. It’s ironic that the series’ latest PC game, The Sims Medieval, with its streamlined Sim management features, might have been better suited for the platform.
5 / 10