The Sims, the hit life simulation series of games, originated on the PC and has since landed on practically every platform under the sun including the Windows Phone 7 platform. In these games, the player creates a digital avatar and then directs it through the rigors of everyday life: eating, sleeping, work, fun, and all that stuff. I do some of that stuff myself, and let me tell you, even the fun isn’t all that fun. But somehow the Sims makes everyday drudgery enjoyable, hence the game's millions of fans. The Sims 3 for Windows Phone 7 brings a fair helping of the PC game’s magic to mobile gamers, although this version’s many issues prevent it from being a must-have.
Cruise past the break for our full review.
Designing a Sim
Customizing one’s character has always been an important feature of The Sims. Here you can select the Sim’s gender, skin, hair, and eye color, hairstyle, and clothing. You won’t be adjusting any proportions in the mobile version, though. The number of clothing options and hair styles is woefully inadequate, too. For instance, the Sim can have a soul patch, a werewolf face, or vampire teeth, but not a goatee and mustache.
Most people will probably want to make at least one Sim that looks like themselves, so the developers could have at least gotten that part right before wasting effort into novelty options. On the plus side, the vampire, werewolf, and other novelties were paid downloadable content in the original iPhone version, but are included free here.
After you’ve made a Sim that looks like nobody in particular, it’s time to choose a persona. All the real life personality types are present: Jack of All Trades, Nice Guy (me), Jerk, Sleaze, Power Seeker, and Maniac. Personas basically give the Sim a handful of unique goals to strive for. Three of them are tied to Achievements, which basically means those are the only three most people will play. After deciding on a persona, you’ll assign five traits to the Sim. These affect what activities and conversational topics the Sim enjoys.
Day to day life
We all have a lot to worry about in real life, and much of that applies to the game, too. A Sim has six stats to look after: Hunger, Energy (sleeping), Bladder, Hygiene (bathing), Social (conversations), and Fun (TV, music, or reading). Whatever else you’re doing, you can’t let any of these stats get too low or your Sim will pass out or die. Thankfully these needs only require attention about once or twice per in-game day.
It’s important to interact with other Sims every day. When your Sim meets people, they go from being strangers to acquaintances. From there, various conversational choices are available: Be funny, Be romantic, Be nice, Be rude, Talk about…, and more. The path of the relationship depends on your choosing topics and actions that mesh well with the other Sim’s personality.
It’s possible to engage in romantic relationships with just about anybody, male or female, except for your Sim’s boss, much to my chagrin. Of course, the Sims you meet may already be in relationships, so flirting with one can easily make another jealous and push them into being your enemy. If you feel like being a jerk, you can also barge into the houses of Sims you don’t know and start using their stuff, or kick over their trash cans. There is a small variety of things you can do to be mean to your fellow Sims; the game lacks some of the PC and console versions' meaner options, like stealing.
Taking care of business
All the socialization in the world won't pay the bills though. Your Sim will also need money to pay for food, buy furniture, improve its house, or get a car. The first step towards bringing in the dough is getting a job. Sims can work at City Hall, the Grocery Store, the Laboratory, and the Corsican Bistro. After taking a job, you’ll need to get the Sim to work on time every in-game weekday. Treat your boss Sim well and you’ll earn raises and promotions. Don’t make the mistake of slapping your boss like I did! Err, in the game, that is. Because jobs take up so much of a Sim’s time, weekends come as a welcome relief to work on personal goals.
Work isn’t the only way to make money. There’s also fishing and gardening! Fishing is fast, fun and easy. Tilting the phone moves the line toward an evasive fish. Once the fish is ready to be hooked, just shake the phone to reel it in. After catching fish, you can sell them quite profitably or cook them. Gardening becomes available once a Sim’s house has been upgraded in size. Purchase seeds and fertilizer, plant the seeds, and then check on them once they’re grown, which doesn’t take long. Like fish, vegetables can be cooked or sold.
As for cooking, it doesn’t turn a profit, but it’s a decent mini-game. You have to purchase a stove, recipes, and multiple ingredients in order to cook meals. The interface for selecting which dish to cook could be a lot better as it displays all of your recipes whether or not you have the required ingredients to cook them. Assuming you do have the stuff, cooking involves tapping one of up to four pots and then shaking the phone in order to cool the pot. This lasts for about a minute and then the food is ready.
Finally, the repairing mini-game comes into play when one of your Sim’s appliances breaks – a rather infrequent occurrence. The game displays a circuit board with two broken components which the player must swap out with new ones. Repairing is so simple, it feels pointless. Still, a Sim’s repairing, cooking, fishing, and gardening skills all level up through practice. Mastering a skill allows the Sim to brag about his accomplishments during conversations, though it mostly feels like nothing more than a step towards an Achievement rather than a meaningful accomplishment.
More issues than Sports Illustrated
This title’s core gameplay is enjoyable; however, there are several little problems and annoyances. First, the game has to load whenever you enter or leave a building, which is to say, frequently. The WP7 NoDo update significantly reduced the load times, but they still slow the game down more than necessary.
Menus and controls also need some work. The main menu during gameplay has seven menus buried beneath it. Players must drag from one edge of the screen to the other in order to switch between menus, even though swiping would have been easier and more intuitive. The same issue applies to the furniture selection menu. Come on, developers.
The Sims 3's camera controls are even more abysmal. You're supposed to pinch to zoom in and out or twist with two fingers to rotate the camera. Neither motion works consistently, so I just gave up on controlling the camera. The only time this interferes with gameplay is when knocking on doors. Sims always stand in the doorway while answering the door, and due to the camera angle it's just about impossible to click on someone in a doorway to initiate a conversation. You end up having to either barge in (which makes them angry unless they really like your Sim) or walk a few paces back from the door and hope they follow.
Achievements: Not so Sim-ple
The Sims 3 is not a great purchase for Achievement hunters for a variety of reasons. As a launch game, it requires the player to be connected to Xbox Live via Wi-Fi in order to display or earn Achievements. Logging in after completing the criteria for an Achievement won’t cause the Achievement to unlock, so you’ll have to start a new Sim if the task can’t be repeated. So lame. Even while online, The Sims 3’s Achievements are buggy and may or may not unlock. For instance, the "Likes Work" Achievement requires players to get a job and go to work early. Just showing up early doesn’t count, though – you have to use the “Go to Work” shortcut from a sub-menu in order to pull it off.
The Sims 3 has some annoyingly time-consuming Achievements, too. Gamers would need to play through the game three separate times (as a Jack of All Trades, Nice Guy, and Jerk) in order to get every Achievement. I like the game, but beating it once is probably enough for me.
For all its many faults, The Sims 3 on Windows Phone is still a Sims game at its core. It takes mundane things like eating, sleeping, and polyamorous relationships and mixes them into an enjoyable simulation. However, because of this version's overall lack of polish and too-frequent loading, players will need some patience to get to the fun.
One final weakness: the price. Sorry EA, but you don't charge the highest possible price on an undercooked game with wonky Achievements. The Sims 3 would be a decent buy at $5, but $7 is madness. For now, gamers should spend their Simoleons elsewhere.
The Sims 3 costs a whopping $6.99 and it has a free trial. Get it here on the Marketplace.