Making a new instalment of one of the most popular games on the planet must be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, a lot of people will buy it whether it's good or not, and everyone will sit up and take notice of it just because they've heard of it.
On the other hand, it gets increasingly difficult to impress your audience. They've swung around tombs, filled grids with jewels and raced rally cars around mud tracks four or five times before. Why should they pay to do it again?
For The Sims it must be particularly tough. After all, this is a game about real life - about getting a job, cooking meals and making friends. There's only so much you can change before you start making the game less real and destroying the whole reason The Sims is so popular.
But The Sims 3 manages it. By enhancing everything the game already had and implementing similar systems to those in the new PC game of the same name (life goals, wishes and random moral decisions), it not only improves the experience, but makes it feel like an entirely new game rather than a mere update to The Sims 2.
Just like the PC game, The Sims 3 takes the emphasis off micro-managing the needs of your Sim person (they're still there, but easier to see to) and puts it onto the bigger things in life. A blessing because, let's face it, there's only so much entertainment you can cream off depriving a virtual person of the toilet then watching them wet themselves at a party (before curling into a ball and sobbing with the shame of it).
Actually, now I've written that, I've realised that particular example will probably never get old.
But doing the cooking and cleaning the kitchen has gotten old, and that's why The Sims 3 needed to evolve the franchise.
So, you can now visit other places in the neighbourhood whenever you like. And even interact with other Sims you see wondering around while you're out. You can go to the supermarket and stock up on ingredients for a meal, or go fishing, then return home and cook up a recipe by playing a cooking mini-game.
Best of all, for fans of soap operas (or just of causing trouble), you can visit other Sims' houses. Options while you're round include eating all their food, sleeping in their bed, using their shower and making 'woo hoo' with their life partner. Right in front of their faces.
Of course, they'll throw you out if you cause too much trouble. As well as form a lifelong hatred of your Sim.
Which brings me on to another great feature in The Sims 3 - which is the breadth of conversational options you get when you talk to another Sim. You have all sorts of options to choose from, and can choose to make another Sim an enemy, best friend or love interest.
In case you're wondering what benefits making enemies with everyone could have, that answer lies in the game's new 'wish' system.
Wishes pop up throughout the game - goals such as learning to fish, cleaning the toilet, or making friends (or enemies) with every Sim in town. When they do, you can choose to lock them in as one of your four current wishes, or ignore them.
They give the game a purpose - and an addictive one at that. They also make it a massive challenge, since there are 75 of these wishes to unlock.
Your Sim also comes with persona-based goals, which are personalised to them. If you created a 'sleazy' Sim at the start of the game, for instance, one or their goals might be to make woo hoo eight times in one day. These are bigger, more long-distance objectives adding yet another layer to the gameplay.
It's testament to how much depth its makers have managed to cram into a mobile version of The Sims 3 that there's more to this game than there is room in this review to go into it in all. As well as everything above, you can also develop your Sims' careers, buy new furniture and objects for their houses, get married, and respond to moral decisions, like whether to steal from work.
There are also mini-games to play for all of the key activities in the game - cooking, fishing, repairing items, cleaning and gardening. Winning mini-games means upping the number of skill points your Sim has for that activity.The Sims 3 has really raised the bar from the previous game in the series. Our only gripe is that the loading times before entering buildings are a bit lengthy. Everything else nails The Sims experience perfectly - it's got strategy, long-lasting gameplay, realism, fun and goals that'll have you hooked. Expect it to take over your phone for some time.
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