How many hours have we lost to The Sims? Over the last decade, dozens of add-ons, expansions, and new releases have evolved Will Wright's PC masterpiece into a sprawling yet ultimately still familiar behemoth, with no signs of stopping.
The franchise's move to handheld platforms proved a great transition. As we said in our Sims 3 iPhone review, "it’s as rich and inventive as ever."
This latest version for 3DS should be just as entertaining, given the years of honing and experience behind the series. But a minimal approach coupled with constantly nagging Sims have rendered any prospect of enjoyment null and void.
The original formula has been distilled down to its purest form, removing the customisation features that made The Sims so much fun in the first place. This 3DS edition also feels rushed, as if it were being quickly prepared for the 3DS release line-up.Not so Sim-ple
Compared to The Sims on PC, the 3DS version is cut down to work in as streamlined a way as possible on a touchscreen.
Your Sim's Needs and Wants (you can play with several, but we'll concentrate on one) are split up into two simple categories, showing exactly how they currently feel.
When he needs to relieve himself, for instance, a toilet symbol appears at the bottom of the screen with a timer. If get him to the bowl before the timer runs out, his mood picks up.
Sims also have wishes, such as meeting friends or gaining skills. These can also be displayed at the bottom, and will give your Sim a boost of happiness whenever a wish is fulfilled.
These are the only elements you really need to focus on, and keeping your Sim's mood high will allow him to quickly get promoted, make friends, and have a good life.
While this system sounds like it should work, helping your Sims achieve their goals feels like a constant uphill struggle.
Needs will appear only a few hours before they require attention, and if multiple Needs appear at the same time it can be difficult to fulfill them all.Nag nag nag
The worst is when a Sim goes to work completely happy but while there develops a string of Needs which evolve into desperate Wants. It's completely out of your control, and he'll eventually come home from work in a bad mood.
Even though the usual Sims elements have been distilled down to the bare minimum, your Sim's demands are now far too over-the-top, and you'll struggle to keep him happy.
Every time it feels like you're on top of things, he'll suddenly develop a sense of loneliness, or an incident at work will leave him out of a job.
Managing to actually balance everything can eventually feel satisfying, but for the most part it's a chore.Touch simulation
The Sims 3 is one of the only 3DS launch games to fully use the touchscreen. Indeed, you won't need the D-pad, Circle pad, or buttons at all.
The interface is tight, with as few buttons as possible, and for the most part it works well. Our only real issue is with switching between Wishes and Needs - it would be nice to have the option to display both at the same time.
It can be easy to completely forget about the Wishes tab and stick with watching the Needs of your Sim.
The 3D effects generally work well. The camera is always locked to your current Sim, stopping you from taking the view for a wander. This is obviously to stop players trying to move outside of the borders of the level, where the 3D effects may begin to go a little skew-whiff.
The game also makes use of other 3DS features with varying effects. StreetPass allows you to pass your Sims to other players, and in return they can send you Sims to live in your neighbourhood.
It's a really interesting prospect to have your Sim make friends with 'real' people, rather than computer-generated characters.
The 3DS camera is also used for facial capturing, so you can take a picture of your face and put it on a Sim.
Unfortunately, this doesn't work all that well, and we found that we'd have to do quite a lot of touching up of the suggested face after the picture was taken.
There are also a few 'karma' effects, which use the 3DS gyroscope and touch controls to create earthquakes and lightning strikes to disrupt your Sim's lifes, but these are completely throwaway and pointless.
In essence, The Sims 3 successfully captures the original game for use on the 3DS, but forgets what made the concept so accessible in the first place.