SimAnimals (Wii) Review

SimAnimals is Electronic Arts‚Äô attempt at combining the inviting and open-ended gameplay style of The Sims with the world of Mother Nature, and it simply does not work. Apart from an appalling presentation on the Wii, the limited potential of simulated animals and their stagnant environment creates a very shallow and unrewarding simulation experience. As in all games prefixed with ‚ÄėSim‚Äô, players assume the role of a God with the powers necessary to watch over and interact with the world presented, in this case a diverse parkland divided into several areas.

A ‚ÄėHappy Bar‚Äô measures the overall shape and progress of any plot of land and indicates the amount of ‚ÄėHappy‚Äô required before moving on to the next area. Apart from petting and feeding the 30+ species of animals, players must manage the demands of a growing ecosystem by planting and cultivating trees and shrubbery as well as re-arranging the environment.

This is a demanding task that requires as much of the player’s attention as the animals, who will randomly wander into play and act upon their own primal urges. The animals themselves are quite bland and uninteresting, with only a few options available for interacting with them. These are limited to feeding and petting in the hopes of getting an animal on your good side. No matter what level of relationship a player has with an animal it will always be wild and act accordingly, getting randomly eaten or running away at the most inopportune times, leaving no real chance for a player to familiarise themselves with their animal friends. There are a few cute ideas, such as being able to feed animals straight from your hand but they’re all hampered by terrible controls with a painful user interface.

Trees and the environment are handled in the same manner as animals, with a default interaction performed by pointing the cursor at the object and continually rubbing around it. The remote cursor is helpful for picking up and moving items around, but having to continually rub against everything is a ridiculous chore that only makes sense in the context of petting animals. Even then it’s difficult as other animals will move in and out of the way of the cursor making it all too easy to rub a weasel the wrong way. The camera controls certainly aren’t going to help, though the ability to play the game with only the Wii Remote is nice for anyone willing to sit through the incoherent multiplayer with up to 3 half-enabled friends. SimAnimals looks atrocious too. The animations are static and jarring with only certain viewing angles producing horribly pixelated shadows from the environment.

The rocks and scenery are the worst looking aspect of the game but for some reason the water always looks really nice, lapping along and reflecting light realistically. The day and night cycles add some realism while also reflecting on the game and stages of animal behaviour, but ultimately SimAnimals looks like it’s stuck somewhere between the Nintendo 64 and the GameCube. A quaint orchestral score sets the mood at the right moments but is also missing for most the game as silence sets in and the sounds of continual chirping drive the experience. There are a few sound bites of imperceptible grunting and chirping for each animal but generally the audio package is as unrealised as everything else in the game.

SimAnimals is a disappointing attempt at porting the gameplay style of The Sims into something potentially new and interesting. The animals are boring and unresponsive, with few options available for a player to truly get to know any of the beasts or their environment. A high demand on managing the environment diverts from the real point of the game with atrocious graphics and a ridiculous control scheme. The way areas blend together and reflect the state of their neighbourhood is nice and adds a little to the immersion, but all of the gameplay extending beyond the animals themselves is incredibly repetitive and redundant. SimAnimals should be avoided by anyone no matter how much of a Sims or animal fan they are.

Graphics 2.0

Gameplay 4.0

Sound 5.0

Tilt 4.0

Value 3.0

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Jordan Miller

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