If you’ve never played The Sims before, it’s a strangely addictive game where your job is to control the lives of little digital people. They’re not sitting ducks like the islanders in Pocket God… instead they live in houses, like normal people. They also have friends, enemies, personalities, jobs, stomachs to fill, and bladders to empty, and you’re responsible for ALL of it!
Veterans of The Sims game franchise know these responsibilities all too well, and if you’re one of those people you’ll be happy to know that Electronic Arts has done a pretty kickass job of translating the Sims world to the iPhone. There are lots of differences between PC Sims and iPhone Sims, the most noticeable change being that you only control one Sim on the iPhone as opposed to an entire family, but the core of the gameplay is definitely there. Your Sim can meet other Sims, talk with them, make out with them, slap them around, pee on the floor… you name it.
I hadn’t played The Sims since the original version nearly 10 years ago, but picking up Sims 3 on the iPhone was easy and everything felt really familiar. Navigating around your Sim’s world is done with finger gestures to rotate and tilt up and down, and there’s a zoom slider on the side of the screen for adjusting your view.
At the start of the game, where you create your Sim, everything from eye color to personality traits are customizable. You start off in a modest house which can be upgraded when you accumulate enough cash from the job you’ll eventually get, and you can buy things to turn it into a regular bachelor (or bachelorette) pad. One of my favorite things to do in the original Sims game was building a custom house but that part of the game is understandably absent from this version. It would be pretty sweet if EA could find a way to pull it off though, cuz that was a lot of fun! Sigh.
So what do you do with a virtual human who’s ready to obey your every command? Yeah, I know exactly what you’re thinking and Apple would never allow anything that filthy! You can, however, “WooHoo” with other Sims after you get to know them well enough. A good place to start would be to fulfill your Sim’s needs which is an ongoing task… feed it, make it go to the bathroom, let it frolic with other Sims. Just like the PC game, each item you tap in the virtual Sims world gives options for interacting with it, so you’d tap the toilet to go squeeze off a log or tap the fridge to grab something to eat. When people are around you can tap them, too, if you feel like chatting, hitting on them, or telling them to go to hell.
Every game needs an objective, and The Sims 3 is very good about providing LOTS of them. As the days progress, your Sim will decide that it wants to grow vegetables or sleep in someone else’s bed or make someone jealous… tons of things will come up and you can either “lock in” these goals so they can be accomplished whenever, or if all of your lock-in spots are occupied you’ll have to try and meet the goal asap before it expires.
There are also some pretty lame mini-games spread out throughout Sims 3 such as cooking, fishing, and fixing electronic things that break down. None of them are especially difficult, but they do contribute to skill points that your Sim earns for each activity. A nice bonus is that your Sim can sell fish (and vegetables, if you grow them) to the local market and make more cash than it would at the various jobs that are available around town.
Some would call The Sims tedious, and it definitely can be if you’re just following the rules and trying to be a good citizen to everyone in town. The thing to remember in this game is that you don’t need to be everyone’s BFF! If you encounter someone while you’re fishing or visit a random stranger’s house, don’t be shy about selecting Be Rude > Slap if slapping is made available. It’s pretty funny to see your Sim slap someone, and sometimes they slap back.
If there’s one thing that bugs me about this app it’s the crashing. It doesn’t happen all the time… I’ve gone on many stretches of 30+ minutes without a hiccup… but it happens often enough that it’s annoying and EA needs to fix it. Graphically there’s a lot going on in this game so a few crashes here and there wouldn’t shock me, but this game seems to crash more often than it should. If you like your Sim to stink so bad from not showering that it’s spewing green smoke from its pores, expect frequent crashes because the body odor animation appears to take a toll on the iPhone’s memory or something. Clean Sims seem to crash less often.
Outside of the crashing issue, my only other problem with The Sims 3 is that I seem to spend a lot of time looking at the Loading screen. Each time you switch from house view to the map of the town, or vice versa, you get the loading screen which will hopefully be making shorter appearances on the iPhone 3G S. Besides that, the rest of the game is pretty rock solid. Sure, I’d love it if I could build my own house and place windows and doors and stairways where I want, but I understand that such a thing would probably be tough to do in a touchscreen environment. But… never say never! I’m hoping EA can build it into a future update.
There’s a lot to like about this app and if you’ve ever spent 16 hours locked in a dark room playing with Sims on your desktop computer (raising hand, guilty as charged) then you’ll definitely like what EA has done on the iPhone. If you’re totally new to the concept, then this $10 app might be a good semi-cheap way to decide if you’re a fan of the game before you spend $50 on the full version for your computer.