The release of last year’s MySims saw EA’s long running The Sims franchise (d)evolve into a format particularly suited to the Wii, introducing a family friendly version of the game to younger gamers.
This year’s sequel, MySims Kingdom, has expanded on the nifty notion whilst retaining the core ‘build, collect, interact’ gameplay of the original.
Unlike MySims, which was set within the boundaries of a single town, MySims Kingdom is spread across an entire island kingdom, ruled by a kindly monarch by the name of King Roland, whose representatives – Wandoliers – used magical powers to ensure the islands were well maintained and their inhabitants remained in a mellow disposition.
Unfortunately these Wandoliers eventually retired or moved away, leaving the kingdom to gradually fall into a state of decline. Dismayed by the dilapidated condition of his once glorious demesne and the worried for his subjects’ emotional wellbeing, King Roland goes on a recruitment drive, searching out new mugs... er, Wandoliers to help rebuild his kingdom. This is where you and your sim step in.
Like its predecessor, MySims Kingdom begins with the creation of your sim, and you can tailor his or her appearance and voice to your liking before heading out into the wild blue yonder. The next step is to undergo a series of basic tasks to prove your worthiness as a king’s representative – there are a couple of other contenders but they don’t offer much in the way of a challenge. Once bestowed with an official title, magic wand and a royal ‘to do’ list, your new wandolier - plus two entertaining travelling companions - set sail on an island-hopping quest, putting things to rights.
Each island is basically a ‘chapter’ in the story and has a unique theme such as wild western, spooky, prehistoric and medieval, which is reflected in its terrain and inhabitants. While the islanders are all subjects of King Roland, they too are as colourful and varied as the islands themselves. You will encounter and befriend many interesting individuals on your travels, as you set about finding, fixing, building, herding, and interacting your way across the map… unlocking new outfits and objects, and earning major brownie points with the king as you go.
Of course, you can’t simply wave your wand around and make things better… where would be the challenge in that? Just as a car requires regular top-ups with 91 octane (or 95, if you’re into performance wheels), wands require a special essence called mana in order to operate. Other essences are needed to unlock further wand powers; fortunately none are in short supply, but you will spend a lot of time searching, fishing, harvesting, interacting and prospecting to gather what you need. This aspect is probably the least appealing for adult gamers, although the kids seemed to enjoy it well enough.
There are a number of collectible items such as figurines, fish, plants and armour to be found as well, which is way cooler than mere collector cards inside a Weetbix box! A handy Travelogue helps you keep track of your tasks, location, inventory and popularity.
The Wii remote and nunchuck are both used extensively in MySims Kingdom; actions such as fishing, mining, digging, pulling weeds, controlling the cursor and the wand are performed via the Wii remote, while the nunchuck is mostly used for moving your Sim around. Our young playtester had a bit of trouble manipulating some of the smaller objects, such as pipes and cogs... although the Construction Mode itself is user friendly and all menus are easy to navigate. If you haven’t invested in a rechargeable remote you can expect to wear out at least one set of batteries by the game’s completion.
Rather than the adopting semi-realistic appearance of sims in ‘grown up’ versions of the game, Wii sims are compact and cutesy anime-style characters, each with a handful of comical facial expressions and gestures used to convey emotion.
As is standard for a The Sims game, they converse in subtitled ‘Simlish’, punctuated by many exclamations, giggles and other verbal outbursts, all of which are well matched to the various personality types. The terrain is colourful if fairly basic – as are buildings and objects. However this visual simplicity is a major plus for MySims Kingdom; too much detail would just confuse young players and detract from its charm.
While there is no reason MySims Kingdom can’t be enjoyed by anyone who can operate a Wii Remote, in our opinion it is best suited to 8-12 year-olds. It will inevitably draw comparison to both Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, since elements from both are contained within the game, however this guaranteed kid pleaser is rapidly carving out its own niche. As long as future MySims titles continue to diversify and expand on what has been achieved thus far, the franchise has plenty of mileage left in it yet.