Monday, October 29, 2007

The Imaginative World of MySims

Although I am conscious of the need to create a guide for 'Harvest Moon Boy & Girl' and have left Shaggy struggling on his own with the game, I have to confess that 'MySims' has quite won my heart. The Wii version definitely is more complex than the DS game, although each has its own distinct charm. Despite some problems with the Wiimote especially when building, I finally have become completely absorbed by the game.

(Speaking of 'Harvest Moon Boy & Girl', from everything players have told me, I do believe that my FoMT and MFoMT guides WILL provide answers to most questions. I am going to write a guide for the game when I have completed the two 'MySims' guides but meanwhile...)

Games like Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing and MySims have one fundamental point in common. One must invest considerable time in the game in order to reap ANY of its rewards. The essential problem I had with 'MySims' at first was lack of adequate opportunity to immerse myself in the game.

A comprehensive guide is necessary to enjoy any Harvest Moon game and is necessary for a game like Animal Crossing. I am not certain it is vital where MySims is concerned, but it is fun to write nonetheless. I have discovered, however, that the game was created in a form that provides ongoing tutorials and tips on a regular basis. It can become rather annoying to be forced to read a prompt for the twentieth time to the effect that one should feel free to go outside the blueprint whenever one builds, but it does make the game 'user-friendly'.

When I compare Harvest Moon games to 'MySims', it becomes obvious to me that a young child would be LOST where Harvest Moon is concerned without the help either of a good guide or an older person (whether parent or sibling) but I can imagine that even a fairly young child could have fun with MySims without any outside assistance.

Graphically, the game is designed to appeal to young children although it seduces even older players with its charm and humour. The characters are modelled after the 'Miis' of the Wii. They remind me of little gingerbread boys and girls, but each has a very distinctive appearance and personality.

The map is large with many different areas that are unlocked as the game progresses, including a forest and a desert. The City Centre is the area in which the game begins and the first goal is to revitalise businesses in order to bring new residents and tourists into the area.

The game is based on items called 'Essences'. These are little iconic objects that represent specific 'interests'. Essences fall into one of the following categories: Cute, Fun, Geeky, Spooky, Studious or Tasty. One can obtain Essences either by harvesting them from trees, fishing for them, through social interaction with other Sims or by prospecting for them with a shovel!

Essences are used in building primarily. The game is a building game really to create both buildings and items of furniture. By using 'Essences' in building either, one can attract Sims who are attracted to specific categories. In other words, if you use 'Spooky' Essences when you create a home or business, you will attract 'Spooky' Sims. In similar fashion, by giving an item of furniture that is permeated with 'Spooky' Essences to a Sim who responds positively to 'Spooky' things, you will advance your friendship with that Sim.

Areas on the map can be influenced by the Essences used in building. You can transform the City Centre to a 'Spooky' City Centre by planting 'Spooky Trees' and using a wealth of 'Spooky' Essences in building. Buildings and objects can be remodelled at any point in the game and Sims can be relocated to other areas on the map, allowing the player to fashion areas in the category he/she desires. One can group all the 'Cute' Sims in a specific area, allowing more options and activities to be unlocked.

Social interaction and events both are important in any Sims game and these games are no exception. Every category has its own distinct social gathering. Spooky Sims meet for seances. Studious Sims meet for Book parties. Geeky Sims hold rocket-launching Parties. Participating in these events will allow you to obtain new Essences sometimes.

The entire 'Essence' concept is quite sophisticated in some ways. Each Essence can be used either as a 'Flair' or as 'Paint' in building. There are four different 'paint' forms attached to each Essence. When used as a 'Flair', the actual iconic object that represents the Essence can be added to any item of furniture. For example, in the case of Dead Wood, the icon is a Skull carved of wood.

Some Essences can be planted in the ground to produce trees that will bear the same Essence. Most of these are fruits and flowers, but players may be surprised to discover that the 'Ghost' Essence can be planted to produce a Tree that yields Ghosts!

Specific Tasks will be assigned by Sims when you 'Talk' to them and these tasks are an important part of the plot. Completing Tasks will increase the Star Rating of your Village and unlock new options and areas of the map.

As always, Sims games are both bizarre and quite witty where social interactions are concerned. MySims dialogue can quite clever and amusing.

There is a Sim named Sir Vincent who will be the curator of the 'Skullfinder Museum' in your village if you build the museum for him. He then proceeds to request a number of items. By accepting the Tasks, you will raise your Friendship with him as well as your Village's Star Rating.

One of the items he requests is a Sarcophagus to replace the one that was lost or stolen by the movers. When you take the completed Sarcophagus to Sir Vincent:

Vincent: Brilliant! I can't tell it from the original! (And neither will my patrons...)

Now there will be a little celebratory display of fireworks, followed by a game message.

Game prompt: The Skullfinder Museum is finally complete, thanks to you, Freyashawk.

Sir Vincent has given you an Aztec statue deroative! He's not quitre sure where the 'Inspected by #14' sticker came from.

Vincent: Freyashawk, you've done so much for my museum! I think what I'm feeling is called 'gratitude'. What's that expression people use? Ah, yes! Thank you.'

Game prompt: Sir Vincent's suit is now available in your dresser. How perfectly morbid!

Although the Sarcophagus is the last official Task that Sir Vincent will impose, he nonetheless will continue to ask for items.

In fact, the next time you speak to him, he will tell you:

Sir Vincent: Oh, Freyashawk, it's horrible! I need a Bed. Can you get one for me?

Another Sim named Elmira will request that you build a library for her as her requirement for moving into the Village.

When you have completed the Library and visit her there, she will exclaim:

Elmira: Well, look who it is. The Sim who built me an empty library.

Speak to her again and she will say:

Elmira: 'Hmph. Call this a library? Where are all the books!?'

She then will give you the Task of creating a Bookcase for the library.

I have included these examples to demonstrate the distinct personalities of each Sim in the game as well as the diversity of items that you must create if you wish to move the plot forward.

It is highly diverting and quite creative. Although you will be given 'Blueprints' for each item that you need to create, there are many building blocks and you can experiment to your heart's content, creating any form that you like as long as it fulfils the basic requirements of its type. In other words, if some one requests a 'chair', you must include a seat for the chair, but other than that, you can choose a Blueprint for a basic or very ornate chair and then add whatever creative touches (and Essences) you desire. Usually, an item created as a Task will have specific Essence requirements but once you have met those, you can add more Essences if you choose. Each Essence has a value in terms of its category. If you can give an item that is 100% Cute to a Sim who loves Cute items, you will advance the friendship with that Sim more than you would by giving an item with only a 5% Cute Essence.

I am enjoying this game tremendously now. My first bitter struggle in the Workshop creating a 'comfy chair' now recedes into the distance and is laughable. In many games, one can err by making matters too complicated. I could have followed the basic Blueprint and completed the Chair in about two minutes if I had paid adequate attention to the game. Whenever you work in the Workshop, the blocks that are needed to complete the Blueprint will be shaded green. It then simply is a matter of moving them to the workspace and turning them in the right direction before placing them. It reminds me a little of building in 'Lost in Blue2' although that game had a time limitation and required the use of a hammer. Building in 'MySims' can be done at leisure. In fact, you can take a break and leave the Workshop at any time, even if the item is not finished. It will be stored in your rucksack, awaiting your attention.

For those who enjoyed 'The Sims' games in the past or who love Role-Playing Simulation games such as Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, I do recommend 'MySims' enthusiastically. Do not be put off by the rather childish style of the graphics. It is a very sophisticated game!

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