Not two sides of the same coin.
All fairy tales start the same: “Once upon a time…”. After that, it’s anybody’s game. A gentle breeze can whisk you off to a land of wish-granting fairies and buttercup-clad pixies. A terrible storm can fling your desperate caravan into a pit of filthy dragons and hideous trolls. You just never know what you’ll get.
[image1]So it is with MySims Kingdom, one for the Wii and the other for the DS. One name, two vastly different experiences. On one hand, you have the Wii version – a legitimately cute, playable little creation that its makers can be proud of. On the other, you have the DS version – a Frankenstein’s monster kind of abomination, albeit one with pink ribbons tied around the neck with electrodes.
The goal of MySims Kingdom, like the previous MySims offering, is to rebuild and improve. In the Wii version you have to rebuild a kingdom that spans the entire world. There are more than ten islands in the world, and each offers about an hour of solid gameplay. The DS version focuses on only one little pocket of the larger kingdom from the Wii version, and it’s this inherent lack of variety that explains part of this version’s downfall, but it doesn’t explain it all.
The Wii version is superior in every way. From the options to customize your character to the variety of environments, the cute factor, the replay, and the controls, you will find a much more satisfying experience with the Wii.
MySims Kingdom is another title in the long line of all things cute that Nintendo likes to support. If this game is any bellwether, I would say they are spending all their cute bucks in Wii development and leaving the DS out in the harsh, ugly cold.
The Wii version opens on an idyllic little world that has fallen into disrepair. Your character is the humble working class subject of King Roland, a kindly ruler that is struggling with a cupcake addiction. With the encouragement of two good friends, you take up the challenge set forth by the King. You are to become a Wandolier – which I suppose is a cross between a wand, a bandoleer, and a musketeer – and use your new magical powers to bring the Kingdom back to its former glory.
[image2]Training is accomplished in a novel way – a competition that familiarizes you with your new abilities. After winning the bid to become the kingdom’s new Wandolier, you’re off and running. You, Buddy the dim-witted messenger, and Lyndsay the plucky little pirate set sail to the far reaches of the land, leaving solid infrastructure and happy subjects in your wake.
A must-have for any offering under the Sims umbrella is lots of customization. This has that. Plenty of options for your Sim are available right off the bat. You can choose eye color and shape, skin tone, hairstyle, clothes and accessories. Kids eat this stuff up. Playing dress up is an important part of early childhood development, and someone on the Wii Sims Team at EA knows this all too well, capitalizes on it, and makes it work. New costumes and hairstyles can be earned as play progresses, and it’s always a nice little treat.
Another neat customizing feature is your character’s voice. It can be adjusted on a sliding scale. The Simglish your character speaks can come out sounding like a gurgling baby, a breathy contralto, or a nefarious baritone based solely on your preference and where you land the slider. The right kids will have a field day just customizing all day, and anything on top of that in their minds will just be gravy. That alone is worth the price of admission.
After altering your Sim, you’ll want to get to work, but you’ll need a few things: essences, which fuel your wand; and scrolls, which are recipes that itemize all the essences needed to conjure a given object. Some essences are mined, others are plucked or cut from natural objects. Anyone attracted to cuteness probably personifies inanimate objects from time to time. Fortunately in this game, you don’t have to feel bad about chopping wood from a tree because you can just water it and everything grows back like new.
The whole game has a nice, non-oppressive eco-consciousness to it that just feels right. Gathering essences is an exercise in the full functionality of the Wii-mote. It quite elegantly and believably becomes a chopping axe, a clanking shovel, a beeping, vibrating metal detector and more. Even with all the bells and whistles, though, collecting essences quickly becomes repetitive. But kudos to the folks over at EA for making the act of shaking a tree fun at all. I bet they make good stone soup.
[image3]Overall, the game is well-paced. There are plenty of tasks and they are metered out at a good rate. They are not so sparse that you are wandering around like Henny Penny waiting for the sky to fall, and not so packed together that you feel like you put on the Red Shoes and can’t get them off. There’s always something to do, but there’s really no pressure to do any of it. The only problem with the pacing is that you can’t jump ahead.
Navigating through everything the game has to offer is done exceedingly well. Controlling your character is easy. If you ever forget what you need to do, a travelogue contains all the information you need: the status of your various tasks, what you’ve got in inventory, maps, etc. The intuitive menu makes the travelogue a veritable old-world Trapper Keeper.
There are a few shortcomings with MySims Kingdom, the most notable being camera control. The angles seem off and changing views is cumbersome. The fact that you can’t do things out of order is frustrating and the game doesn’t show us anything we haven’t seen before.
If you are considering adding MySims Kingdom to your library, consider it only for the Wii. At least then you might have a chance at a fairy-tale ending. The DS version will only leave you feeling like you ate a poison apple. Despite its flaws, the Wii version of MySims Kingdom is still pretty fun to play. For the right kid, this would make a great gift.