The Sims 3: A Blockbuster Game Reborn on the iPhone

The Sims is a juggernaut in PC gaming and continues to hold the title of best-selling PC-based game throughout its three revisions over the past ten years. The Sims 3 is the current flagship game and iPhone app within EA’s The Sims division. That was nearly two years ago, but EA later followed that up by releasing a new version of two of the expansion packs released for PC and Mac.

The iPhone game is not a port of the PC game, but a different experience optimized for Apple’s mobile devices. We’ll look at the base game and it’s two expansions, World Adventures and Ambitions, in today’s review.

Create-a-Sim

The game starts with the familiar requirement to create a sim, the avatar you operate within the game. Each version of the game comes with a different selection of clothing options to outfit your sim with but depends on the theme of the game (vacations, for example, in World Adventures).

The tools included are robust and are essentially mobile versions of the majority of tools available in the powerful PC game. Lacking is the ability to use the Create-a-Style tools that The Sims 3 saw as a flagship feature. Instead, you are limited to a selection of basic colors for hair and other re-colourable elements.

The attire options are a bit lacking, but the variants of each kind of clothing item make up for it. This experience doesn’t match up to it’s PC counterpart, but this is expected at a fraction of the price. The app does bring across a few flagship features such as the trait system.

A true jack-of-all-trades.

Customization is afundamental feature of The Sims 3 and EA’s attempts to integrate this into a mobile platform is modest. The clothing options are minuscule in comparison to the power of the PC efforts, but the integration of traits and persona are surprising.

Gameplay

Another missing feature is the seamless neighbourhood effect we see on the original game. This allows your sim to visit various locations around the virtual town without loading screens, a world away from the experience on mobile. If you want to move around Sunset Valley – the aforementioned town – you need to go to the pavement and view a loading screen first. This town has many different locations and changes depending on which version you’re playing. All of the locations are relevant to the theme of the game.

The execution of your sim’s everyday actions is very different in that everything seems dummed down. The options available don’t seem as plentiful as the equivalents on PC, but seem enough for the mobile arena.

One feature that’s very prominent is the wishes system, whereby your sim conveys personal requests to you to complete. Starting out, one of my sims asked me to “find a job using the computer” and I got the option to promise this as a goal. To complete this goal, all I needed to do was head over to my metaphorical (since at start I don’t have one, nor have the funds to buy one) computer and choose “Find a Job”.

You’re probably familiar with the general gameplay of The Sims franchise and the game just keeps going on like this. Eventually through the rabbit-hole careers your funds will increase, you’ll buy more things to interact with and you’ll meet more people.

Social encounters and interaction build up and you can develop relationships with non-playable sims in the game. This leads onto the ability to grow your sims’s social life and, in the Ambitions revision, produce offspring to extend your virtual ancestry.

World Adventures

World Adventures is the first expansion pack to The Sims 3 and takes your sims to new, foreign locations. The iPhone equivalent also boasts this theme, allowing sims to take flights to Egypt, China and France (the locations used in the PC version). Locations are not unlike the base game but are effectively skinned with new locals and places to visit. Tomb exploration at the various locations is not very complex with mini games replacing most of this process, a disappointing addition that takes away a large proportion of the fun on a desktop.

There are a handful of mini-games including one whereby you combat airsickness during your travel to one of the three locations. This isn’t as fun as any of the other elements, but, luckily, you can upgrade to a first class ticket to avoid it.

Unfortunately, while this is fun, it’s nothing compared to the base game’s functionality. It just feels like a skin over the top, complete with generic slideshow whilst “touring landmarks”.

Top-left: The neighbourhood view. Bottom-right: In the house.

Ambitions

Ambitions, as a PC game, was a much better received expansion pack by some diehard fans. As a mobile version, it also makes up for the lame efforts in World Adventures as, just as you’d expect, the Ambitions game expands on the career options available in the game.

Instead of living by yourself, with little interaction with the outside world, due to an incoherent lack of a full town, you can extend and breathe in the virtual world. A pleasing addition is the ability to generate a family through the production of offspring (a development on the relationship system).

Graphics

The Sims 3 doesn’t see the same level of powerful graphics that its counterpart enjoys. Instead, edges seem sharp and crude which is uncommon, even on some rival iPhone games. It’s not the best from a character/environment view. The mobile gaming space has changed a lot since the original game’s initial iteration so there’s space for improvement on EA’s part.

However, the user interface doesn’t endure this same, harsh graphical level and seems a lot more refined and enjoyable.

Closing Thoughts

The Sims 3 is a great time waster and a nicer alternative to it’s predecessor, The Sims 2 (not available on iPhone). The gameplay is not as plentiful as it’s PC counterpart but that is to be expected due to the graphical demands of it’s full blown equivalent.

The graphics seem to be the only other let down, which were acceptable back in 2009 but not so much as the mobile arena has expanded. Powerful devices warrant better graphics, which are just not evident in any of these three games.

Yet, for a few bucks, it’s a pleasing purchase which you’ll probably not regret. I recommend starting out with the original game. Budget iPhone-goers can be forgiven for skipping the minimal, paid upgrades.


Summary

The Sims is juggernaut in PC gaming as it continues to hold the title of best-selling PC-based game throughout it's three revisions over the past ten years. It's iPhone efforts are great time wasters, but no alternative to the full game.

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