The Sims FreePlay: Simulation Wrapped In Great Graphics

The Sims is one of my favourite gaming franchises and I’ve been playing them longer than any other. For those that don’t know, The Sims is a series of simulation games revolving around your own customised, virtual family with a ton of different paths you can take them on. The game is a juggernaut on PC and pretty popular on both home and handheld consoles.

Back in 2009, EA Mobile brought The Sims 3 to the iPhone. While that game remains in the App Store, EA recently introduced The Sims FreePlay, a brand new app that, as the name suggests, is available for free!

Create-a-Sim

The first aspect of The Sims experience is Create-a-Sim, the tools that allow you to create your family of avatars (the “sims” of the game). The create-a-sim isn’t an incredibly dumbed down experience. You get a great level of customisability with a nice range of tools available to tweak your avatar, although still significantly less than in the PC counterpart. The degree of tools available is on par with console versions of the game, although it’s naturally better optimised for your finger.

If you too share a lack of creativity, one hit on the orange “random” button will give you a sim. You can just keep tapping the button to get getting new sims until you stumble on one you like. Of course, you’re able to tweak that sim in the way you would your own creation.

Create-a-Sim in The Sims FreePlay.

Create-a-Sim in The Sims FreePlay.

The interface here is very responsive and changes will be instantly reflected in the model to the left of your screen. EA manages to cram a lot of different options onto such a small platform, yet is able to create an intuitive experience that’s big enough for our fingertips to control.

Welcome to Life

As soon as you’ve left create-a-sim, you’ll be launched into the core game. Immediately I was struck by just how impressive the graphics are in this game. On my iPhone’s retina display, it looks very crisp, sharp and better than any I’ve seen on the platform. The graphics are significantly better than most paid games on the App Store.

The concept behind The Sims FreePlay is a little different than you might have come to expect from The Sims franchise. First, the game actually plays in real time alongside you; when it’s night in real life, it’s night in the game and vice versa. You’re unlikely to spend long sittings playing the game, so this style of gameplay is a very nice change from the norm.

Essentially, the aim of the game is to survive and progress through life. Just as you need to sleep, eat and use the bathroom, your sim has needs that must be fulfilled on a regular basis in order for them to have a good life. Failure to do so will have in-game consequences, but you it’s easy to see what’s needed by simply glancing at the UI. If you see anything red, you know to take action!

A "New Goal" modal in The Sims FreePlay.

A "New Goal" modal in The Sims FreePlay.

In a very similar way to other games that run in unison with real life time, The Sims FreePlay has a system for speeding up actions, at a cost to the player. Lifestyle points are one of two currencies in the game which can be earned or bought for real cash as in-app purchases. By spending these points, actions won’t take as long as normal meaning you don’t have to wait the length you’d spend in the shower while your sim has one. Simoleons are the other in-game currency, used to buy items like furniture.

Unlike the sandbox gameplay in The Sims 3, The Sims FreePlay is much more focused on the completion of goals. This deviates what The Sims is known for, but matches the casual bursts of gameplay that you’ll probably use the app for. The goal-centric gameplay allows you to achieve this much faster than in most The Sims games, although there’s many to complete.

Graphics, Audio and UI

As i’ve mentioned before, I’m really impressed by the graphics in The Sims FreePlay. They are literally some of the nicest you’ll see in any iOS game, and don’t suffer from jagged edges like so many other games on the platform do. The audio is just like any other game in the franchise, with a nice selection of sound effects to match the various events as they happen. The full tracks that play during build/buy mode are the same critically acclaimed ones from The Sims 3 on PC and Mac.

The UI is minimal, but still gets key information across such as the current state of your sim’s need. It would be nice to be able to dismiss various parts of it, but it’s far from obtrusive to your gameplay. The game uses multi-touch gestures like pinch-to-zoom to control the camera within the game, which are surprisingly easy to pick up on.

As you can see, the graphics in The Sims FreePlay are pretty impressive!

As you can see, the graphics in The Sims FreePlay are pretty impressive!

Final Thoughts

The Sims FreePlay is a pretty impressive package considering it’s a free game. The gameplay strays away from the traditional The Sims experience, but only so it can better adapt to the traits of the platform. The graphics are, perhaps, the biggest upgrade over any prior instalment on the iPhone and look stunning on a retina display.

It may be difficult having someone living real-time in your pocket who you need to feed, put to sleep and take to the bathroom, but I’d definitely recommend the game based on its numerous strengths. It’s also the first Sims game on the iPad, where it also looks amazing on the large screen.


Summary

The latest instalment of the famous simulation franchise.

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