Posts Tagged ‘life simulation’

Game 18: Animal Crossing

Posted: January 12, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 460/1001 according to the list

Genre: Life Simulation
Platform: Nintendo 64 and Gamecube
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Something that every game wants to tap into is that addiction centre of the brain. As I mentioned/ranted about in a recent post the games that work best are those that reward at random intervals. Animal Crossing is able to carry this off by running in complete real time.

The lives of these cute little creatures follow a general schedule and there are events that only occur at certain times of the week, month or even year. You also feel incredibly responsible for the little town you create, with every day that passes it becomes more polluted and overgrown, talk about a guilt trip.

Our Playthrough

Since this took a long time to cross the Atlantic from the States the game I bought was actually an NTSC version. I played this on and off for the best part of the year so this is up to Jeroen to play. To do so he’ll create his own town and have fun with the animal villagers.

Our Thoughts

So, how did you get on in maintaining your delightful village of Drotimb? Not bad, although they seemed fairly pushy. I pay off my mortgage, and before I know it, they enlarge it for me and I have to pay back ten times as much. It happens so often though, but in the end you have a gloriously spacious abode filled with plenty of furniture. Indeed, plenty of weird and strange furniture, as well as more ordinary items.

It’s an interesting game, I’d say, although I’m not sure how it holds up long term. After a few hours, running around collecting shells, fishing and talking to people hoping they have a quest can get a bit tedious. I actually spent months playing this and managed to collect all the fossils and nearly all the insects (so much so that I managed to pay off the mortgage of the largest possible house).

I guess that I find it interesting that someone who happily spends a long time exploring every nook and cranny of an RPG world found this to be getting slightly tedious. I think what my worry here is that I don’t see much progress. Part of the thrill of an RPG can be to level-up, gain more powers, get better, and to find more stories. Here, you’re repeating the same thing. Sure, your house gets larger, and you can get more furniture, but your goal is to get a bigger house and get something nice… by doing the same things over and over. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but it was already starting to feel repetitive.

I always found it somewhat relaxing, a simple life where you can sell fish and plant trees to make your village as gorgeous as possible. That’s true, and it provides that experience, but it’s nothing too exciting, and from all that I’ve seen, it’s a coffee break game. Spend half an hour on each day, and it’s fun; spend five hours, and it’ll be boring after three days.

I disagree completely. I have been able to play Animal Crossing for hours at a time. So I guess this really is one for different temperaments. That sounds very true.

You cannot deny how cute the characters are, especially when your neighbours can be penguins and doggies. Most of them are, and they are mostly set up to be quite distinctive (until you get two who use the same set of phrases with only a word replaced). Plus their babbling is cute.

Then there is the weekly concert from canine troubadour Totakeke (KK Slider in the English translation). The whole reason I would turn on the game on a Saturday would be to hear those cute little animalese songs. Whom I haven’t met, of course, and due to the way the week was layed out, I couldn’t get to see. I think I was waiting in a freezing York station at the time. Remind me later to show you a clip on Youtube. Sure, that might show more of it.

What’s interesting is how the game interacts with the clock and calendar. The town changes as time passes. As we were playing it was constantly snowing. But there can be petals or falling leaves depending on the season. Plus annual festivals where you can get special items unavailable at other times of the year which try to suck you in so you keep you playing. As said, I haven’t seen that, but it sounds amazing.

I guess that to truly get the best out of this game (as I appear to have done) this needs a lot of your time over a prolonged period.

Final Thoughts

This is a fun game that can get quite addictiveif you give it time to become so. It looks good, bright and colourful, the sound’s nice, it’s cute, and there a couple of interesting subgoals to entertain yourself with. It does, however, seem to be a game where you have to be sucked in – if you’re not, it can get dull and you might give up sooner than the game warrants.


Game 9: Little Computer People

Posted: December 16, 2010 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 95/1001 according to the list

Genre: Life Simulation
Platform: Various ones
Year of Release: 1985
Developer: Activision
Publisher: Activision

Did you know there are little people living in your computer? Well, there are, and in this Tamagotchi-like fishbowl game, you can see one of them going through his daily routine.

Yes, a guy and his dog in a house. They walk around and do the usual it’s a quiet day and I’ll relax stuff, while we just get to watch. Oh, you can bring food and water occasionally, and ask them to do things, but most of them, you just watch.

Our Playthrough

Turn on, sit back, do other things while occasionally glancing over to the screen. It’s all you can do, really.

Our Thoughts

Please dance *shrug* boring.

It’s like watching someone doing nothing for a few days. Watch some TV, read, talk on the phone, eat, drink, ignore the dog. Basically, it’s like Big Brother without the possibility of nudity or any real drama. And with no other people around. The game isn’t really one I’d recommend playing. It’s interesting as a piece of history – a predecessor of the Tamagotchi and other toys – but there’s nothing for you to do. Press “give food” and “Give water” and “Give dog food”, and that’s it.

I can see how it came to be an inspiritation for games like The Sims. To the right person this could be incredibly fascinating, even nowadays. Someone with as much of a life as the guy in the game? That’s not for me to judgeEven so, the first thing games like The Sims did was adding interactivity, and that’s the one thing missing from this game. Sure, you can type in requests for the man, but you have to be lucky enough to have him listen.

In some ways this game was reaching way beyond it’s grasp. Possibly. In any case, it was a first step that needed some more work to really become a game, rather than a slightly interactive screensaver. In some ways a real life aqauarium would have been more fun, at least there is some chance of the fish fighting each other.

Final Thoughts

This game is a relic, pure and simple. It is always interesting to see where successful franchises such as The Sims came from historically. This is not something you can really play… but it’s an interesting distraction for 5-10 minutes.

Game 8: Viva Piñata

Posted: December 13, 2010 by mulholland in Games
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Game 730/1001 according to the list

Genre: Life Simulation
Platform: X-Box 360
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Microsoft

Ah Viva Piñata. The simple sandbox life simulation where you look after a garden and hope to entice some colourful chocolate-filled pinata animals to live there. Of course there are complications from ‘sour’ pinatas and ruffians who come in to smash about the place… but it would be too easy otherwise.

As premises go it is exceedingly simple, which is probably what makes it so attractive.  It’s loveable cast of characters with their cute sweet-inspired names (such as Sparrowmint and Chewnicorn) actually made this the first game that I got for the 360.

This also marks the first of quite a few Rare games that appear on the list (others including Banjo Tooie and Goldeneye 007) so stay tuned for those.

Our Playthrough

I have wasted so much of my life on this in the past (whilst listening to Joanna Newsom no less) so this is a game where I am letting Jeroen take the lead. After all, it’s still a joy to watch all the little cut-scenes again for the first time… makes me remember how cute a newt can be when animated right.

Our Thoughts

SMASH THE PRETZTAIL!  Don’t you dare touch my bunnies! For those not in the know… a pretztail is a piñata for; one that loves to sneak in and eat your piñata bunnies and chickens (poor Cluckles).

Yeah. Anyway, I can safely say this is a good, fun game and incredibly addictive. I remember it from when I first played it years ago, watching you… reinforced that opinion. Yeah, unfortunately so. In a way I’m happy that we’ve finished our time, because now I have to move on, rather than feeling I could play another hour because ah well, I might as well.

I was really happy to see that this made the list, it’s such an unusual title because of the way it marries normal life simulation, cute creatures and things normally associated with games such as Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing. One disadvantage of only playing 5-6 hours is that you don’t get to see all the different piñatas. Some such as Galagoogoo and the elephant (who I gave some rather festive earrings) are some of the title’s true piñata stars.

Yeah, but this gave a good impression of what is possible, combined with looking at your old garden. Absolutely, at times this can be an incredibly relaxing and easy game… then suddenly you are whacked in the face as saboteurs enter your garden, your piñatas start to fight and you REALLY need to water a tree to stop it from wilting. And all of these can occur in quick succession.

Yeah, especially level-ups can cause this. You gain a rank every once in a while as you play, based on things you do. Because of this, they might occur while, for example, you’re in the middle of breeding your piñatas, and then may cause new nasties to show up, while you get a new shovel and a few other odds and ends, and you hear you need to deal with them all at once. And there were times when I was telling Peter “Yes, I’ll get to that, but I first need to do these three other things!”

And there were times when Jeroen was happily allowing his piñatas to be eaten and it upset me… I guess I’m a bit less sensitive than you with these things. If I can get a nicer or different piñata back for it, I don’t think it’s much of a problem. You can grow incredibly attached to certain piñatas though.

Yeah, the worms are cute. They’re the first piñatas you get, and I got plenty. So are the sparrows, especially when they do their happy dance.

One other thing to mention – while there are a lot of bad things you need to keep track of, the game gets quite flexible in this, and with a bit of work you can return to proper sandbox mode where you can do what you want soon enough. For example, while baddies show up, you can convert most of them, after which they won’t show up as baddies, or you can buy items or helpers that’ll chase them away. Or not, in which case you can deal with it. This way you can create your own difficulty level and deal only with the problems you want to deal with, something which added to the fun to me.

And that makes this game dangerously addictive.

Final Thoughts

And that’s what this is – a colourful, addictive, fun game, that looks cute, steals your heart, and while it can get tough and overwhelming, it’s always easy to recover and bounce back. Whether you want a challenge in keeping away the guardians and smashing every sour pinata that turns up, or just want to see your creatures walk around a nice garden that’s taken care of by all your helpers, this game will work for you.