Life is strange, and I’m not actually referring to the episodic adventure game about angst-fueled teens and time rewinding from Remember Me developer Dontnod Entertainment, which is definitely somewhere on my mental really-must-play list. Life is Strange, that is–I’ve already enjoyed the heck out of Remember Me. Anyways, when I started playing The Sims FreePlay, I was a married man. In fact, I named my first Sim’s dog after my then wife’s family’s dog. Still with me? At some point, I probably had intentions to recreate my true-to-life family, giving everybody their own house and fashion style. By the time I got back to it, all that had changed. Now I just hit the randomize button and go from there, though I did create and name one woman to resemble Joan Cusack.
Over the years, I’ve dabbled with a few games in The Sims franchise. My favorite was probably The Sims Social, which you experienced via Facebook and had all the annoying hooks of a social media site-driven gaming experience by pestering friends for stuff, but still let you do whacky things like plants full-grown trees inside your house. I have not yet tried planting an entire forest inside my home in The Sims FreePlay, but I suspect it can get just as zany, considering it doesn’t mind that I send both parents off to work for eight hours straight and leave a baby alone in its crib, unsupervised.
The Sims FreePlay, which is not the greatest of names, is yet another strategic life simulation game in the franchise, developed by EA Mobile and Firemonkeys Studios. Basically, it’s a freemium version of the The Sims for mobile devices, with some restrictions and other differences. You begin adding people to your town, decorating their houses, finding them jobs and hobbies, and building relationships. It’s up to you to develop them and create stories, like the one I’m slowing working towards where it is just a single woman living in a drab, non-decorated house full of cats. There’s also a Sim called Oscar Skinner who may or may not be a serial killer from a Criminal Minds episode.
Unlike console or PC versions of The Sims, your actions aren’t roadblocked by simple concepts like money. Instead, everything in The Sims FreePlay takes time. Real-life time, as the games follows the clock á la Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which means you can’t send somebody to their day job at ten at night. Trust me, I’ve tried. Actually, other than that, it’s not terribly restricting. However, this sort of mechanic is perfect for a mobile game–I’m playing on my legendary Windows 8 phone–wherein I can log in, give everybody a task to do for the next seven or eight hours, and then check back later to receive experience points and money, which we all know is stupidly called Simoleons. As you add more Sims and level up, extra houses and construction jobs cost more to perform.
There’s some other currencies to keep in mind as this naturally is a free-to-play game. Say hi to Life Points and Social Points. Both of these currencies go up much slower and in more specific intervals–like through leveling up–and you can use Life Points to help complete tasks instantly that one might feel are taking too long. Personally, I’ve only used them to bake a birthday cake to help an infant become a toddler. Life Points can be earned by completing goals, hobbies, driving around town, or can be dug up in your lawn by pets, and I don’t know exactly their purpose yet, but I have a few saved up.
I am enjoying the actions in real time element of The Sims FreePlay except for when it comes to a bunch of small tasks, like grabbing a snack, using the toilet, washing your hands, and then calling a friend for a quick chat. All of these tasks take about seven to thirty seconds each to complete and help keep your Sim’s attributes high and healthy. However, you can’t stack these actions up to happen one after another; instead, you have to hang around or remember to check in to assign the next task, which can be tedious, especially once your number of Sims begins to grow higher than four. Currently, the majority of my Sims are at work, so I don’t need to check back for several hours, though a good tip is to always leave one Sim available for miscellaneous tasks.
Besides Achievements to unlock (I’ve gotten 10 out of 20), there are a bunch of in-game goals to complete. Actually, there’s an Achievement for finishing 1,000 goals, so everything is circular. Many are easy, like “bake some cookies” or “be romantic with another Sim.” Right now, there’s even a Halloween-themed quest line involving ghosts and purple monsters, though it is timed, which is unfortunate as I doubt I’ll get it all done. These at least give you something to focus on when you can’t decide what to do with an adult Sim or it is too late to send them to work. The Sims FreePlay does allow you to spend real money on Simoleons and other thingies, but it’s not pushy about it nor have I felt constricted for not dropping some cold cash. I hope that never changes; if it does, I always have my disc copy of the original The Sims coupled with a print-out of cheat codes to sate my appetite.
Also, I’ll report back if I’m successful with my crazy cat woman mission. Don’t want to leave y’all hanging.
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