Tag Archives: The Sims Social

A pig herder becomes a dutiful wandolier in MySims Kingdom

This might be an obvious statement to make, but with The Sims games, I either enjoy them or I don’t. There’s no middle ground. I first got to play the original game for the PC long after everyone else did, sometime back during my late college days in 2004/2005 or so, and I enjoyed it for the most part, never getting really far with my house or job or relationships with the kooky and nosy neighbors that populated Sim Lane. Speaking of relationships, by the time I started playing this, my then-girlfriend, which we will call the Giraffe, also ate up the game, so much that she bought her own copy, and we would ooh and ahh over each other’s furniture pickings and race each other to upgrade our houses. It was light competitiveness, but it kept the game meaningful. However, I have not touched many iterations after the original.

Of the many spin-offs and iterations, I have played a tiny bit of The Sims 3 on my cell phone, The Sims Social on Facebook until I couldn’t really progress anymore without spending some hard-earned cash, and MySims Agents for the Nintendo DS. Of those three, surprisingly, I am more fond of the latter title, which is part of a sub-franchise of simulation games built around the idea of being kid-friendly and easier to get into. Granted, I rated the game a 4 out of 10, but I can’t fault it for being a more relaxing, sim-like experience. Sometimes you just want to fart around in a world without worrying that you’ll go hungry or set yourself aflame in the kitchen or aren’t making enough money at your job to pay for all that furniture you just ordered.

And so we come to MySims Kingdom. For the Nintendo Wii. Yeah, yeah…I know. On Grinding Down, there has not been a ton of Wii coverage, mostly because I never remember to turn it on and play the games I got for it, but on a recent trip to GameStop, with a buy-two-used-get-one-free deal hanging low overhead, I picked up Katamari Damacy (PS2!), Super Paper Mario (Wii), and…MySims Kingdom. For free. It was free.

To my shock, it’s not bad. I mean, it’s not great, either, but it’s not bad. Most notably, the writing is sharp and pretty funny. You start as a low pig farmer of whatever build you like, whether it’s a boy or girl. You then get thrown into a contest. After which, you are chosen by King Roland to become the new wandolier for the kingdom. It is a wandolier’s job to scour the many islands that make up the kingdom and help people remain happy. All previous wandoliers have passed away or retired, and many islands have fallen into disrepair. It’s a paper-thin story, but it at least gives you a reason to go around helping people with their problems instead of just asking like an overzealous creepo.

Pauly’s friends Buddy and Lyndsay help dish out sidequests, as well as some amusing, if downright silly dialogue. Like, that one time Buddy talked about growing some bacon in the ground, and a little later, while using a metal detector, I discovered a whole bunch of ground-bacon. There’s also a wizard that sometimes says ABBA-CADOOBIE when disappearing; as an Abba, I can get behind that.

I just finished all the tasks on the first island you can go to once you get your boat. This was a Western-themed place called Cowboy Junction. Here, Pauly the Wandolier helped restore an outdoors pizza cafe, a blacksmith, herd Roxie Road’s cows into place, and teach a misinterpreted bandit how to make friends. Aww. It’s all very relaxing–except for the Wii-mote motion parts, like chopping down trees or clinking rocks with a pickaxe in search of gems–and not at all difficult, though the grinding and Simlish can become grating after too long of a play session. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately (I really can’t tell anymore these days), I got this shortly before getting Borderlands 2, so I don’t know when I’ll be back, but when I need to cool my jets, paint some houses green, dig up bacon bits, and collect musical notes from trees, I know just the place.

Traversing worlds in Braid like a true tourist

I played a little bit of Braid back at the end of August 2011, during the time that Hurricane Irene came swooping on in and knocked out power at Grimmauld Place for a week and then some. Stuck at the in-laws, I only had my Nintendo 3DS and laptop to entertain me videogames-wise–Tara’s dogs and old VHS tapes provided non-gaming fun–and there was only so much of The Sims Social I could take. So I loaded up Steam for like the third or fourth time ever and gave Braid a spin, using just a keyboard to govern Tim and time. It was not easy, but thankfully, the game itself is not punishing, and actually needs you to rewind your mistakes to learn how to progress forward. I got to the end of World 4 before stopping, but let me preface that with the fact that you actually begin Braid on World 2. So, uh, yeah.

And for the most part, I just walked from the beginning of the level to the end. Occasionally, I’d tried to get some of those shiny puzzle pieces, but if they proved too complicated, I just moved on. And the game is fine with that. You can literally go from beginning to end on some levels in under a minute. Just keep going right; Mario would be proud. As Jonathan Blow says, it’s “about the journey, not the destination.” Well, my journey was often that of a tourist, going forward and taking in all the gorgeous sights while trying not to disturb history. If I could, I hopped over enemies instead of on them. I do not regret breezing past some puzzles, as they will still be there when Tim decides to return.

Some of Braid‘s story elements had already been spoiled for me at that point by the Internet, so that was the least compelling part. The puzzles though, they remained unspoiled…and good for me. They are works of art. Clearly planned and executed in a way that mattered to the game’s  mechanics and mood. Even the simplest of them still give off a good feeling aura when completed.

Flash-forward to now, 2012, the year of our unmaking, and I’ve been using Steam a lot more thanks to a capable laptop. Y’all remember that I recently bought a second copy of Skyrim, right? Well, I’ve been playing it with my Xbox 360 controller plugged into the USB slot, and it’s been fantastic. I thought to give some other games in my Steam library a chance, too, to see if they were more enjoyable with a controller versus a mouse and keyboard. And they were–Trine and Super Meat Boy. Braid, too. It just felt more natural to jump about and rewind time using a controller. I dunno. PC gamers can hate all they want, but platformers and controllers go hand in hand.

And for giggles, here’s some Steam Achievements I unlocked, which are totally different entities than Xbox 360 Achievements:


Traversed World 5: Travel all the way across World 5.


Traversed World 6: Travel all the way across World 6.


Solved World 2: Fit together all the World 2 puzzle pieces and align the puzzle in its frame.

Okay. Will hop back in soon to hopefully finish Tim’s heroic journey up, though I suspect I’ll need to look up some walkthroughs to get all the puzzle pieces in Worlds 2-6 as many look quite tricky and daunting; however, I’m quite proud of myself for getting them all on my own in World 2, as well as defeating a certain boss using the clone recording mechanic. Guess I retained some skills from playing The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom long before Braid.

Mafia II is all about the money

I understand the concept of money as a motivator. It’s what fuels a majority of life, from food to gas to bills to pleasure. You can buy everything but love with it, if songs are to be trusted. But for me, within the context of videogames, it’s not enough to warrant doing horrible, atrocious acts of violence. I mean, it’s not like real money is being printed out of the Xbox 360’s disc tray; this is digital money to purchase digital things, and while I don’t mind doing miscellaneous tasks like writing fake blog posts or trimming Tara‘s bush in The Sims Social for some Simoleons, stealing cars and murdering those in wrong place at the wrong time for, um, $300 is not what I’d call justifiable. Unfortunately, all Mafia II has as a motivator is money.

Vito Scalleta is a war hero–that’s according to his childhood friend Joe, a crook and crooked man that eventually gets our young leading lad mixed up with the mafia. It starts out innocently enough, with Vito returning from World War II to snow and Christmas songs and the bad news that his sister and mother are still trying to pay off his father’s debt. Vito immediately wants to help, which shows off his good quality, but he’s willing to simply murder men trying to stop him from carjacking their ride, which shows off his videogamey quality.

I’ve only completed chapters one, two, and three so far, having started chapter four at this point. Vito is now tasked with sneaking into an office building and stealing gas stamps, and he’ll be rewarded better if he goes undetected. My kind of mission actually despite all my latest stealth failings with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. However, those first two chapters did not leave me excited about how Vito will grow as a character; basically, at this point, I’m writing him off as yet another Niko; oh hey, look at that, their names are similar too.

In chapter three, after meeting with the man that Vito’s father owes a ton of money, Vito was given the job to move some crates on to the back of a truck. For $10, which, I dunno, in the late 1940s, could probably get you a lot of thingies. Bread, milk, a porno mag. You go up to the crates, press X to pick one up, walk it over to the truck, press X to put it down, and repeat the process all over again. Mundane, but that’s how a lot of grunt work is, and while there were probably something like 4o to 50 crates, I was willing to carry them all back and forth because a job is a job, and I’ve always done whatever job I’ve been given. Vito, however, was not having it, complaining with each crate until he simply refused to carry any more; I was given the false decision to leave when he’d had enough, and with nothing else to do, I had to play into the role of Vito, who was not interested in doing what he dubbed “slave labor” for a measly $10. For shame, man. However, beating the crap out of warehouse employees not willing to chip in for a mandatory haircut collection is more wholesome work, mostly because it pays better. Sigh…

Fantastic tunes on the radio though. More games need this much Dean Martin love. And there’s a great attention to detail here, with the city looking very much alive, just like L.A. Noire. But at least that game had a likable main character, one with a soul, as flawed as it became. Here, with have Vito, who will do anything it takes to make money. Again, these sorts of people do exist, but they aren’t fun to roleplay as there is only one path to follow. Heed the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.”

Hurricane Irene, the weekend, and gaming

Well, we all knew she was coming ahead of time, and thankfully many of us paid heed to the warnings, but things were still pretty rough this weekend. In terms of things hitting close to home, the house we literally just moved into on Friday…well, it’s currently without power and hot water and the basement had about two to three inches of water in it. Plus, branches of deadly size were breaking off and dropping on the back deck:

Ugh. Yeah…don’t even know what’s going on in our other place–the Leaky Cauldron–but most likely not much, just power loss. Or extensive leakage. Trying not to think that way. Won’t be able to check on that for a little bit though. Pray that the remainder of our stuff remains dry and safe and…dry. Dry is the important factor here.

Tara and I spent the entire weekend at her parents’ place in Sparta, NJ, which still got hit with a lot of rain, heavy winds, and power loss. Honestly, prior, I thought that there was too much media hype about Hurricane Irene–my mother would’ve called me days ago and told me to pay attention and be prepared and that there was no hype, that this was a major storm rolling up the East Coast–and I probably would’ve just carried on as business as usual. Thankfully, everyone else freaking out began freaking me out and we smarted up, moved as much as we could into the new home, and then hunkered down elsewhere.

Before the storm rolled in, I made a quick swing by GameStop, interested in picking up a “get me through the hurricane” game, as well as rewarding myself for all that heavy lifting and stress that comes with physically moving from one place to another. I figured that if the power went out, I’d at least have my fully charged 3DS for a few hours of distraction/entertainment. I had a slight interest in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, the first true Japanese RPG for the Nintendo 3DS since its launch, and that’s interesting, considering the DS was always playing host to this JRPG and that JRPG. So I grabbed it, looking forlornly at the numerous copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution on the shelves behind the counter. My friend Greg had ordered me a copy, and I was hoping to get it in time for some weekend gaming, but Amazon was late shipping it, and then factor in the slim chance of being at the house to actually play it…wah.

But then DE:HR arrived on Saturday! I have read the game’s manual twice. That’s kind of like playing it, right?

Other than that, I played some Braid, VVVVVV, and more The Sims Social to help pass time as we *ahem* weathered the storm. Will probably have some posts up this week about these games, as well as some other goodies. Stay tuned. And please, please…stay away from falling branches.

The Sims Social and simulating social spamming

As I’m wont to do, I’ve drifted away from many of the silly Facebook games I was into months ago, such as CityVille and Pet Society and even–gasp!Chocobo’s Crystal Tower. In my mind, you can only click on things for so long, and I’ve never been into the social elements of social gaming, always feeling like I’m pestering my friends or spamming their newsfeeds. Which is odd then because I played a little bit of The Sims Social last night…and actually liked it. Guess others like it too since there’s over 10,000,000 monthly active players at the moment; Leigh Alexander probably not included in that count.

I’ve always enjoyed the gameplay of The Sims, taking the mundane tasks of daily life and turning them into something a wee bit more rewarding. Having a job, peeing, calling friends over for some TV and pizza…it’s all fun, and generally one wouldn’t think so. I mean, the social elements in games like Grand Theft Auto IV drove me absolutely batty, but that’s because the developers were trying to juggle too much at once. Here, it works…up until you accidentally set your Sim on fire or lose on your money in a bad spout of furniture purchasing. Which happens a lot for me. That’s been the biggest stresser and deterrent for me for The Sims franchise, the fact that you can work so hard making your house rock, your job awesome, and your circle of friends top-notch, and then can lose it all in a small kitchen fire.

Well, with The Sims Social, that fear is gone…seemingly. From what I can tell, your Sim can’t die. It can get unhappy and down and low on key meters like social, fun, and hygiene, but that’s okay. Just click around and visit some neighbors, and you’re back to sparkling goodness. And all the other elements of the The Sims is there, such as multiple tasks, traits, house construction, customization, and whatnot. Granted, everything is limited by a select amount of energy points used for actions, but it’s not too big of a hassle all in all. So far, spamming has been slight, and I’ve added my wife as a neighbor, but nobody else in my Facebook universe seems to be playing. No big deal. Like I said before, I’m not here for the social part of the browser-based game’s title. I’m here to click around and wear digital version of clothes I am wearing now and try to reconstruct my house into places I’ve actually lived in before, and I probably will for a little bit and then lose interest. Don’t be sad, Facebook. That’s just the way these things go. Here, have 1,000 simoleons!