The Sims 3 – Review and Tips from shigzeo, the Sleaze

EA have type-casted me as a sleaze and I will admit to liking it. But, let me straighten out one thing: prior to playing the Sims 3, I had no idea what a ‘woohoo’ was and why my sim should as a dying wish desire it 8 times in one day. Well, after at least 17 hours of play, I have not accomplished his goal, but I have learned how to be a true and proper sleaze in this beautiful game.

The Praise
Sims is that sort of game. It teaches you about life – about your life – in its guileful rendition of a digital person. The truth is that each character, no matter how ordinary or maniacal, speaks volumes about you, the player. You may choose to be a nice guy or girl, a maniac or a power freak, but you won’t get away with things that you have not dreamt of in your own life. Essentially, you are playing a a second self; the Sims is no less an RPG than say, Zenonia or The Quest. In fact, in some ways it is much much more a role-playing game than those games that focus on solving the world’s problems. The difference is that you are not out to fix something evil in the land; instead, you fix TV and fridge and ‘bake’ grilled cheese – you are role playing in a far more pragmatic, if not mundane way.

Take ‘shigzeo’ for instance. He is the sleaze in my small arsenal of sim. He’s a nice-lookin’ chap of slender build who sports a mo-hawk and a pin-striped suit. He just happens to be a top-chef and Marcell’s right-hand man at the Bistro. His sleaziness manifests itself nearly every day in his need for ‘woohoo’, which is the Sims’ slang term for nooky, whoopee, boinking and boffing. shigzeo feels the need for this very often and as I mentioned before, has a life-dream of rolling in the hay 8 times in one day.

Good thing he only works 4 days per week.

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On his days off, he exercises his L337 socialite skills: visiting Theresa, visiting Nina, visiting Kia and Jake to whom he has taken a recent fancy. Ruth, who is Kia’s arch-enemy is also on shigzeo’s hit-list but on those days when things don’t work out so well with her, shigzeo kicks over her garbage can. Why? Because he can.

That is the beauty of the Sims 3. It opens up your deepest and darkest desires and as long as you can choose a character type, you can have at ‘em. I have literally never kicked over a garbage can nor slapped. But after my experience with ‘shigzeo’ the Sleaze and ‘Thriller’ the maniac, I am a pro. EA’s latest title is also, not without its iconic sense of humour. When talking to other sims, their thoughts pop up in bubbles over their heads and some of them are quite classic. For instance, you can make a flirtatious joke about carrots and toilet humour is a frequent comedy act. But, the most poignant is frequency of bathroom use with sim females. Nina came over for a dance and in the space of 3 sim hours, I nine times preferred the porcelain throne to my plastic chairs. In the Sims 3, all NPC female sims will follow suite.

The iDevice’s version of Sims 3 is a practical lesson in paradox. The world is tiny. It is one neighbourhood replete with 10 or so houses, a ‘city’ hall, bistro, tuna pond, some shops and the most ubiquitous landmark of all: a biological research centre. My home town of 800 people was not endowed so well as to accommodate a bistro and a research centre. We did, however, manage to squeeze an old folks’ home in.

Despite its apparently tiny environmental footprint, the town belies an immensity that would make many real cities blush. For example, it takes me 30 minutes to walk to work. Move the same situation to a large city like Toronto, (Canada’s largest city which houses ~5 million people) and you would have traversed the entirety of the business district which crams in thousands of people, hundreds of shops, train and tram lines, and a bunch of squeegee kids in the same time frame. In other words, time moves rather fast in the Sims. But usually, I don’t mind it.

Since the Sims is the sort of game that you can attach any genre’s badge onto, time needs to go fast to keep you from tiring your fingers out in an exercise to do everything all at once. You will have to learn to partition because aside from role playing, the Sims will teach you time and resource management skills. Unlike its PC brethren, it is however, much easier to navigate. You don’t need alarm clocks (in fact, there are none), nor constant tweaking of your ‘needs’ metres. You sim is effectively run on a slowly degrading auto-destruct. Just learn the few tricks to keep it happy, fed, clean, woohoo’d and s/he will not blow up.

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Interface and Presentation
Let’s face it, EA are virtual gods in the arena of games. They have been in business for longer than many of you have had hair under your armpits and it shows (their expertise, not your underarm hair). The Sims 3 is very well-designed for the iDevice. You can store 3 sims, use your iTunes library if you tire of the twangy banjo music and quit at any time without fear of losing your progress. Also, if you don’t do English, you can choose from these five: French, Italian, German, Spanish and Japanese. In a nutshell, EA left nothing out that would make the Sims 3 a better gaming experience for a mobile phone.

Panning and zooming around the screen is a breeze and finding your sim is intuitive. Controls are great. Tap to walk, talk and open actions. Scroll through menu items with a flick or a slide and you have the Sims’ interface. It is that simple.

If I were to point out an issue that needs to be addressed, it would be the excessive use of pop up messages. There is pop up for everything: everything. Gain a level, a goal, a skill point, a fish – there is a pop-up that. In fact, it is annoying especially when repeating actions like fishing whose success rates are nigh 100%. Just as we are able to turn off pop-ups in a web-browser like Safari 4, there needs to be a message filtering system in the Sims.

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How to Get that Promotion – ‘shigzeo’ the Sleaze
To get ahead, befriend your boss – suck up/brown nose/ kiss apps – do it and don’t feel humiliated. Also, don’t regret that you are using him/her to get to the top. First, get a job from the Bistro, Qucikmart, town hall or the research centre. Get to work on time and then spend the rest of your time in activities that will keep your sim happy. You can access employment information from the same menu that you will flip through many times in a virtual day. It is found in the bottom right and looks like a diamond. Otherwise, tap the ‘sticky note’ icons just to its left. Flip left and right to see all your character’s stats and make sure to keep your goals and ‘status’ bars met.

I found it best to practice cooking at home to get my culinary skills up to Marcell’s standards. It is also important to keep your sim’s good attitude up. As you climb the employment ladder, you may have opportunities to cheat and steal from your boss. Take them. And woohoo enough to keep you smiling. Playing Marcell and practising my culinary arts at home had me at the top in under 2 weeks. I reckon that if I received any more promotions, Marcell would have to demote himself to maintain the bistro. I earn 300$ per day and work 4 days per week. Not bad for a sleaze.

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Lessons learned with ‘Tomato’ – Keep your sim happy
My wife’s character, ‘Tomato’ (it’s a long story with too many twists and turns for a review – we are working on a screenplay instead) died. She did not have enough fun (TV, Dancing, socialising, woohoo) and was killed by an escaped research monkey. It is true. She meticulously managed every single status bar and got promotions as per her agenda. Tomato was well-fed and well-woohoo’d. But, nearing her next big promotion, she sold her TV to finance a house upgrade. Not a big deal – we don’t have one in our RL (real life) house and have never owned one in our married life.
Unfortunately, ‘Tomato’ hadn’t the most outgoing of personalities. She would work and cook and in her spare time, garden. But neglecting her friends’ TV’s she fell into self-destructive spiral of boredom. At her nadir, she just went to work and ate – it was like watching a lab rat living its life waiting for its terminal surgery. ‘Tomato’ did not have to die. There are better ways to learn to manage ALL of your status bars.

The scary part is that in real-life, my wife is a researcher, and we have not gone to the club in a long time and the lack of a TV is finally taking a toll. Lesson learned.

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Do it like a maniac – Home Economics 1001, Mr. ‘Thriller’
After finishing your sim’s creation, you need to only one thing to succeed in the Sims 3: a fishing pole. If you have just that, you are as good as gold. Don’t get a job unless you need human interaction. Don’t waste your time with promotions. Kick over garbage cans and slap people. Use their showers and sleep in their beds: nothing else matters if you possess a fishing pole. Fishing is the single fastest way to earn a living in the Sims 3. With a fishing pole and about 2 game days worth of practice, your sim will attain a level 5 ‘Competition Fisher’ which means that you will pull in snapper, trout, salmon and tuna – all of which are good to sell.

If you get a job and rise through the ranks till you get your final promotion, you will be well off. But imagine making 2000$ per day. A job at any level will not make you half of that. Quit your job if you value money. “Jobs hold you back” – I am sure I saw that in an EA welcome brochure somewhere.

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Mechanics of the Sims – Time to Tweak
There is no other way for me to say it: the Sims 3 for the iDevice is fun if not a full-featured Sims game. Like many made-for-mobile ports, it is paired way down in order to remain playable on your iPhone or iPod. This is both good and bad. Firstly, there are no moments when the game feels heavy or sadly in need of better hardware. There are intermittent loading screens and some graphical stutters, but the latter may be resolved with future updates and the former has been part of the game since 2000.

The Consternation
From clothes to looks, you are limited to about ten options per editable feature and body type is not adjustable. Neither is the starting house and creating a family to bring up is also not possible; the Sims 3 is playable only from your character’s perspective. It is a static game, that though fun, is a long throw away from the glory that is the PC’s Sims 3. In fact, it is much simpler than the nearly 10-year old original Sims.

Also, the town is not an interactive network as it is in the PC games. You go to work and buy or sell stuff: that is it. No real mingling and no real leisure activity of any sort. When you go to a friend’s house or host a friend, you cannot cook for them. It is also hard to join in on their fun though you might chat or watch a few seconds of the same TV show together, but the Sims 3 is largely replete with fragmental experiences. At this moment, there are some stability issues to sort. I have restarted, re installed and re-everything my iPod Touch. No matter – I still experience occasional crashes or, if I am using my iTunes library, frequent crashes.

Unfortunately, you will have to leave your decoration skills at home. There are too few options to get excited about. The same goes for skills-upgrading activities like reading and weight-lifting. In the PC versions of the Sims, there are dozens of options to keep your sim in good mental and physical shape, but in the iDevice version, only a handful: cooking, fixing electronics, tilling vegetables and fishing. Fortunately each is fun and easy to pick up, but four is far too few.

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The Mini-Games – Where oh where are the Ergonomics?
To get nit-picky, the mini-games need some help. Cooking, next to steady employment obviously takes bottom-rung at EA. Imagine this: making grilled cheese in pots – in pots of boiling substance no less. You will always eat alone and though your sim doesn’t get fat, by the end of the game, the same slim sim will eat food from four full pots. That is not the problem. The problem is the cooking process. The touch controls or the viewing angle for cooking needs to be overhauled. Even if your fingers are small, you may often press the wrong pot when trying for another or the game may not register your touches.

But, the biggest problem is that EA have chosen to interrupt your cooking for anything and everything else. If your TV breaks, the screen will move to the now flame-spouting tube. The same goes for your other devices. It is not enough that the mini-game itself is faultily programmed, the game itself does not want you to finish making a meal. If your attention is drawn away long enough for you to realise you need to fix the TV, you will lose the meal. In terms of balance, completing any other mini game is child’s play. Fixing a circuit takes all of 5 seconds and fishing, just a bit of leaning and pulling (did he say ‘leaning’?). Cultivation is not even a game as there are no consequences for mistakes. In fact, there is no mistake. Just click the field and keep clicking till you have tomatoes or green peppers.

Surely, EA will fix some of these oversights with subsequent updates, but as seems to be the trend of late, rushing a product will mean the difference between an initially perfect game and just another great game in a market where first impressions are the lifeblood of an app.

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The Balance
At the same time, there are no taxes and no worry that every fried potato you eat will incrementally flood your bladder with effluvium. In the end, the iPhone’s Sims 3 is a portable game that has scope, vision and playability that will embarrass most other game son the platform. It is priced well, looks great, and sound, though understated and repetitious is great. Plus, you can play your own iTunes music if you get bored of the same John Denver tunes.

The Bottom-Line
Though a pale shade of immersion when compared to PC versions, the Sims 3 remains one of the best games at the App Store. Its multi-genre gameplay will appeal to many gamers and because several classes of characters exist, overall replay value is high. Small and compact, the Sims 3 is a heady show of tight gameplay, exploration and overall fun. I recommend it to any gamer who still has 9.99$ left to sink into yet another game.

The Sims 3 is a great ‘Grab’ at the App Store.

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App Summary
Title:The Sims 3 (v1.0)Developer:EA
Price:$9.99App Size:63.7 MB
  • Great Interface
  • Multi-Genre Gameplay
  • Do anything to or with your sim
  • Great Graphics and Sound
  • iTunes Library Access
  • Good Skill upgrades
  • Fun to ‘interact’ with other Sims
  • Many many hours of gaming including multiple run-throughs
  • Amazingly fun game – Personal favourite along with The Quest!
  • Worthy of Current #1 App spot
  • Not a full The Sims game
  • Annoying Pop ups
  • Some crashes
  • Needs more interactivity with other sims
  • Town is small!

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