In the mood for a game so gentle and low-risk it makes The Sims seem like a pulse-pounding thrill ride? Or how about something so nonsensical it makes Katamari Damacy seem like an episode of ‘Antiques Roadshow’? Well, if easy and weird is how you like it, Nintendo’s Tomodachi Life may be just the Mii Rap Simulator/news program for you!
As the manager of a private island (which you can name whatever you please), it’s your job to create/import as many Miis as you can and attend to their every want and need. This means playing games, watching their dreams and buying them ridiculous hats. The Miis, as always, are cute as buttons, and their cartoony features lend themselves to recreating many of your favorite characters. If you’d like to run an island populated by Samus, Hank Hill and Bill Cosby, you can. Before plunking your Miis onto your island you’ll choose their personality, deciding just how serious/energetic/etc., they are. While these traits do influence things like what sort of food and clothes the Miis like, or which Miis they’ll become bestest buddies with, overall their impact on gameplay is negligible… mostly because you have very little influence over the Mii’s social lives— once you give them a nudge about what to do, they pretty much have it from there.
While the core of Tomodachi Life seems to be caring for the Miis, you’ll spend so much time doing so many random things that it quickly becomes clear how unfocused this sort-of-life simulator is. At times it feels like less of a game and more of a series of occasionally-interactive events. There aren’t big decisions to be made, risks to be taken, or challenges to overcome; you’re mostly feeding Miis pancakes or getting money from them so you can go buy clothes for them, which is a strange sort of economy, but whatever.
When your Miis are full and fully-dressed, there are a number of activities to watch and sometimes partake in. Some are funny, like the improvised Mii rap battles or the musical numbers which allow you to write whatever lyrics you want (so long as you keep them G-rated or are subtle in your vulgarities). Others are boring and repetitive, like the “football game” which requires you to tap the screen repeatedly until your football player rings out the other, or when you have to help a Mii sneeze by tickling its nose with a feather. In a larger game such lackluster diversions might be more forgivable, but Tomodachi Life nudges you towards repeating these tasks over and over to earn money and keep your Miis happy, so they quickly grow tiresome.
Tomodachi Life is a bold, gentle, multicultural game in a world where gritty guns and dark-haired white guys are the norm. It’s occasionally funny and always easygoing, but you’ll spend just as much time bored by the repetitive activities and sheer randomness as you will laughing at things like watching Hank Hill try to serve Doctor Zoidberg in a freestyle battle. Player who are too young for the complexities of The Sims and other comparable titles may find plenty to enjoy here, but anyone with a few years under their belt will probably quickly grow bored of this oddball game that often doesn’t feel like a game at all.
This review is based on a purchased digital download of Tomodachi Life for Nintendo 3DS.