Previews

MySims Kingdom

Rome wasn't built in a day, but then they never had a magical construction wand, did they?

Last year's MySims reminded us of our youth spent playing with a giant bucket of Lego scattered all over the floor - and not just because we nearly lost a toe after stepping on the upturned DS cart. The premise of the game was simple: transform your crapshack of a town into a tourist hotspot by using the remote to build and paint houses, structures, furniture and other such items.

But the real joy came not from watching your idle neighbours profit from your diligent hard graft. Rather, it was in the mischief of using the game's versatile construction tools to create monstrosities of modern design which your in-game 'pals' would love, despite the buildings being inherently repulsive to the sane eye. As with Lego, your enjoyment is capped only by your creativity, and our enjoyment capped at an impressive 90% in our review.

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This year's update retains that same childish charm (within ten minutes we'd built some old sea barnacle a disgusting yellow and purple bungalow surrounded by killer teddy bears), but attempts to give the proceedings more focus by framing the mayhem within a tighter storyline.

As it goes, you play the part of a pigherder named Sam who, after winning a magic competition against a complacent princess and a clearly disinterested sailor ("I'm in it for the toaster oven!" he confides at one point), becomes the new 'wandolier' of the kingdom - not a bad promotion for a humble swine-hand. In English, being a wandolier means you're the holder of a special wand that can magic up anything from bricks to bridges to chimneys at a moment's notice, providing you've got the available raw materials.

The wand offers a tangible improvement over the original MySims; instead of having to backtrack all the way to your home to view your blueprints, now you can just tap the plus button on your remote (sorry - wand) to enter the construction mode, enabling you to slap stuff directly onto the landscape.

Armed with your wand, you're sent out to fix the many various islands under the jurisdiction of your king, all of which have their own 'theme', much like a '90s platform game. To begin with, you'll have a choice of just two islands, but successfully renovating the broken rubbish on these islands will reveal more of the game world map.

The closest island to home is a nature reserve, where you'll have to fulfil typically animal-related tasks such as making (and herding cows into) a pen and building a terrifyingly tall play centre for the resident cat to frolic in.

When your attention turns to fixing the knackered rodeo ride sitting in a sad corner of the island, MySims Kingdom gets all Lego Technic on you. To get that buckaroo back on its feet you'll need to link its power switch up to the mains using a complex series of gears and axles. (Actually, it should be a simple series of gears and axles, but we think perhaps we didn't approach the problem in the most logical way. We trust you'll get it right.)

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This mechanical puzzling is a theme that's explored further in the next - wild west-themed - land, where you have to lay pipes to irrigate a parched crop field. Although it's barely a challenge, it's the first indication that MySims has claws and will get round to using them in due course - it's all too easy to pipe yourself into a corner and have to start all over again.

As with the original MySims, you'll occasionally (well, okay, often) come across a brain-tickler that requires parts you just don't have. In such an event, you'll have to unlock the new pieces by completing a magic scroll. Again mirroring the original, this is done by scavenging the lands for raw materials, either by pootling around with a metal detector, mining for gold, fishing or chopping down trees. Each is achieved using basic motion movements, such as swinging the remote horizontally to imitate a chopping motion. You know, to keep your wrists in good shape and all that.

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