A light hearted spin involving an island populated by Miis, Tomodachi Life takes a page from the Sims / Animal crossing book. Concerning the everyday lives of the islander’s inhabitance, the player is tasked with facilitating needs and keeping their islanders happy. Silliness ensues. If you’re a hardened gamer, this might not seem like an appealing prospect, but if you’ve got any heart at all, I think you’ll find it warming before very long.
Release Date: June 6, 2014
Consoles: Nintendo 3DS
Tomodachi Life begins with the discovery of your island, once you give it a name, all that’s left is to fill it with inhabitants. A big hit around our house, my son took particular pleasure in taking pictures of ourselves and laughing at the Mii generators interpretation. Then filling in its details, including relation to the creator and nickname, my son had some fun with this too, as a result we have a few oddly named islanders ( as Mr. Toilet brush can attest). Each character has a simple, and yet complex personality system. Built with a sliding scale from 1-8, each character has 5 personality traits that determine how that character behaves and interacts with the world. Movement, Speach, Expressivness, Attitude, and Overall (which is between ‘quirky’ and ‘normal’), and even such a simple mechanic offers fair variety in character types. When interacting with other simple AI of varying types what you get is a fairly expansive list of possible interactions. Just a word of warning though, from personal experience. The Mii’s on your personal island paradise are very simple, needy creatures who wouldn’t survive a minute without you to help with nearly every little thing. So, if you should sit on the couch for an hour, laughing as you take pictures and turn them into characters to live on your island, be prepared to run around frantically for awhile, just making sure everyone is hunky-dory.
I never tire of having a 3DS at hand, but some games just aren’t ‘pick up and play’. The funny little Mii’s need your help in one way or another, and as a result Tomodachi life is a game that fills five minutes just as well as it does fifty. Your first interaction will be to grab your Mii a bite to eat, in this case the way to their heart is quite literally through their stomach. This will introduce you to another big part of Tomodachi Life, new features unlocking around the island. Round about the time your first Mii’s get the grumbly tumbly’s the food shop will come to life. Inside are a variety of daily specials for a variety of goods. Each Mii will have favorites, eating which will add to the Mii’s overall happiness. Experimentation will help you learn about how to keep your villagers happy. Don’t worry too much about the cost either, though perhaps dropping cash on a steak in the early stages is a bit extravagant, as you help your residents you’ll earn some cash money tips. It was my experience that the little extra paid for itself in the long run, and the mayor of a happy village won’t want for funds. As you help the Mii’s through their little lives, they’re happiness caps like XP and they’ll level up. Leveling up gives you access to new ways to improve their lives, like outfits, room themes, songs, and they go about the business of life on the island. This leads to the primary loop for Tomodachi Life, micromanaging small facets of tiny lives, and sitting back to watch the silliness they get into. Working out relationships amongst themselves, I’ll admit it was a bit weird when my son’s best friend (MII version) started getting cosy with his mom (Mii Version) but with a little love advice from me, they left off being friends. Others will meet and fall in love organically, and your village will begin to expand within its own little ecosystem.
This ultimately, is the key to Tomodachi Life, a very pared down ‘Sims’ type of experience. The emergence of gameplay through more dynamic AI programming is fast becoming a thing. Sims 4 is a prime example of this. Their trailer at E3 setting the tone for a game that feels like a reality TV producer. And that’s not considering what game’s like Shadow of Mordor are doing. In the case of Tomodachi Life, while they aren’t out dominating orcish hordes, or dying from laughter at a party (the appearance of the grim reaper was certainly a nice touch) they will go out and live their little Mii lives. This can lead to some truly surprising interactions.
Graphically, though the 3DS isn’t the machine you go to for big screen gaming, it can still pump out some decent graphics. This isn’t a strength of Tomodachi Life. That said however, it’s quirky silly charm seems to fit with its style, and in a way felt a bit more friendly. Like a homemade card from a loved one, it was something pieced together, but closer to home. Though ridiculous at first, I will admit to having my doubts, until I found myself getting excited at the news that a new store was opening, anticipating the needs of my populace. I did find the ability to ‘look around’ one of the Mii’s apartment’s a nice touch. This ability to move the 3DS around and have the camera follow within the Tomodachi world was a favorite of my kid too, and much time was then spent getting our islander’s new digs, so we could look at them in turn. This may be the most appealing part of Tomodachi Life, that it was very friendly for ‘dad gaming’ and engaged my son. The controls were easy enough for him to use and understand, and the mini-games the Mii residents invite the player to join in, just the right amount of challenge for him to enjoy and still learn something.
While this game is a shallow version of a Sim’s style reality TV platform, its graphics a little homebrew, ultimately where Tomodachi Life succeeds is charm, and it has plenty to go around. A pick up and put down style of game that is perfect for the handheld systems, it’s not a challenging puzzler, action packed fantasy, or indie masterpiece, but that’s not what it’s for. Quirky, light hearted and fun, Tomodachi Life will win over even the most curmudgeonly heart.
Gameplay: 3.5 / 5
Graphics: 3 / 5
Sound:3 / 5
Controls: 4 / 5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4 / 5
Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5
Tomodachi Life is now available at Best Buy and Bestbuy.ca