The Sims FreePlay is EA’s follow-up to 2010’s Sims 3 for Android. I don’t normally review free apps (and certainly not apps that are free and then ask you to pay later on) but this one caught my Sim-loving heart.
As I mentioned in my previous Sims 3 review; I’ve been a big Sims fan from day one. Since its original release there have been lots of spin-offs and expansions – all of which I have avoided. Give me the simple ‘make-your-Sim-happy-and-get-a-better-job’ style gameplay and I’ll quite happily play for hours. Add in stupid dating or magical expansion packs and I’ll look elsewhere.
And this is why I have been playing Sims FreePlay every day for three weeks now.
You start the game with an empty town map and you’ve got to select your plot to build on. Your initial build will come without a fee (and it’s not a bad house either) just to get you going and then it’s time for the fun part – creating your Sim.
I was quite surprised at how much you can play around with the look of your Sim. When compared with The Sims 3 there must be ten times as many clothes, hairstyles and personalities to choose from. You could quite easily spend twenty minutes just making your Sim look how you want him to.
Once created it’s time to move your Sim into their new home. The tutorial does a great job at introducing you to how the game works and what you should be doing to get your Sim up and running in their new place. This is when you realise that ‘real-time’ really does mean real-time. Events that occur in The Sims FreePlay take as long as they would in the real world. Send your Sim to the toilet and they’ll take 10-15 seconds to perform the action. Washing hands – 10 seconds. Fancy a good night’s sleep? That’ll be 7 hours please.
This real-time gameplay may not be to everyone’s tastes but it does work for people who, like me, have things to do during the day – like work! Send your Sim off to work in the morning and when you get home from work yourself they’ll have finished as well.
Each action your Sim performs earns experience points (or ‘XP’) and in some cases money too. The more XP you earn the more things you unlock in the game and the more money you have means nicer things for your Sims.
If you want your Sim to earn more money and XP then you’ve got to keep your Sim happy just as previous Sims games would have you do. By fulfilling the usual Sims needs (hunger, toilet, cleanliness, fun, social and sleep) you can make your Sim feel fulfilled. A fulfilled Sim earns more XP/money for actions performed and if they perform the action in their own household they get even more still. This is where the management of your Sims comes in. Keep your Sims fulfilled and doing things in their own home may seem a bit anti-social but it helps you level up a lot quicker. There are some cases however that you may want to have all your Sims in one house and make them fulfilled there – mainly because it means you don’t have to keep switching between houses which will save vital seconds of time.
As you progress through the tutorial you’ll notice you receive ‘Life Points’ for completing goals. Life Points are for the impatient amongst us who don’t want to wait 12 hours for a house to build or can’t wait any longer for their Sim to finish in the bath. Using up a Life Point will instantly complete an action/task and save you having to wait around. This can be useful when you’re building things around town such as new houses or workplaces. Think of Life Point as gold dust because that’s pretty much what they are.
The whole reason The Sims FreePlay is free is because they rely on people getting hooked on the game and also getting impatient. If you run out of Life Points or Simoleons (the Sims’ currency) then you can buy some from the Sims Store – with real money. This is the part of the game that makes me feel a bit sick. A measly 6 Life Points costs £2.37 but you can actually purchase 1000 for £71.39. How they can get away with this I do not know. Patience is a virtue my friends, I’ve only used a few of my Life Points up (one time being when the tutorial forced me to) and another when I needed a new Sim quickly but paying for them is not an option for me – especially at those prices.
As you progress in the game you will then need to build your Sims somewhere to work. After all, they’ve gotta pay the bills sometime. This is the first time I fell over in the game. I built a science lab which was the best-paid job on the town map but what I failed to realise is that the working hours were from 10am ‘til 6pm. Because I go to work at 9am (I’m talking about real life now) I wasn’t around to send my Sims off at 10am. You can send your Sim off around 60 minutes early to work but sadly I wasn’t at home to do so. Well, that was $10,000 wasted. So I had to save up and I built a sports stadium instead. The work hours were much better for me and my Sims as they now work from 8am-12 noon. Your Sims will get promoted and earn more money and experience the more they work so make sure you keep them going. Sending them to work in a fulfilled state is not only amusing but also helps increase the amount of XP and money they bring back at the end of the working day.
Pets! Who doesn’t want their Sim to have a loveable companion? Well you don’t get a choice with your first Sim as they’ll be given a very handy golden retriever. You don’t have to feed or ‘water’ your pets but they do come in handy. If you leave him alone for long enough he’ll find hidden treasures in the garden. These range from $1 to $100 and even Life Points (although these are quite rare). Simply tap on the barking mutt once he’s found something and he’ll dig it up for you. Other than that, pets don’t play a huge part in the game, they’re mainly for show but also help out every now and again with the bills. If you build a pet shop in town then you will be able to purchase different breeds of dog but these can only be purchased by using up some of your Life Points When you see your gold retriever is actually worth 100 Life Points the thought may cross your mind to have him put down and sold but sadly this cannot be done. Fancy a retired greyhound? That’ll be 5 Life Points. 25 Life Points if you want a scary looking a Labrador and there are many others to choose from.
A great source of income is from growing your own fruit and vegetables (try telling that to British farmers). You can quickly, well, every couple of hours, rack up hundreds of XP and Simoleons by growing some potatoes for example. Have a few or more Sims doing that at the same time and you’ll be able to afford that new flat screen TV you wanted. Along with having a job and planting crops you can also bake things in the kitchen. These baked goods are nice but they don’t give you anywhere near as much when compared to farming.
Sims can go for a drive around town to cool off and they can also visit each other’s houses. The lack of free will however means you have to get them to all interact with each other. This is OK in the main but it’s time consuming work for sure. There is also a lack of dignity between Sims. For example: you can quite happily have 4 Sims in the bathroom at any one time. One in the shower, one washing their hands, one in the bath and the other clearing out last night’s curry in the toilet – and they won’t batter an eyelid either. This (however disgusting) is actually quite handy when you’re trying to satisfy multiple Sims’ needs – and it can also make for some quite amusing situations.
Up next: Build Mode is here! That’s right; you can now fully build your Sims home from scratch on your mobile device. It’s one floor only at the moment but it’s a start if nothing else. If you’d rather not select one of the pre-made houses for your Sim to move into then why not just buy the plot and come up with the grand design yourself? The build mode works really well indeed. It’s so easy to create rooms, doorways and windows that you could spend an age just building one lot. Don’t forget however that houses cost money so make sure you’ve got enough in the bank before you start doing so. You don’t want to end up with an unfinished house for your Sim to shelter in do you? Or do you…?
Along with building houses and re-sizing your rooms (at any time in the game) the buy mode lets you add furnishing and items to your house. There are hundreds of objects to choose from ranging from crappy little CRT TVs to beautiful tall fridges with ice making capabilities. Some of the items are very expensive and some, again, require Life Points to purchase but you can normally get yourself a bargain if you search hard enough. The quality of the item you buy does affect how long actions performed with it last however. For example, if you buy the cheapest possible bed it will take your Sim 7 hours for a good night’s sleep and only 725 XP points. However, upgrade to one of the 3-star beds and your Sim can be up and refreshed in just 6 hours with 825 XP points to boast. This works the same with other object around the house; it’ll even take longer to go to the toilet if you buy one of the cheap ones!
It’s this mixture of pros and cons that make The Sims FreePlay interesting and fun to play. There’s no requirement to ‘add friends’ to be able to progress further as in other real-time games and this is a big plus. As much fun as it would be if you could visit your friend’s towns it’s nice to have FreePlay as a standalone game.
I would highly recommend that all Sims fans give FreePlay a go. It may not be your style but it’s fun to just ‘pick up and play’ when you have a spare moment.
The real-time gameplay of Sims FreePlay isn’t new to me but it’s the first of its type I’ve actually continued playing for more than a few days. The inability of being able to queue up actions for your Sims can be annoying at first but I suppose they can’t have you queuing things up for a day’s worth of actions or you’d just earn stupid amount of money and XP in a very short period of time. I do feel however you should be able to queue up smaller actions such as going to the toilet and washing your hands afterwards. Even with this limitation the game plays out very well. The Goals will keep giving you something to aim for be it to just buy a new coffee machine or to finally do the WooHoo.
The graphics have really come a long way since The Sims 3. They’re crisp, clear and smooth and this really helps bring the game alive. The amount of detail was quite surprising when you consider this is just a mobile game. You can zoom in and spin your camera around as much as you like and it doesn’t have any troubles coping.
There is a bit of slowdown every now again when all your Sims are together and fulfilled but this is just a minor glitch.
Flying around your town map just shows the level of detail the developers have gone into here. Traffic lights change colours (and cars even follow the rules!) and trees blow in the wind which give it a more ‘console like’ feel. I would put The Sims FreePlay on-par with The Sims 2 on PC graphics-wise.
The touch controls work incredibly well. They’re responsive and the 360 degree camera allows you to navigate round your Sim’s house with ease. This can be very handy when you have a house full of Sims and you’re trying to select an item that’s behind another one.
One of my big problems with The Sims 3 on Android was the terrible sound in-game. Where was the build music? Why did it keep glitching? All my worries and sleepless nights have been resolved in Sims FreePlay. There are different musical pieces in each mode just like in a ‘proper’ Sims game. The only annoying factor here is when you’re quickly switching between your Sims’ houses as the ‘house music’ will start from the beginning each time. I can overlook this however as there is variety in the different modes. If you’ve got a spare few minutes you can actually change the in-game music to something more preferable anyway – simply navigate to the location where your Sims game downloaded (normally in /sdcard/Android/data/com.ea.games.simsfreeplay_row/published/music) and you can put something a bit more to your taste in there.
The sound effects in the game are good too. Each action you perform has a different sound so you certainly know the difference between your Sim making a coffee or having a bath. You can even here your Sim typing on their keyboard as they play their own copy of The Sims 3!
It may be the lure of the Sims and their everyday lives or perhaps I just like watching my Sims shower in their underwear but the easy-to-learn and hard-to-put-down gameplay will keep you coming back for more.