Nintendo don’t do things by the book. If you don’t believe me then check out Tomodachi Life, their new ‘life simulator’.
The premise is to populate an island with Mii characters who sing, dance, fall in love, play games and complain about their clothes. Nintendo could have easily created a Sims style game with many complicated controls and a constant need to check on your characters, or they could have just copied their successful Animal Crossing series, but Tomodachi Life is, well, something else entirely different.
You begin by creating your own Mii, or uploading it from the one stored in your 3DS. Add a synthesised voice, a choice of behaviours and watch as they become the first resident in your new block of flats. When the game begins the island will feel a bit empty, but add more characters, from famous people to your family and friends, and you’ll soon see shops and attractions spring up around town.
One thing that separates this game from the many sim titles out there is the feeling that you don’t really have much control over your population. You act as part-god, part-babysitter, listening to their needs and being asked the odd question or for some relationship advice. They will then make friends, create a list of likes and dislikes, gossip at the coffee shop (which, you’ll be glad to hear, you can overhear) and even create a family.
Occasionally, one resident will ask you to play a simple game, from matching pairs to sliding puzzles. It’s a nice way to break up the gameplay but it doesn’t happen all too often. In fact, nothing much happens all that often in Tomodachi Life and adults may find that they get quickly bored of the game through repeat visits to the island. It’s certainly not designed for long sittings.
This is where we come to the underlying issue; this is not a game for serious adults looking for something to sink their time into. Tomodachi Life is a game primarily for kids and those who were brought up raising Tamagochi. It has much in common with one of those old virtual pet games, though it also provides a bit of Nintendo fan service through some of the items you can unlock and a few sly nods to adults. It also has a lot in common with a very old game on the C64, Little Computer People, which was as much an experiment in AI as it was a game.
My own experience was one of amusement and initial joy, which soon wore thinner after the second week of play, but my two kids are still playing their copies of the game quite happily, telling us stories of how Princess Peach and Katy Perry are now best friends and how Sonic the Hedgehog proposed to Rapunzel.
To use a well worn phrase; this is a Marmite game, a game you will either love or hate. It should, hopefully, be obvious just from the back cover whether your time in Tomodachi town will be enjoyable, but there is no doubt Nintendo had a target audience in mind and they will love it and why the score below is actually for them.
8/10 (for the target audience)