MySims Agents (Wii) - Review by Chris
The Sims franchise is one of Electronic Art's most prolific and profitable ventures in the industry and while the Wii may not have seen a true iteration of the series, EA didn't want to leave the Wii owners out and as such they crafted the MySims series of games. We've seen 4 titles now in as many years, moving from the more traditional Sims outlook of town living to being the ruler of a large kingdom to party games and racing, with each game unfortunately decreasing in worth. Yet they go to show the ingenuity of the developers and so with MySims Agents we see another step away from the tradition, but this time being one that easily redeems any of the prior misgivings.
MySims Agents continues EA's move away from the tradition towards a more casual centric Sims title. In the game, you'll create your character from a number of limited assets and begin your life as a detective. You'll start out solving small and trivial cases, such as determining who is the owner or getting to the bottom of who the secret admirer of the beautician is, but before long, you'll be contacted by a member of the a government agency and be made a special agent and take on the daunting task of discovering what it is that the evil CEO of Morcucorp, Morcubus, is up to. From this point on, all cases that you personally undertake, from your newly gifted 5 story headquarters complete with its own jet, may not initially seem to tie in with discovering what Morcubus is up to but by the end of them, they seem to allude to more and more corruption, ultimately leading your to discover Morcubus' plans to recreate the Nightmare Crown for dangerous purposes, and so you'll press on to stop Morcubus before it's too late.
These cases bear the brunt of the gameplay through which you'll play. The cases will see you travelling through city to industrial district to even the top of a snowy mountain covering cases of all sorts. The way in which you'll undertake and solve each of the cases will require you to have a good eye for detail, investigating each area diligently for clues, making use of one of 3 gadgets you have at your disposal. From the start, you'll have access to a magnifying glass, a crowbar and a wrench for spotting footprints, breaking open objects and salvaging parts from machinery respectively. As you progress, however, you'll receive an upgrade to these that make them more effective tools for tackling the larger and more diificult cases. It is also through these tools that the game's puzzle solving elements come through. While you'll personally have to piece together information from witnesses and potential suspects, the game provides a set of 4 mini-games that are key to furthering your case. These mini-games will involve things such as the placing of cogs and belts in a machine to repair it, lock picking, forensic analysis and computer hacking and only appear at certain areas of the investigation but provide a nice respite from the constant drudging around the environments looking for clues and provides some hefty challenge in the later sections of the game, with the puzzles really leaving you scratching your head.
The overall progression between the cases is managed well with there being little downtime to have to sift through. Many ideas or characters from previous characters will be brought back into the story as well to help with the progression of the story. For example, a yeti by the name of Paul is the suspect in one of your cases for causing damage to a ski lodge but further down the line, his memories will provide vital information and clues as to where to go next. Besides your constant case solving, the game provides an element of task and character management. After each case, new recruits will become available for you to hire and pair up on one of the 5 floors of your headquarters. Through your receptionist, you can assign these recruits to help solve smaller cases while you are out taking on the bigger ones and getting the correct pairing with these recruits can be the difference between a successful mission and a failed one. It's a very nice touch that shows that you are part of a much bigger organisation and at points, you'll be contacted, sometimes far too often, by your recruits who'll ask you to make decisions for them that could affect the outcome of their case. Doing these smaller cases isn't a necessity for completion but it does provide another level of gameplay and management that really does help make the game more than your average game. There are so many cases, that it's unlikely that you'll complete them on a single play through and so they do provide something to come back to in new games, along with incentives such as trophies, clothing accessories for your character and items to furnish your headquarters with.
You'll be controlling your Sim through use of the analogue stick on the Nunchuk and use the various buttons available for jumping, running and investigating things in the environments. Motion isn't used but the Pointer capabilities are, and you'll be using these during the mini-games to pick up, slide and twist objects into place. Compared to previous MySims titles, the controls are markedly improved over what they were, now being more precise and tighter in their control. This in turn makes it much easier to carry out the platforming necessary at certain areas of the game, which would have been inherently difficult with the older control setup.
Employing the same visual style as previous games, MySims Agents is an aesthetically pleasing game to behold. Graphics look clean, although a bit on the rough side, and comprise of a wide spectrum of colours, making a cheerful presentation. Some of the environments feel a bit lacklustre compared to others, with the industrial district not quite matching the grandeur and feel of the snowy mountain area but overall the environments are well produced. Character models are simple in their construction yet they exude charm and emotion that make them a delight to interact with, as they go about their own lives while you go about yours. Unfortunately, frame rate issues that occurred in earlier titles have resurfaced and crop up when you are out in the more open, larger areas with lots of things on screen. It's not game destroying by any means, but it does take a little away from the otherwise fantastic art style.
Simlish speech returns again, with all utterances sounding like utter nonsense. Yet, this is part of the charm of the game and the developers have had some fun with the sound effects for the Simlish speech which will bring a smile to your face. The use of music is minimal but it's enjoyable when you encounter it. Simplistic, yet charming enough that it fits the gameplay perfectly.
Forget the party and racing games that have held the name, MySims Agents represents a fantastic return to form for the franchise on the console. The customisation may have been left behind but in its stead is a largely independent game that, while linear from start to finish, is an absolute joy to play. The exploration of the environments coupled with the nonstop investigation, with the game lasting upwards of 8 hours, and charming presentation make Agents the best of the series so far. It has its faults, but in the overall scheme of things, they are so minimal that they don't affect the game at all.
Pro: Overall presentation is fantastically charming, gameplay is tight and interesting, recruit management is a nice feature
Con: Some small graphical issues, camera angles can be occasionally problematic
Final score: 8.2