The MySims series is an assortment of kids’ titles built around the MySims brand, which puts cartoonish Sims in a variety of generic situations: MySims Party is Mario Party with Sims, MySims Racing is Mario Kart with Sims, and so on. With MySims Agents, EA has taken a different approach to designing games. Rather than drag their feet down beaten trails, they’ve decided to trust their own creative abilities and risk a lot on an original title. And they’ve succeeded.
MySims Agents combines the point-and-click style of adventure gaming beloved by wistful gamers with the social interaction, customization, and friendly chit-chat of the Sims and MySims series. As a new agent, you’re tasked with solving crimes around your neighborhood. Eventually you’ll move out into more exotic environments, meeting odd characters (a sensitive Yeti named Paul, for one) and deciphering odder clues, all seemingly connected to a mysterious evil-doer by the name of Morcubus.
To hunt down clues, you’ll have several tools at your disposal. A magnifying glass helps you trace footsteps, a matter transporter helps you move objects and get around, and a sophisticated woo-dad helps you to pick locks and repair broken-down machinery. This kind of puzzle solving is only one aspect of the game. You’ll also be interrogating suspects and townsfolk for leads as well as navigating the environment by pointing-and-clicking and platforming your way around. A lot of care has been put into the game to make what you find (and who you talk to) entertainment in itself rather than just a way to forward the plot. You’ll want to exhaust every dialogue option just to get that last laugh out of the zombie butler and hunt through every desk, safe, and hidden chamber in hopes of scoring a new outfit.
Yes, this game has plenty of outfits. Besides customizing your player’s name and gender (which you’ll be able to do at the beginning of the game), you’ll also uncover new hairdos, hats, costumes, clothing, and accessories that you’ll be dying to try on. No, really? If a four-foot afro, a Ghost Recon-esque suit, and a Viking get-up don’t grab your fancy, I am afraid to report that you have no soul. Along with wacky clothing you’ll find gear and paint to outfit your five-story headquarters. Each item gives the floor you assign it to different skill upgrades (I’ll tell you why this is important in a moment), so it’s important to plan strategically as well as aesthetically. There’s really not a way to go for aesthetics when you have a gyroscope ride on your patio, but you know what I mean.
Different pals you meet throughout your secret agent work come back as recruitable agents. Deployable missions, which you personally don’t go on, are for these deputy types. Different missions require different skills, so setting up your team invites a bit of strategy. Determining what floor they’ll be located on in your headquarters is a choice you’ll need to put some thought into as well, since floors can be decorated with items that enhance different skills (such as a supercomputer to boost intelligence). Sending them out on missions involves little effort and can reap big rewards for you in the form of new outfits and items for your headquarters. The only reason not to partake in these missions, and it’s a big one, is the endless onslaught of text messages you’ll get from each team member. You know that one friend that texts you every thirty seconds with updates about what he’s eating for dinner? Now you have twelve of them, and they’re fresh off a trip to the MySims crack den. The buzzing is so constant and the updates so insignificant that it seriously detracts from the experience. The text alerts themselves add to the general dissonance that sometimes pervades this game. When your F-Space Manipulator is buzzing, your cell phone is going off, and a gaggle of Sims are barraging you with Simlish, it just gets to be too much. After one long night of playing, I began to hear some English words in the constant Simlish yabbering. I’m hoping I’m not the only one.
This is only one of the very few oversights that holds MySims Agents back from being a stellar game. Platforming is another one. While most of the jumps are tight and the camera behaves for the most part, there are some areas that are frustrating. I could also do without the clothing menu system. Changing clothing in this game is something you’ll want to do often but think twice about it because it takes so much effort. Once you make your way to a certain style of clothing in the menu, you have to exit completely out before choosing another style. It may sound like a minor infraction, and it is, but it’s a very annoying one. Pretend you are making yourself a highly delicious sandwich, and you decide to switch from turkey to ham. Instead of just switching the meats out, you have to put the bread, lettuce, cheese, turkey, and mayo back in the kitchen and start all over again. That’s what the clothing menu system is like. Despite these minor qualms, MySims Agents belongs in your Wii collection.
If you’re the kind of parent who has gotten your Visa out after the infomercial claiming it can teach your infant to read, you’ll be happy to know that there’s learning-a-plenty snuck into this game under the pretense of having fun. Forensic analysis forces you to map out atoms in order to progress the story. Unlocking doors requires you to solve logic puzzles. Repairing items involves complex gears and electrical wiring. While MySims Agents holds your hand in many respects, this is not one of them. If you can’t solve the puzzle, you’re not moving on. No one’s going to give you a hint, either. Adults will also find a lot of lessons in the game. You may be interested to know that butterflies taste with their feet, everyone from Louisiana practices voodoo, and under no circumstances is it appropriate to climb onto a roof and peek through someone’s skylight.
There’s a lot of love for hardcore gamers in MySims Agents, as if EA wants you to know that they’re thinking of you. You can dress in Isaac’s suit from Dead Space. Look hard enough, and you’ll find an action figure of Faith from Mirror’s Edge that you can display in your trophy case. One of your recruits is an elfish fellow named Leaf, whose trademarked pixie cut and green cap are unmistakably 100% Link. Kids may not get the loving poke at Nintendo, but adults will get a few good laughs out of the “I love the outdoors but am also fabulous” routine. More important than the laughs, though, is that these are some of the many signs that EA put a lot of effort into making this game enjoyable for players of all generations and skill levels. It’s so easy to make a lot of money off of kids’ shovelware, and the fact that clearly a lot of love was put into this game goes a long way to soften up both the Wii’s and EA’s reputation.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.