Last year, EA brought The Sims to the Wii and DS in the form of MySims, a cutesy take on the popular social life simulation. In an effort to make a more widely accessible game, EA removed much of The Sims' micromanagement and socialization features and made building the focus of MySims. If you enjoyed that game or you're just looking for a lighthearted adventure sprinkled with a few trademark Sims features, you'll have a good time with MySims Kingdom.
Unlike traditional The Sims games, MySims Kingdom has a story that ties everything together. Back in the day, the kingdom was populated by wandoliers--wand-wielding citizens whose job was to help those in need--but for some reason, they all retired and no one bothered to hire any more. With the kingdom in disrepair, King Roland decides to find a new wandolier (that would be you) and have him or her shape things up. While the overarching story in MySims Kingdom is about restoring peace and happiness to the kingdom, each island has its own story in which you play a part. These enjoyable ministories include helping a robot who wants to open a diner, a zombie looking to liven up his graveyard, and an outlaw trying to make a friend. Some stories are more entertaining than others, though even the mediocre ones are spiced up with some witty dialogue from your traveling companions.
Most tasks in MySims Kingdom require you to build or decorate things. You'll often need to use specific items or furniture from a themed set that can only be acquired by collecting essences. You gather essences by mining, fishing, treasure hunting, or simply plucking them from trees. Nearly every activity yields an abundance of essences, so finding what you need usually doesn't take longer than a few minutes, which is nice considering that item collection is such a large part of the game. There are, however, certain rare items that take longer to find, especially when you have to fish for them. Though the tedium does set in toward the end of the game--when you have to revisit some of the islands to move on--the fact that it doesn't get old until then is a credit to the game's quick and rewarding pace.
Once you've gathered the appropriate essences, you can start construction. Building tasks range from setting up houses to connecting gears and electric motors. The build mode is accessible and easy to use; pieces snap into place and then transparent outlines help you find the right placement. You're never asked to do anything too complicated, though you're given the freedom to make some elaborate designs if you want. Outside of the construction tasks, you'll also be asked to herd animals, socialize with people, and find hidden items. Socialization doesn't play as a big a part as it does in The Sims, which is good because the socialization minigame is nothing more than an exercise in trial and error. The tasks vary on each island, so you won't be doing the same things every time.
Navigating the various islands is easy thanks to the mouse-style controls. You guide your custom created sim with the Nunchuk and use the Wii Remote to navigate menus, move the camera, and build things. The controls are simple and work well for the most part, though they can come unstuck when building in confined spaces or when trying to place things in the corner of the screen. You can spin and zoom the camera with the D pad, but you can't control the tilt, which can make the construction of tall structures frustrating at times.
The visuals in MySims Kingdom are delightfully cheery; even the graveyards and gloomy goth kids manage to charm. By completing tasks, you'll unlock dozens of outlandish outfits for your custom Sim to wear and even more themed objects to use in your construction. The music is also upbeat and relaxing. Each island usually has multiple tracks that fade in and out depending on your location. Like the Sims, the game's characters speak in Simlish, a gibberish-sounding language that often adds a silly twist to conversations. The cute, expressive visuals and upbeat music, mixed with some humorous dialogue give the game a fun Saturday-morning-cartoon feel.
Finishing the main story should take about eight hours, though that could be doubled if you feel like hunting down every object and completing optional tasks. Despite the occasional camera or control snag, MySims Kingdom is a lot of fun and recommended for those new to The Sims or for anyone looking for a lighthearted, laid-back adventure.