Far from the generic life simulation game, Tomodachi Life lies somewhere in between the invisible fly on the wall we’ve all secretly wished to be and the guilty pleasure of a pseudo reality TV show. While there’s life, love, scandal and birth, the game’s biggest advantage with quirky observation is also its largest flaw – there’s just not enough to physically do.
Previously a Japan-only title, Nintendo has certainly taken a dip into hot water in order to bring Tomodachi Life to western audiences. But controversy over same-sex relationships aside, the whimsical Mii simulation title may find itself oddly placed on the condiments shelf next to Marmite, Mustard and that weird one at the back no one ever uses. It’s a complex title which won’t appeal to everyone; some may love it, others not so much. But Tomodachi Life can surprise and makes way for a pleasurable and addictive experience.
Firing up the game will take you through the step-by-step process of naming your island and making your lookalike Mii. So, meet Silver; she’s energetic, outgoing and charming. Based on a sliding scale in five categories – energy, speech, facial expressions, mood and how they act overall – Miis personalities are calculated to fit one of 16 personality types within the game. And they are scarily accurate – even my lookalike’s parents were spot on.
But after creating a host of Miis and feeding them crazy concoctions of caviar, cappuccino and gigantic mouth-watering cheeseburgers from the island’s supermarket, players can edit their personalities and tone of voice as much as they like, so there’s no limit to creativity. Meaning a ridiculously low-voiced male named Gandalf, who’s obviously incredibly unique, lives with a cat in a Wizard-themed room, and secretly fancies the pants off the girl next door, Galadriel, is best friends with the confident, go-getter Tony Stark who just can’t stop wearing cowboy outfits and hates crisps so much he melts into a pool of liquid mercury.
Though the game’s most amusing moments emerge from drama unfolding in your Miis lives, there’s much more to do than just mere observation. Once a number of residents are living in the island’s apartment complex, they’re going to need food, clothes and living arrangements. They are the ultimate Tamagotchi – but will never bleep every two seconds for food or walks – and as the player, you get to solve all of their problems.
Equipped with a levelling meter, Tomodachi Life blends from simulation to RPG seamlessly. In return for solving Miis’ problems, the player is rewarded with money, which can then be spent on daily necessities for residents. It’s a truly vicious cycle that will always benefit them, but who can resist the joy of seeing one’s father eat a strawberry and then shoot into space? It must have been one heck of a juicy strawberry. Players can then take a trip down to the boutique to grab the latest and most fetching fashion trends, or peruse the interior store for different designs to makeover their living space.
However, as wacky as the selection available daily is, Tomodachi Life lacks customisation methods. The interior designer screaming to burst forth and exude creativity from your mind is not an option, and neither is the internal sous chef who longs to combine a French baguette with soft cheese. Unlike Animal Crossing, there’s no designated area to doodle needlessly in order to replace an awful duck shirt, making Tomodachi Life fall a little flat.
The game also opens up various places of interest as you progress, including the Concert Hall, Mii News Station, Photo Studio and Amusement Park to name a few. Each place tends to hold different events which are scheduled at a particular time every day. For example, players can catch a magic show to slice and dice their Miis with excellent use of gyroscope and motion sensor controls, or head to the park for a daily barbecue, making sure to blow any smoke away with the 3DS microphone. Although events and dreams are amusing at first, there’s never any additional surprises planted in order to return. Much like the cycle of reality, it’s repetitive and desperately needs variety to revitalise those first experiences.
Completing Tomodachi Life’s goal for marriage and children can be surprisingly quick. Maybe it’s the summer haze that’s got those eccentric Miis craving for a love nest, but within a week my lookalike had their hands full babysitting two children after a whirlwind wedding. In these special moments, the game really comes into its stride and offers up some truly memorable moments. Plus, when your lookalike is stuck in a love triangle between two superheroes it’s akin to the Mastercard adverts: priceless.
The quirky life simulation game is not without its flaws, but delivers a scintillating experience fit for any age, shining brightest when shared with friends. If you’re not a fan of dressing Miis in an assortment of chick suits, it may be best to sit this one out.