It’s not easy being in charge. I thought I could just create an island, name it, open it up for business and wait for the waves of Miis to inhabit the place. But Tomodachi Life for the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS taught me that people have needs that must be addressed. In fact, my inhabitants were pretty much useless on their own, and island life was more than just “If you build it, they will come.” Luckily for them, they’re endearing enough that I wanted to help them with all life’s little problems. This is the charm of Tomodachi Life.
What is Tomodachi Life?
Tomodachi Life is a life simulation game where you open an island then populate it with various Miis that you’ve created or imported. Then it’s a matter of keeping them happy by feeding them, dressing them, furnishing their apartments, and providing various forms of leisure. Keeping residents happy results in making money, which can be used in turn to upgrade the island and continue to make the residents happy. It’s a little like playing God, but not at that level of omnipotence.
Characters will grow, and can even form relationships and start families. Of course, there are certain restrictions. Miis can be classified as adults or kids, and kids obviously will not be starting families. Plus, same sex couples are not an option in the game (something that Nintendo has taken a lot of heat for). This could be a blessing in disguise for families who are not ready to have that conversation with their kids yet due to age, depending on your politics.
How do you play it?
If this sounds a bit like Animal Crossing to you, there are quite a few similarities, though Tomodachi Life isn’t as deep as Nintendo’s big-name life simulator. Other than the odd minigame that you’ll play with an islander, there’s not a lot of “traditional” video gaming here. You’re simply in charge of a simulation, and there’s a lot of emphasis on interacting with the characters and upgrading the island. All gameplay is performed using the touch screen, making navigation pretty easy. There is a lot of reading required, though younger gamers will be helped out a lot by the fact that characters will actually speak their lines through text-to-speech capability. This isn’t just for canned dialog either, as anything you’ve entered that the character can say is rendered very well.
As you take on more tasks and more people move to your island, more areas like beaches, shops, and observatories will open up. Some will provide items that you can provide for your inhabitants, while some destinations will provide places for them to hang out, either alone or each other. As we went along, our little domains started to feel more an more alive with all the hustle and bustle of island life. Yes, it can get repetitive after a while, though a little of creativity can help extend the game’s life.
Creativity, for better or for worse
Your island is somewhat a of a blank slate, which means you can get quite creative with it. If you want to populate your island with characters from your favourite show or book, you just have to create the appropriate Miis and watch what happens. Island dwellers can eventually learn songs that you teach them (complete with customized lyrics if you like) which they can perform on stage with various other inhabitants providing backup dancing. This can be both a good and a bad thing, depending on how clever you or your children are. A blank slate can sometimes result in characters using potty talk or singing gross songs. Yes, there is a language filter in place, but a clever child can find ways around that if they put their mind to it. Still, I sometimes got a kick out of seeing what my kids had their islanders up to.
The kids weigh in
After some brief hesitation, my boys really started getting into Tomodachi Life. They liked creating new characters and making them do silly things (there’s quite a bit of inherent humour in this game, moreso than I found Animal Crossing to have). The song performances were a hit, and they enjoyed checking back with each new day to see what their island dwellers were up to. What I liked about the game was that it required some thinking and some creativity. Plus, the nature of the game makes it something that you can’t really play for long periods of time, being more suited to shorter half-hour or less bursts until all the residents are happy again.
The GamerPops Recommendation
Tomodachi Life is a strange little experience that won’t be for everyone. It’s not a game in the traditional sense, but if you’re looking for something in the vein of Animal Crossing games but with a slightly different twist, then this game is worth checking out. It was fun watching what kind of hijinx our island residents could get into, and it was even rewarding to see their characters and relationships evolve, in a strange voyeuristic sort of way. It can also represent a nice change of pace if you’re looking something a little more leisurely than a frantic action game or a tricky platformer.
Review codes were provided to GamerPops for the purposes of reviewing this game.
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