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“Animal Crossing meets The Sims using Miis” sounds like either the most ingenious game every conceived, or the worst. Tomodachi Life for Nintendo 3DS is just that, but on which side of the line does it ride? Is it a wacky, fun life sim or a lifeless joke?

The first thing you’ll notice upon moving in your Mii stand-in is the voice synthesizer used to represent your Miis’ speech. It’s robotic and creepy but for some reason it’s easy to grow attached to your little Miis’ customized voices. Whether they speak clearly or jumbled, fast or slow, or with one of various accents, you can come to recognize your Miis by voice alone. This is also more immersive than Animal Crossing and The Sims gibberish simply because you can understand them.

Tomodachi Life

I hear ya, my Mii.

Once you get past the voices and start playing, you’ll realize you don’t really do much “playing” in Tomodachi Life. It’s actually in allot of ways like the old full motion video games from the Sega CD era in that you jump from scene to scene, looking for someone or something to interact with. You need to feed your Miis, buy them new outfits, decorate their apartments, and oversee their relationships, but there’s no pressure like the omnipresent loan you need to pay off in Animal Crossing or death in The Sims. Tomodachi Life is a great mobile game in that you can fire it up during a break, help a few Miis, and log off before lunch is over.

The graphics in Tomodachi Life are a creepy mix of cartoony Miis and low resolution photographs of food and other items, giving the game a fever dream sort of feel. It is a generally underwhelming visual experience but given the simplistic content it’s not that big of a deal. The music is utterly forgettable and aside from the voices, the sound effects are typical Nintendo fare.

As I said at the opening, there’s not allot of “game” to Tomodachi Life. You don’t ever take direct control and walk around, and each location is its own sectioned off area, hurting any sense of immersion. Those various locations are sometimes pretty fun, notably the news station. Mii News broadcasts twice a day on your island, once at 7 AM and once at 7 PM, and while not having any profound effect or relevance to anything, really, it’s fun to see your Miis reading oddball news stories like one about a clean, fuel efficient car (which is nothing more than a car pulled with a rope).

Tomodachi Life

I gave my Mii a golf club, and he loves it

Long story short, if you get attached to your Miis, you will have fun in Tomodachi Life just watching the fun and quirky events unfold in their virtual lives. If you do not get attached to them, though, you will burn out on Tomodachi Life in short order, possibly in under a day because there is little to be done on your island besides Mii watching and mild caretaking. In the end, Tomodachi Life isn’t so much like The Sims or Animal Crossing after all, and instead is more of a Mii-centric WarioWare, with humorous, bite-sized morsels of play that don’t amount to much on their own but have an oddball charm that some people will dig and others will revile. Which camp you fall in is up to you.

Final Score

7.0

Pluses:

Minuses:

+ Miis are fun to watch interact with each other

+ Mii voices are robotic yet charming

– Very little to actually do

– If you don’t get attached to your Miis, you’re out of luck

– A little overpriced at $35

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