Congratulations – You have escaped boring Suburban life and moved to the city of Miniopolis. Don’t expect it to be easy, though, because life in the city is full of danger and adventure. Working odd jobs to make money, building your rep, and foiling the plans of the evil mastermind, Daddy Bigbucks, will take quite some time and considerable initiative. In The Urbz: Sims in the City the simple life has been left behind to pursue dreams in the big city.
Developers Maxis latest incarnation of The Sims as The Urbz is a lot of fun. This game incorporates many Sims elements so fans should really enjoy this installment. For those who don’t enjoy The Sims, The Urbz may be a tough sell, but this title is a lot less tedious than its predecessor and well worth giving a shot.
I enjoy playing The Sims but never a console version. I tried it, and found it cumbersome and awkward to play. At first I was skeptical about how much enjoyment The Urbz for the Nintendo DS would bring me. But, much to my delight, I found The Urbz mechanics flow nicely with the DS hardware. The top screen shows your Urb in Miniopolis as well as displaying your money, the time of day, and your Urb’s motives such as hunger and hygiene. The bottom screen menu with its PDA-style interface is really easy to use with the DS stylus. If you don’t want to use the stylus you can always use a greasy finger. Menus include options, goals, Urb info, and map screens. There are 7 missions in The Urbz, each containing 6 goals with at least three tasks that must be completed. Because of the game’s great interface the learning curve for The Urbz should only be around 10-15 minutes. The game’s layout flows naturally and it’s all easily mastered.
One problem with The Urbz is the lack of choices while creating your specific ?Urb’. If you choose a female Urb there is no pant option, even though some female Urbz are wearing pants around town. There are no wild hair colors available, either, which (again) other NPC Urbz have. This is a minor complaint, though; there’s not a great deal of negativity I can direct at this game. While it won’t be for everyone, Sims in the City is pure enjoyment for those who love this game type.
Once you’ve created your Urb it’s time to get acquainted with the big city. Players start out in one building and must complete several goals to open up more of the city. Apparently Daddy Bigbucks has you locked inside a building so you must find a way out, along with various other goals. Reaching all of the goals on a certain level opens up more of Miniopolis to explore along with new missions. Missions aren’t just laid out in a linear fashion, either; your Urb will need to talk with those people around town that have exclamation points over their heads if they wish to know what to do next.
The Urbz is definitely more goal driven than The Sims. Your Urb can take their time achieving goals since most don’t run on time constraints. Instead, a player may opt to work on building their rep and fattening their bank account. Only a few goals must be completed within a certain amount of time. The reason for all these goals is to foil the plans of Daddy Bigbucks. Your Urb will definitely be a thorn in his side, but watch your back because Daddy Bigbucks doesn’t take defeat well.
There are several odd jobs your Urb can undertake around town in order to earn money. Advancement on these career tracks, which range from window washer to comedian, earns more Simoleons. Through the jobs menu players can learn more about what needs to be done in each job to reach the next level. And, there are other ways of getting money: Recycling aluminum cans and other items found around the city, running errands for people, or sometimes through a phone call will all earn varying amounts of Simoleons.
Improving skills is similar to how you earn skill points in The Sims; for example, find an object like a weight set and use it to improve your body. A little meter will show your progress and when it’s full you’ll earn a skill point. Some skills can be learned in the University, which saves time but does cost money.
In the later stages of the game, reputation plays a big role in accomplishing tasks. Reputation is gained through relationships with your fellow Urbz. An Urb will give you Xizzle beads when your relationship rating reaches 70. Xizzle beads can be used at Club Xizzle to buy in-game perks such as earning 20% more in mini-games, or even an outright $10,000 Simoleons.
During mission 5, pets become available once certain mini-games are completed. Unlike Unleashed, some pet choices in The Urbz are not necessarily animals you’d expect to find at your local PetsMart. When is the last time you saw a gorilla? And I bet you’ve never seen a jackalope available for adoption. Players can take their pets to a pet show and compete against other animal-loving folks for ?Best in Show’ bragging rights.
The sound in Sims in The City is decent, although it would have been nice if every Urb had their own ?voice’, especially seeing as though some of those on show are shared with numerous other characters. Song selections have an urban feel to them, which sets the game’s mood nicely. Sound on the Nintendo DS is surprisingly impressive, both crisp and clear throughout.
The Urbz is full of little surprises, which I won’t ruin by going into too much detail here. However, I will say that extremely high relationship ratings with certain Urbz hold some pretty cool rewards. Places you couldn’t go to before will now be available for exploration. Urbz can place objects in these new places – a nice way to make a personal clubhouse around town.
Some trademark Sims elements are in The Urbz. Mundane tasks like eating and sleeping still need monitoring, but it’s all easily managed. The in-game clock automatically winds forwards while doing some tasks, and some motives are quickly fulfilled, like when entertainment is low, an Urb can watch less than 10 minutes of television and fill the meter.
Sims in the City boasts fun gameplay, simple schematics and, overall, it can be very addictive. It’s a rare occurrence for me to become totally engrossed by a videogame, but this one had me captivated from the get-go. From the individual missions to building and nurturing rep, The Urbz is quite the entertaining experience. Now, simulation games may not appeal to everyone, but gamers who enjoy this genre will discover a real gem with The Urbz.