The Urbz: Sims in the City Nintendo DS
by EA Games
Developed by Griptonite Games
Release Date: Out Now
The Urbz: Sims in the City, an introduction.
Last year saw the release of The Urbz: Sims in the City for PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube and GBA. The game was a console spin-off of The Sims where a more zany approach had been taken with a greater emphasis on style, reputation and fitting in with others in your Rep Group. We reviewed the game on the PlayStation 2 last year and on the whole it didn't feel as good as the previous versions of The Sims that had appeared on the mainstream consoles. With that in mind we weren't expecting much from this DS version but in actual fact we were pleasantly surprised.
What's the game about?
You'll begin the game by creating your Sim. You get to choose the name, gender and look of your character (the variation is not as great as it is on the PlayStation 2 version but this is to be expected). Next you'll have to answer a series of questions that will determine your Rep Group (such as Nerdies, Streeties, Artsies or Richies). Finally you'll begin the mission based game which starts with you being fired from your job and eventually being jailed. Throughout the game you'll have to complete a series of missions and each mission is made up of a number of goals such as buying things from an auction or developing a friendship rating with a certain character. There's no rush to do any of these things and you can play the game as you see fit but the story won't move forward until the goals have been achieved. You still have your Sim's needs to maintain though and you'll have to take them to the toilet, keep them clean and provide them with food amongst other things. The game is almost identical to the GBA version of The Urbz except for a few DS exclusive additions. The most important of these is the new Splicer Island where you can make custom pets for your Sim. You'll have to locate the blueprints for the island though and find a way to get there.
What's good about the game?
Whilst we thought the PlayStation 2 version of The Urbz was largely a step back from the previous versions of The Sims that had appeared on the console, the DS version seems more enjoyable to play. The DS version is very similar to the GBA version of the game in terms of story, how it looks and how it plays. The use of the touch screen is a bit peculiar to say the least. Instead of controlling your characters movements with the stylus you'll have to use the more conventional directional pad. The touch screen is mainly used to display information and you can use the stylus to switch through the menus whilst your game continues. This may seem a little strange but it actually works very nicely. The mini-games (which act as your jobs) are mainly played with the directional pad and buttons and these probably would have been better if you could have used the stylus.
What's not so good about the game?
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the game is that it's not very different from the GBA version with the exception of the information displaying touch screen. Of course this won't be a problem if you don't own the GBA version but if you do it's probably not worth picking up this DS version. Another source of irritation is that your Sim will break off a conversation if one of there needs requires addressing. Whilst this makes sense to a certain degree (if your character needs the toilet for instance) it does become rather annoying at times, especially if you've taken a long time to find the person in question.
How does it look?
Aside from being played over two screens the game is identical to the GBA version. This means the game is a 2D isometric affair. This may seem a little disappointing but in some ways it makes a lot of sense. Although the DS can do 3D graphics the games, so far, that have featured 3D graphics haven't looked that great and I doubt whether the console could produce 3D graphics that would look as good as the 2D ones on offer here. In terms of presentation, the game looks good and the layout of the information in the game (which appears on the touch screen) has been kept simple and clean.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
There are absolutely no problems at all for deaf gamers with The Urbz. All of the information in the game is displayed in text and thanks to the use that has been made of the touch screen you can access this information at any time without breaking off from playing the game. The Sims will occasionally make the odd sound (not actual speech though) and there aren't any captions for this but to be honest it's of no significance. During conversations you get to see a close up of the characters you are talking too so you get to see their expressions and the entire conversation is shown in text so you'll always be aware of what's going on.
Make no mistake The Urbz: Sims in the City is a good game but whether or not it's a good choice to pick up for your Nintendo DS will depend on a few things. If you own the GBA version of the game it's not worth it for the few extras on offer here. If you don't own the GBA version and have previously enjoyed the handheld versions of The Sims then you'll be pleased with what's on offer. The use of the touch screen is an unusual one but in some ways it does make sense because you can access the game menus without breaking away from the main game. The DS catalogue is pitifully small at the moment and if you're looking for a good game to keep you entertained for 30+ hours then The Urbz is well worth considering.
Overall Game Rating: 7.9/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
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The only disappointment is that it's not that different from the GBA version of The Urbz and if you already own this then the DS version isn't worth it. However if you've yet to pick up The Urbz and have a DS then this is well worth a go. The use of the touch screen is a bit peculiar but nevertheless it works well.