The Sims FreePlay Review – ‘You Don’t Control Me!’

Since 1992’s SimCity, people have enjoyed playing god, watching over their puny people’s lives from the day they’re created right up into their death – which is usually burning in a ring of cheap ovens two hours later. 20 years later with the release of Sims Freeplay, EA have allowed you to torture your defenceless citizens on the move, from the comfort of your own phone.

Only they don’t die. However, they do call on you every hour of the day to feed, bathe or party with them. Essentially, they’re like a technologically advanced Tamogotchi, only you can’t pause them while you attempt to look after your own life. Freeplay is the first Sims games to be played in real time and believe it or not, it’s a step in completely the wrong direction. It doesn’t really matter if you can’t tend to their every need though, as even if you let their stats drop to zero, they just get slightly unhappy and refuse to leave the house, rather than the inevitable death that is embraced by every Sims fan. This removes any real challenge from your virtual babysitting. Instead, the low need bars are more of an annoyance as you know that if you leave them for just a day to fend on their own, you’ll spend the first 10 minutes restoring them to their full happiness.

In addition, there’s no way to speed up time, so tasks such as watching a movie or sleeping take hours and won’t really keep you entertained, unless you like watching someone lie unconscious of course. The good thing about this though is that you can do other things on your phone while the app is running, such as checking your messages and playing other games (though this defeats the object of having the Sims open, doesn’t it?) and the game will send you a friendly notification to tell you when certain tasks have been completed, allowing you to keep an eye on your small-fry friends without needing to keep an eye on them at all.

The real challenge of the game is in the tasks that the game itself sets you, such as building a new room or adding a few neighbours. There are dozens to do, making it unlikely that you’re going to get bored after a few hours and they all take a certain amount of planning in order to finish. For example, the game asks you to buy a new item for the party you’re planning – you can’t just go into Buy Mode and pick one up as it’s unlikely you’ll have the Simoleons available. Instead, you’ll have to plan how to make them, whether it’s by planting vegetables, going to work or collecting your hard earned cash from the town itself. Wait, why are we getting handed cash just for owning a house? That doesn’t happen in real life does it? Maybe your Sims live in the same town as a generous millionaire, maybe they’re still receiving pocket money from their parents or maybe EA just really want you to make lots of people and think the only way to make you do so is by bribing you. Whatever the reason, we’re not going to start complaining.

As well as handing out free money out to you every few minutes, the town also provides plenty of opportunities for your people. You can build houses for new Sims to live in, providing you with more money and more entertainment, as well as a variety of companies for them to work at. To say it’s just a free game available for almost every phone, they’ve packed a lot into it, and although the town doesn’t quite match up to the PC’s standard, it still gives you a few extra things to do and gives the game a (slightly false) sense of size and depth.

So what else can your Sims get up to? Well anything you’d expect to see in one of the main games really, minus wandering around town aimlessly, spending all of your heard earned cash on pointless films or meals out. That’s what makes this game stand out in the bustling market of apps – you know you’re getting a full game that never truly ends. Even if you finish all the tasks, you can build relationships, expand your house into something from your dreams or just guide your people through their mundane lives, adding a hot tub party every now and then. Despite just being something you can pick up free, you can still rule the world, which is something often forgotten or cut-out in other phone ports. You begin to play and you immediately recognise it as the Sims you grew up with, the world in which you so often create havoc.

Remember when you picked up the first Sims game, started to design your house and were met with a measly variety of toilets or sofas? Thought it would be the same leap back into the past for this game? Well think again. We opened the Buy Mode screen, expecting to have a 30 second discussion on whether the white, black or silver shower would look best in our house when we were taken aback by the amount available for us. There are even the items that you’d have to buy an expansion pack for normally, such as baths shaped like coffins and a heart shaped hot tub, it’s all a very nice surprise to say we didn’t spend a penny to acquire them. Both this and the amount of clothes and hair styles that you can spend hours debating over really make you feel as though you’re cared for.

Obviously the developers have tried to include something for everyone, to make it a game worth passing around the living room when you’re bored, and it’s worked incredibly well. Even our editor Robin, who usually complains that the Sims isn’t a real game and that you own a womb if you play it, spent ages deciding what the best outfit for a Sim was. One of the most important aspects of a smartphone game – its flexibility of consumers – has been ticked by Sims Freeplay. A nice, thick, bold tick.

However, despite the word ‘free’ being in the title of this game, the company has to make their money somewhere don’t they? If you’ve taken a fancy to that flatscreen television and don’t fancy waiting around for hours while your Sims work tirelessly to earn Simoleons to pay for it, you can always hop onto the online store and buy bags of money at a fairly cheap rate. Due to the declining economy, just £3.56 is equal to a great 5000 Simoleons which will buy you just about anything you want. Of course, so does leaving your people to work for a few hours, but it’s not bad all the same.

Life Points are also sold in the same way, a reasonable number for a few pennies, however, these are only used to skip waiting times for tasks that you’re probably only doing to get Simoleons and so it would probably make far more sense to just buy the money to begin with. Unless you’re grinding experience points of course.

Don’t worry if you don’t have much real money to be spending on the virtual equivalent though as special packages are available at a much better rate, giving you fully furnished rooms or the garden that your neighbours will all envy. If you have the money to spare, it’s a nice addition to the game and allows you to brag to your friends, not about the virtual things you own but rather the real cash that you’re slowly throwing down the toilet just to save you having to find something else to do for a few minutes. Well done Mr Moneybags!

New phones are released every month, each boasting about a new style of screen with incredible colours and technologically advanced graphics, meaning that this game can’t look very appealing, can it? Actually, yes, the colours are sharp and match those of many handheld consoles as well as some PC games. The grass really is greener on the other side of the screen. As well as this, the game takes a more cartoon approach than you may be used to, though for a small game on a small device, it really works well. If they’d tried realism, it would have looked much worse, the colours dull and the amount of detail would be near impossible for the size of the game. Instead, it reminds you of the fun spin-offs that no doubt improved car journeys when you were younger – letting you reminisce as you play and offering a feel of familiarity that makes this game so entertaining.

To keep the theme of familiarity, the game includes all the music you’d expect to hear when turning on a Sims game, both in the stereo and elsewhere. Okay, so it may be that you’re sick of the same sounds by now and who could blame you? It’s been years. Although it’s a nice reminder of the past and maybe each track holds a special memory of a memorable death but it’d be nice to be able to import your own tracks into the game, let your Sims listen to some real music for a change! Other than that, the quality is great, considering all phones sound like they’ve been thrown down a cliff and are submerged in water when playing any sort of noise out of the speakers.

It was inevitable. The Sims was always set to come to your phone at some point and now here it is. A cut above most other free applications available, it’s certainly worth a trial. If you’re looking for torture without a consequence though, you’d be better off digging out the games from 20 years ago. Sims Freeplay is one of those games that you’ll always check up on, especially in your moments of desperate boredom. And why does it need to be anything else?

Impressive and definitely worth the price, yet the lack of death is a huge disappointment. 7/10.

-Sian

Think that the Sims Freeplay is the best thing you’ve ever played? Or maybe it made you throw your own phone into an empty room with no doors to starve. Why not tell us below and enjoy those minutes of reviewing fame.

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Sian Bradley

Sian is the Site Producer, meaning she decides where we're going and what we should do next. She's also got responsibility for publicity and promotion, so if you've seen us on Facebook or Twitter, that's her work.

14 comments

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  1. Linda 16 February, 2013 at 00:07 Reply

    Kate, just move your Sim’s crib to the middle of the room …. Your sim probably can’t get to the baby to “help” it! 🙂

  2. Emily :D 2 February, 2013 at 09:54 Reply

    Seriously guys!!! I love the sims freeplay and I have been playing it for about a year!! I think it is the best game ever!!! And y do u care about the little things?!?! After all it is free! And I would give it a 10/10 for sure!!

    • Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm(more 'm's follow) 19 February, 2013 at 06:17 Reply

      Well, I do like it, but there is to much of a good thing. I played for like three months straight, and now I have complaints after playing the real thing. 1, you can’t skip or line up actions. 2, sims do NOTHING on their own. 3, they have no gossip or sense of shame. 4, everything gets really expensive. When I level up, I want rewards, not chores!

  3. chloe 30 December, 2012 at 15:59 Reply

    I do love the game but the little things bug me like woohooing in the randomst places and only have 1 need at. A time. There are no real conversations like in sims 3 u need lp for everything and I need a birthday cake .I got a baby really early in the game and I still haven’t unlocked the bday cake

  4. Miranda 18 December, 2012 at 07:04 Reply

    you guys!!! i feel the same way!! i am really bored about why they can only woohoo at rooms and not on beds/cars/showers. and also i did make some of them cheat. and when one of my sims proposed to a girl with the dinosaur ring and get rejected (cheap rings, pft) i started making them get rude, complains, and eventually, enemies (tho still woohoo-ing at first) and it didn’t felt satisfying.. so i made them to be engaged with the biggest ring (free because of the goal). still… boring! but i also cant stop. so im still playing it. i have 7 sims (including 1 baby) and i don’t have a goal to make another boring sim. id rather play sims 3, if you compare it, doesn’t have a match 😛

    • ItsSian 19 December, 2012 at 16:20 Reply

      I don’t know what EA are thinking, if I was approached with a dinosaur ring I would be right in there! Everything feels so empty, without real purpose, that’s true, yet I like you have a large town and can’t ignore my sims’ needs. I agree with you completely!

  5. Xina McLean 25 November, 2012 at 03:47 Reply

    I enjoy sims free play, I do not fuss over the little things. Like whether or not they wave their arms the same way when they’re watching the news or a movie on. But I must agree that the Sims would be more fun if they showed some emotion when their better half is making WooHoo right in front of their face with another Sim. But after all it is free and you get what you pay for. In this case we paid for nada, so the way I see it, is if you choose to download the app, then down the line you find it boring, uneventful or just plain stupid, you can always uninstall the darn thing. No muss no fuss.

  6. Samantha Fine 24 July, 2012 at 18:16 Reply

    Perhaps the game was different when you reviewed it, before the upgrades that have been released, but as the game is now (7-24-12) I would recommend to anyone playing from the beginning to:

    1) Not spend any real money on Simoleons or LPs (Life Points);

    2) If you can afford to (the mere fact that EA offers and thereby suggests that anyone spend $99 – that $100 to those of us not fooled by a failure to round up – on in-game purchases is reprehensible… how many parents are going to get huge bills because they forgot or didn’t know how to disable in-app purchases?) and really want to spend money on Simoleons or LPs, then spend the money on LP’s, not Simoleons! LP’s are so much harder to acquire and you will need them to purchase wedding rings, baby cribs, birthday cakes to grow your useless infants into only semi-useless toddlers, 6 of the 12 pre-made houses and most of the best items in the buy mode. Besides that, after a few days of play your Sims will be making so much “money” gardening instead of sleeping (yes, they can garden all night or all day long and have all needs frozen so they are just as rested, fed, peed out, clean, socially satisfied and having *more* fun then they were when you first forced them to spend 30 sec to 36 hours maniacally gardening and talking to the plants), working, getting huge checks in the mail every day, baking (which doesn’t improve their hunger and creates no group meals and doesn’t come close to being as profitable as gardening and is therefore useless), and having their dogs and cats capture treasure that the amount of Simoleans that cost you $20 real bucks will seem like chump change. Also, the house lots and businesses and shops all get progressively more expensive as you level up, so by level 26 you would need to spend serious real money to purchase any of those. Even the evil cupcakes (it’s easy enough to satisfy Sim needs without spending LPs… the cupcakes are just an evil temptation) go up in price – they cost 5 LP each in my game, at level 26 (and of all of my 25 new, totally random Facebook “friends” that I made in order to get the Social update stuff, I am at the low end of the “Leaderboard”, so Level 26 apparently isn’t too impressive… or embarrassing). If I were starting over, I probably still wouldn’t pay real money for anything, but if I were going to I would buy LPs and build The Shuttle (the most expensive LP house) before the price goes up and hoard the rest for when the game finally allows me to Get Engaged, Get Married, and Get a Baby.

    For the most part this is a spot-on review – it is exactly like a supercharged Tamogotchi. The lack of “free will” as an option takes so much of the personality away from the Sims, not to mention how annoying it is to turn the game on and find them standing next to toilet or refrigerator unable to take any care of themselves. There are a couple of dozen “personalities” you can assign each Sim when you first make it, such as “rocker”, “socialite”, and “vigilante” but all that does is assign what animations they do when they aren’t doing anything. So if your “spiritual” Sim hasn’t been given anything to do by you, it will just stay in one spot and levitate in lotus position (which actually does look kind of cool). The graphics, animation, and sheer vastness of the game are really impressive, especially when you think of the first version of The Sims on a desktop computer. That so much can be packed onto a wireless phone makes one really feel one is living in 2012, despite the lack of flying cars. But even the original The Sims had more personality than this does. There are no “group meals” – the Sims all eat alone out of the refrigerator (making dining rooms pointless… I sold off my Mansion’s dining room and added 2 more fridges). Each object/action only improves one need, so while your Sims can play chess with each other it will only improve their “fun” level, it won’t improve their relationship so they might as well be playing alone – and the same goes for the TV, the stereo (which only plays for 2 minutes unless they do “The Shuffle” for 7 minutes so it would be even more annoying with good music!), and the Battleship Game. Only the Toddler objects/interactions seem to improve relationships between Sims, making the Toddlers the Sims with the most personality, but there are no toys that 2 Toddlers can play together, which is disappointing (you can subject them to playing “pat-a-cake” with each other for half an hour, or “hide-and-seek” for 12 seconds, but that’s the only way they play together). You can have Adult Sims interact in a number of ways with each other like “Be Nice” for 1 (real) minute or “Complain” (for a negative relationship), but you can’t see what they are talking about (the “interests” that were introduced in The Sims 2 are not here) and they basically have the same conversations/interactions over and over.

    At one point there is a goal to start 4 romantic relationships. Since I already had all my Sims paired off into couples, this meant I had to start some adulterous, or at least cheating, relationships. I brought one couple over to another’s house and let the swinging begin. It was… boring. There is no jealousy (and on another note, no sense of privacy – they will WooHoo anywhere but actually in a bed) so there was no drama. The Sims has always been about the player imprinting their own stories onto the Sims they create (that is part of the brilliance of Simlish instead of real language) and it’s wonderful the way a book requires the reader’s imagination so much more than a film. Unfortunately in this version there just isn’t enough that is unexpected to drive a plot. I haven’t bonded with these Sims the way I have in desktop versions of the games. Your title for this review, “You Don’t Control Me!” highlights the problem with the game – we control *everything* and therefore I don’t think Sims Freeplay even really fits the term “game”. At this point, it’s starting to just feel like a chore and I’m not sure why I’m still playing. Oh! Mia Pharoh just got done with work… I’ve got some gardening to start before she gets lonely…

    • ItsSian 20 August, 2012 at 18:03 Reply

      I couldn’t agree more, I easily became bored of watching my Sims woohoo in the garden as their fiancees looked on as if nothing was happening. Since this review I’m afraid they’ve mostly been stood around in their own puddles of urine waiting for the next instruction, which is unlikely to arise.

      What I did pick up on that really got on my nerves is the way that the Sims cheer and wave their arms at the news, in the same way they do a film. A small problem when compared to the other huge setbacks within the game but an annoying one nonetheless.

      Needless to say, were I to score The Sims Freeplay for a second time, it would be receiving a 2/10 rather than the extremely generous 7 – as that was just after a few weeks of playing. Stick around a bit more than that and the score lowers quicker than they can call their mum.

  7. Darlene (Me'Chyle101) 6 June, 2012 at 00:13 Reply

    Love Sims Freeplay. Yes I do remember the 1st Sims game and how fast I became bored after I learned how to work the game. Sims freeplay keeps me up on my toes, plus now that I’m unemployed I have nothing but time on my hands . Wow keep it coming the more updates the better!

    Thanks,
    Me’Chyle

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