Ginormous publisher Electronic Arts has already released several MySims titles for both Wii and DS, including party and racing spin-offs. Agents, though, is my favorite, with its well-designed linear setup, spy themes and gadgets and wide variety of unique environments to explore, some of them with fun platforming challenges. Good news -- if, that is, you own the Wii version. Unfortunately, the DS build of MySims Agents, not a port but its own original undertaking, is a far more tedious, unbalanced affair that is just as likely to frustrate as it is entertain.
The game peppers the MySims experience around the secret agent theme. You play as an undercover operative and town newcomer who must, among other things, thwart a crafty thief who has promised to steal a historical treasure. This is just the beginning of your assignments, which escalate as you play. After your create our Sim via a simple creator interface with limited options, you'll explore the expansive town, decorate it when applicable, interact with its inhabitants for clues, and take part in a series of mini-games, some of which can be unlocked for multiple gamers. The play mechanics are certainly varied and the exploration and interrogation elements are deeper than I initially anticipated, both pluses. But the more you play, the more Agents' many shortcomings and design mishaps take center stage.
EA has admirably included two control schemes -- you can use the stylus to drag your character around or you can default to the D-Pad and digital movement -- depending on your preference. Neither is ideal. The stylus controls are sometimes unresponsive. The character doesn't always follow your inputs reliably and you will inevitably find yourself sliding the stylus to the edges of the screen to run in the respective directions, at which point you might accidentally tap the on-screen menu icons. Meanwhile, the digital nature of the D-Pad controls doesn't allow for precise, intuitive diagonal movement. While neither scheme is exceptional, both are certainly passable, particularly with a little practice.
MySims Agents has a lot going for it in that the city, which spans several screens in any direction, is populated by unique locales to adventure to and people to see and question. There are nearly a dozen mini-games ranging from mazes to kite surfing. There's a day and night system. You can extract and collect essences. And in contrast to the Wii game, which ignores Sim behavior, a trademark of the series, a reward system teeters and totters on how you treat or mistreat certain characters. I like all of these inclusions, but not all is well.
Click on the image above to watch a MySims Agents DS trailer
The mini-games are disappointingly tedious and long. As the title begins, you are thrust into radar run, in which you must use your radar to identify and collect transmitters hidden in the dirt. You have to collect 10 of them right away and the process, stupidly controlled, takes forever. Kite Surfing is slow and unresponsive, too, and again it lasts forever; if you mess it up, you'll need to repeat the process until you get it right. Not to say that some of the minis aren't fun -- the amazing race works well enough and you can even design your own stages and challenge friends -- but by and large these minis, a main component of the experience, are dull.
I wish I could state that the investigative process offered less tedium, but it's worse. Discovering the town and interacting with its people can be enjoyable, no doubt. There are some fun and challenging puzzles to solve, too, most of which relate to the cases. And, of course, you can decorate your house / headquarters and even leave your footprint on the town. But so much of the design forces you to sit around waiting for the next event, which is just ridiculous. Complete a task and the mayor will tell you to go chat with townspeople for a couple of days and wait for a message at your office. Uh-huh. Problem, though: what if you already chatted with everybody? Well, go do it again -- maybe they'll say something new and you can kill some time. Or, you can do as I did, go to your house and lie down on your bed, sleep, and fast-forward the day / night cycle to the following morning.
Once or twice and I could forgive this transparent means of extending gameplay length, but it happens all the time and some situations are unforgivable. For example, the first time you are asked to trail a thief to his hideout. If he sees you along the way, you'll have to wait until the next night to try it again. Through a mixture of sloppy controls and boundaries not clearly defined by the game, I found myself spotted over and over again, and therefore had to either wait out another day or backtrack to my house and fast-forward the cycle in order to take another turn at it. Irritating is putting it mildly.
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