IGN Review of SimAnimals Africa
Back in the day there was a Maxis game called SimSafari. In it players designed and maintained a wildlife reserve on the African savannah. It was all about balancing plant and animal life and creating a vibrant oasis. SimAnimals Africa is sort of that game, but it's more about making your meerkat be best friends with a cheetah.
SimAnimals does look a lot like its Africa-themed predecessor. Players get the overhead view of an African landscape, complete with various animals running around, doing their thing. The game is broken up into six locations, each with its own ecological differences and specific wildlife. If you played the previous woodland themed SimAnimals it will all look familiar. It's pretty much the exact same game, but with a different locale and cast.
The focus is on the animals in the game, and each level has certain goals for each species. They're all basically the same goals: get an animal, become friends with it, use its special skill, find it a girlfriend, make a baby. Each level also has its own plants, fishes, and bugs. Finding them adds them to your collection, which in turn can unlock bonus items (like a statue that makes it rain more often).
I really like the style of the game. The illustrations in it are well done and are full of personality. The sprites themselves are smooth and have a good amount of animations (though many of them are shared across all animals). All of the animals behave how you'd reasonable expect, right down to attacking and eating each other when they're hungry.
Players can tap on any animal with their stylus to bring up the animal's status on the top screen. It shows what they like to eat, what they're mood is, stuff like that. Players can also name the animals, and assign icons to them to make their favorites easier to find on the map.
The gameplay is really shallow and repetitive though. Since the tasks are the same for each animal, players end up just repeating the same steps ad nauseum. The animals all act the same, so it doesn't ever feel any different. The only thing that changes is the location, and while that offers new food choices and weather it really doesn't liven up the game.
Once all the goals have been achieved there's really not much to do. Sure you can load up any of the levels and keep feeding and petting your animals, but they don't do much of anything besides eat and sleep. If there were more things for animals to interact with, if you could have created your own customized level, or even if the ones in the game were bigger or more diverse then there would be some replayability. But as it is the game ends after just a few short hours.
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