Last month, we learned that EA would bring a free-to-play version of its incredibly popular Sims franchise to iOS with the Sims FreePlay. Now that the game has launched in the Canadian iTunes App Store, that gives us the chance to dive into the lives of a few new Sims of our own creation.
Bringing some simplicity to this mobile version of the game, some of the more intricate customization features for Sim creation have been removed. That is, while you can still choose from a variety of different hairstyles, there doesn't appear to currently be any way to change the color of a specific hairstyle.. or of any item, for that matter. You're left choosing from a variety of templates, which will likely do for the average player (as most items are available in a few different colors anyhow), but might disappoint those players that look forward to fine-tuning every aspect of their new Sims.
Once you begin life as your new Sim, you'll immediately be thrown into the game's goal series, starting with a goal introducing you to man's best friend - a dog that has strayed into your Sim's yard. By shaking hands with the dog, you'll earn experience points, Simoleons or LifeStyle Points (the premium currency), and so it goes for the rest of the game, as you'll receive a steady stream of goals to always give you something to do (whether that be to grow a particular crop in your garden, buy an item for your house, make your Sim inspired, or otherwise). You'll be able to interact with your Sims as much as you want, fulfilling their basic needs by having them use the restroom, sleep or eat (as examples), and can also go about other activities like Gardening or digging for Treasure (with the dog).
To give your Sim the gift of social interaction, you'll need to actually create neighbors, or new Sims in homes that you'll construct yourself out on the overall map. You can purchase fully furnished homes if you have enough Simoleons, or you can start from scratch with a base template. Home customization is a fairly fluid process, and works well on the mobile platform. You'll customize your home(s) from an overhead perspective, with a simple tap or two allowing you to drag items into different rooms or rotate them to suit your tastes. Adding flooring and wallpaper is as simple as a few taps as well, rather than needing to place each floor tile individually, or even drag and drop to place items in bulk.
As you create more and more Sims, you'll be able to use the SimTracker to switch back and forth between Sims instantly. You can simply activate that Sim as your current Sim, or you can tap on two buttons to force the Sim to either return to their respective home, or call them to you. As you might expect, you can create relationships between Sims by forcing them to interact with one another, and you'll earn larger experience point bonuses as you cross relationship milestones between two Sims (taking them from Strangers to Acquaintances will be your first step, for instance).
Adding in some elements from the Sims Social on Facebook (and other social games), the game's progression is level-based, with many actions giving off varying amount of experience points. You'll unlock new items as you level up, like new crops to plant (different crops take different amounts of time or Simoleons to plant, but reward you with more XP and Simoleons in profit accordingly).
Interestingly, fulfilling your Sims' needs brings about the greatest inclusion of free-to-play game mechanics, in that you'll sometimes activate a action, like sleeping or showering, and will then have to wait minutes or even hours for that action to complete. Many of the game's items have quicker options if you'd rather accomplish more in a single sitting, but once you activate these longer actions, you'll need to either allow them to complete normally, or use LifeStyle Points (the game's premium currency) to speed them up.
With Sims FreePlay, you have a return to the roots of the overall Sims franchise, that still adds in enough free-to-play game mechanics to limit your gameplay sessions and bring about the temptation to spend real money on the experience. Is the game as grand (or as good) as it's full download counterparts? That will be up for you to decide when the game launches in the American iTunes store (likely) sometime later this month.
Are you excited about trying out Sims FreePlay on your iPhone or iPad, or is the Sims Social the only free-to-play Sims experience you need? Sound off in the comments.