EA were one of the first to truly embrace the Nintendo Wii with their MySims franchise, a franchise that blended their already successful Sims, with Nintendo's Mii concept. It's now a few years since that started though, and there have been quite a few installments into the franchise. MySims Agents is the latest addition and in keeping with the MySims ideal, it has once again gone in a completely different direction to the previous games, while keeping some things consistant of course. This time, the MySims play Special Agent, and dive into a world of crime, mystery and adventure.
As is typical with the MySims, and indeed Sims franchise, players must create their own character to start off the game. This involves choosing a name, as well as picking hair colour, facial features and clothing. Compared to some other games out there, it's all very basic, but the options are unique enough to allow players some flexibility. It's also possible to change a character's appearance at almost any point throughout the game, so it's definitely not restricting in that sense.
Upon deciding on the character, their world and predicament are introduced while eating some of Gino's pizza. His restaurant is the current base of operation for the MySim, and Buddy, his sidekick. They're waiting for their big case so they can become Special Agents, and take a case to decide who a dog's owner is. It doesn't necessarily seem like the case that would propel them into the life of crime fighting, but this is MySims, and it turns out that one of the potential owners is Morcubus, an evil megalomaniac. Impressed by this, an agency gets in contact with the MySim and promotes him to Special Agent, granting him access to some neat gadgets and his own Headquarters.
While the story is very basic, it has a certain degree of charm to it, and the characters present throughout the game are definitely endearing. Each of them have their own distinct personality and it helps to give the game is own personality. Whether this is Jenny's dry sense of humour, or Esma's almost misplaced evilness, there are none that feel boring or bland. Due to the nature of the game, the story is unlocked by solving various mysteries, and the way it develops works rather nicely. Some crimes seem completely irrelevant, but after progressing through them, the plot eventually thickens and the MySim edges one step closer to discovering exactly what's going on. The only real downside to the story comes with the ending, it's extremely anti-climactic, and while it is possible to continue playing after the credits to get a more definitive resolution, it just fells unnecessary.
Gameplay is generally very basic. The majority of it revolves around the MySim moving around, asking people questions or examining objects to find out more. The motion controls are barely used, other than to access menus, like the notepad, which reminds players of their current objective. Solving the mysteries is generally very simple, and often doesn't require much thought. It's generally a case of speaking to the right person, or examining the right object. There are no speech trees to worry about, or attempting to trick people into saying the right thing, dialogue related to quests only pops up if it's relevant and will further the case. It feels a bit under-developed, but for the intended age group it was probably done to stop tedium.
However, sometimes interaction is required. If some machinery is broken, the MySim first has to salvage parts - which actually can become quite tedious - then fix it. This brings up one of the three mini-games that appear throughout the game. In the Repair mini-game, players must solve a puzzle. There are cogs, electrical cables and light beams, and the players must make sure that all of the targeted components work. To do this, they are given an array of parts that can be used to achieve this. While these start off relatively simply, they can actually get quite challenging towards the end of the game. The other three games are used to hack, analyse samples, and pick locks.To hack, players must move the cursor on screen through a tight maze without touching the sides. This might sound simple, but the path changes and the screen is always moving. Touch the sides and the cursor can also get stuck. Picking locks revolves around a puzzle where elements must be moved, so that the key can reach the other side. It's a common puzzle game, but as with the repairing, gets progressively harder. Arguably the hardest is analysing, which involves players trying to create molecular objects through covalent bonding. It's like being in a chemistry class. Ultimately a player must end up with a situation where all of the available atoms are bonded in such a way that none of them has spare electrons available. All of these games use the motion controls sensibly, helping to enhance the experience.
There are also some platforming elements to the game, but these don't work overly well as the controls and the camera just don't work well together. The camera angle often makes it difficult to judge depth, meaning jumps can become difficult to land correctly. It was a nice attempt to try and keep the gameplay a bit more refresh, as opposed to just walking from place to place, but it could have been handled a lot better.
The presentation in MySims, while not graphically astounding, resonates with a certain quality. The art style, especially with the characters, just promotes a sense of fun and it's difficult not to enjoy all various character animations and faces that are used. The music can get a little bit tedious after a while, especially the short piece that plays through loading screens, but the typical Sims voices definitely enhance the characters. Oddly enough, there were also some frame-rate issues to be seen during some points of the game.
Aside from the main story-arch, MySims offers dispatch missions. These enable other agents recruited by the player to go off and tackle their own missions. It's possible to have 12 different agents, all of whom have their own special abilities, which can be from five different areas. Many of the agents are characters seen through the story, and strangely, some of them are even the criminals that have been convicted. Each team can contain up to three agents, and their abilities can also be boosted by placing unlocked items on their floor in the Headquarters.
Upon completing the game, it's possible to continue with the dispatch missions, and while they're a nice distraction while playing through the main game, afterwards they seem a bit redundant. There also isn't really much challenge to completing them. If more could have been done to involve the player, they could have made for some really good side-quests, but unfortunately this isn't the case.
MySims Agents is probably the best addition to the MySims franchise so far. It has a smart storyline with some great characters, and some fun ways to solve puzzles. However, the core gameplay does get a bit repetitive sometimes, and there isn't really any skill to finding clues, or getting confessions. The dispatch missions, while nice, are extremely shallow and the platforming sections are definitely not a positive. However, there's more than enough present to make it an enjoyable game.