If there was any confusion about what you’re getting with the Sims 3 on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, let me clear it up for you: it’s the Sims 3, the extremely popular PC life simulator, but on consoles. Obviously the game has been reworked to function with controllers instead of a mouse and keyboard, but there’s also one other major addition: Karma Powers, a potent way to help or harm your Sims. If you’re a fan of the Sims series, chances are you already own this game on your PC, but on the off chance that you don’t, the console version is a good substitute.
The addictive formula that worked on PCs translates well to consoles, and you may find yourself neglecting your own needs to make sure your starving Sim gets some food. The controls may seem complicated at first, but the game does a fine job of easing you into the experience with its tutorial system. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really quite easy.
Though the controls are simple to pick up, be prepared to face a lot of loading screens. Travel to any area outside of the general circumference around your house and you’ll hit a loading screen. There’s also some slowdown when you fast-forward time, which unfortunately happens a lot in this game. I mean, who wants to watch a Sim pee slowly? The framerate issue doesn’t ruin the game, as it has a slower pace than other genres, but it is a noticeable annoyance on both versions.
Overall, this life-simulation game is pretty consistent with the PC version. You’ll create a Sim household or choose a pre-made family to start out with and then dictate their lives. The creation tool offers an in-depth way to customize your Sims — pick their physical appearance, different outfits, voice, favorite things, traits and lifetime wish. Depending on your Sim’s characteristics, these goals can range from learning every recipe in the game to becoming the top dog in the criminal career path. Once you have your household of Sims, you’ll manage their daily lives making sure their needs of hunger, hygiene, social interaction, fun, bladder and energy are all met.
Customization is also still intact from the PC version — you can build a new house from scratch or remodel the one you’re in, dig a pond or grow a mountain in your backyard, or make yourself a giant pool.
Can’t find anything you like for your Sim to wear? There are tons of textures for you to play around with; so if you can find the basic look of what you want, you can tweak it to your heart’s desire. If you can’t make clothes or furniture you like, hit up the online swap store "the Exchange." Free of charge for those who purchase the game new, the Exchange is a place you can download other people’s creations or upload your own. It’s easy to access and use, and it’s always great to see what creative minds can come up with.
While guiding Sims along their lives, their desires will pop up on screen for you to accept or decline. It ranges from small things like buying a book on Logic to mastering a specific skill, and every time you complete a Wish, you’ll be rewarded with some Karma Points (the amount varies depending on how big the task is) and a happier Sim. Alongside Wishes are Challenges, which range from purchasing a chess table to making your home’s value rise above a certain dollar amount.
Successfully tackling Challenges earns you points to purchase items for your home and even certain Karma powers, though you must first complete a specific Challenge to unlock them. For example, fulfilling the home’s value challenge listed above is necessary before you can purchase the Giant Jackpot power. My gripe about Challenges is that the setup is a bit confusing, and I’d often forget that the Challenge Shop existed until the game informed me that I unlocked the ability to purchase a new Karma Power. Though the Challenge Shop offers some nice items like furniture sets, the only really enticing things to purchase are the different Karma powers.
Don’t fight! Love! Love!The idea behind Karma Powers was to speed up some of the processes that can be tedious, like getting promotions or a little lovin’ and to just have some spiteful fun with your Sims. There are good and bad options — Giant Jackpot will make your Sim win the lottery while Epic Fail will transform your Sim into a temporary loser that can’t do anything right.
It’s fun to try out all 13 powers once you unlock them, but don’t expect to be able to use them constantly as each Karma Power costs a certain number of Karma Points. Thankfully, earning Karma Points isn’t all that difficult; you obtain them by completing Wishes or during the Hour of Reckoning. Every night at midnight in your game, the Hour of Reckoning will either award you Karma Points, or unleash a devastating disaster upon your household. If you abuse the powers too much, it can result in tragedy, but if you use them in moderation, positive things will happen. Unleashing a firestorm of rage on my unsuspecting household or using Super Satisfy to let my Sim girl get a little more "Woo-Hoo" action into her day was quite fun, so the powers are definitely a nice addition.
What the Sims 3 lacks on consoles is variety. After playing through a Sims lifetime once, you’ll already know all of the people. The town is full of the same dozen or so Sims, so once you’re done with the first life cycle you don’t get that same sense of excitement when meeting all your neighbors or trying to find a love interest for your single Sim. This problem is easily fixed with downloadable add-on packs like the PC version has, but it’s still a bummer that it feels more like a small town than like a thriving city. Despite its quaint size, the suburb has plenty of amenities to indulge in, including a spa, gym, bookshop, two restaurants, an art gallery, etc., so your Sim will never be bored unless you want him to be.
It’s amazing that The Sims 3 works so well with a controller and that many of the PC functions are still intact. So if you’re curious about the Sims and don’t own a computer, you should try out the console version. The instant gratification of the Karma powers plus the addictive formula of The Sims 3 is a winning combination, but the game isn’t perfect. With some minor performance problems and the limited world, this title lacks some replayability right out of the gate. However, if it’s a title EA supports with downloadable content like they do with the PC version, Sims 3 could have a promising future. The PC title is still superior, but if you can’t see that version in your future, the console port is worth your time.