A longtime hit in Japan, Tomodachi Life makes it’s North American debut with this 3DS offering and, as was promised when the title was announced, it is very, very strange. The game has clear influences and forbearers, best described as the hyperactive offspring of The Sims and Animal Crossing. It’s not a traditional game in the sense of there being anything in the way of action, suspense, or puzzle solving. Nope, it’s a life simulator and after you’ve gone through the process of setting up the world it’s designed to be played for about 15 minutes a day. It’s not a deep game or one that will challenge brain cells. But it is undeniably amusing, often hilarious, and always incredibly weird.
It’s essentially a Mii-based game and one of the best yet. You’ll start off by creating an avatar for yourself, which can be done based on a photograph, importing your 3DS Mii, or just designing the character through a surprising number of variables. You can dye hair, choose body size, all that good stuff. Most bizarrely (and hilariously), you’ll also pick a deliberately electronic voice out for your character that you’ll hear uttering any number of ridiculous phrases over the course of the game (both directed by the player and the randomly assigned by the game itself). Of course, it’s not enough to just create your own Mii. You’ll be populating his or her apartment block with any number of friends, enemies, or lovey-dovies. Once there are enough Miis kicking around, the Tomodachi world opens up, bringing in everything from restaurants and beaches to rap competitions.
So, this is a pet or sim based game in which you’re creating a world and keeping your residents happy (or furious, if you so choose) based on their demands. Sometimes they’ll want a meal, sometimes they’ll want their apartment decorated, and sometimes they just want a pat on the head. Once you’ve set up the world and it’s operating under its own rhythm, that’s when things get really strange. You can look inside your characters’ minds to see what they’re thinking, or even more oddly what they’re dreaming (normally involving ninjas and superheroics, obviously). Activities vary from health maintenance to music competitions and art shows. The Miis develop tiny personalities and even partner off to poop out kids if you let the world exist long enough (and honestly, that could be as long as a week).
Now, it should be said that this isn’t a particularly deep game like say, The Sims. There are a limited number of possibilities that you’ll see within the Tomodachi world and it’s always very kid-friendly (so kid-friendly in fact that even suggesting “Fartypants” as a nickname will get you banned from Streetpass play…for real). The game is limited in appeal and yet oddly fascinating and addicting. There’s something so deeply strange and unique about this world that you’ll find yourself coming back just to see how things have developed amongst your population of weirdos. The design is charming and the way characters speak and interact is often laugh out loud funny (both deliberately and not). Tomodachi Life might not be a masterpiece or particularly original, but is undeniably entertaining and so consistently peculiar that it’s hard to put down simply because you’ll keep thinking you’ll wrap your head around what’s happening only to be defied by even stranger new developments. Worth a look for sure, if only to confirm that the game actually exists.