What better way could there be for youngsters to discover the world of the Sims than via an RPG-style adventure game? My Sims Agents on the DS offers the ideal introduction to the Sims universe – a place loved and frequented by millions of gamers. While primarily a game involving secret agent-style solving of mysteries, it also involves gamers in environmental, architectural and interior design, three of the elements which made The Sims games such a success.
One of the first things that strikes you about My Sims Agents is how customisable it is. It starts off with you being cast as an agent in the SPA (Sims Protection Agency), assigned to a town: although it’s called Autumn Bay, you can rename it, and you decide what your name is. Assigned an assistant, Joshua, you find the Mayor at the Town Hall, who gives you your first case – the mysterious Thief V is on the trail of a map leading to secret treasure, and it’s up to you to get to it first.
As you seek Thief V and hone your investigate skills, you discover all manner of helpful objects. You are allocated a headquarters, which you can fill with furniture placed wherever you want, and which has a secret lift to your basement office hidden behind a bookcase. And you can also reshape Autumn Bay, thanks to a gadget called the Extractor, given to you by local inhabitant Ashley, which is able to extract the essence of outdoor objects. Those essences can then be put into another object given to you by Ashley, called F-Synthesis, which combines them to create completely new flowerbeds, benches and so on, which you can begin to place throughout Autumn Bay. And you can even add new buildings, by finding blueprints and taking them to Ashley, as well as your clothing. Thus, while you’re playing a game which feels like an action-RPG, you’re also learning the principles of The Sims.
The bulk of the gameplay concerns exploring Autumn Bay and its surrounding areas (accessible by taxi) and conversing with the folk who live there, many of whom have shops at which you can buy various goods (there’s even a disco). Naturally, there’s much investigative work to be done: which involves talking to people, gathering clues, deciphering them, finding things and solving (often mechanical) puzzles. You can hone your investigative skills by playing a large number of fun mini-games, and SPA head office sends you handy secret agent-gadgets as you progress.
It’s all great fun, and just the job for keeping young DS-owners occupied – indeed enthralled – for long periods, as they indulge their nascent secret-agent fantasies. But on top of that, there’s a great feeling of being immersed in an enchanting (and appropriately innocent) world. Add to that the ability to shape that world and your character – whetting the appetite for more of the same on a bigger scale with a game like The Sims – and the result is a game which defines what Nintendo’s DS is all about.