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Nintendo DS Review: The Urbz

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The Sims broke new ground. It captured a lost demographic (women), broke into the mainstream, and became PC gaming’s major franchise. Faced with a need to move on, the series continued through expansion packs, until finally branching out into something like The Urbz. There are a few nice ideas crammed into this enhanced DS version (almost identical to the Game Boy Advance title of the same name) that are unfortunately lost due to the usual Sims elements.

If the original Sims showed the mainstream what a unique video game could be, The Urbz shows them how monotonous they can be. It’s frustrating in the purest sense of the word. Players create their Sim from a small collection of features and colors and then step out into the world to perform various fetch quests and missions. Most of these are fine. None of these is particularly difficult, making this an excellent title for kids. The story moves along slowly as the Sim grows and finds friends.

This would all be fine except for the annoyance of caring for the Sim. Yes, it makes the game unique, but it seems as if every time you step out to explore, you’re prevented from doing so because the Sim needs to sit, watch TV, go to the bathroom, shower, or eat. It’s infuriating that in the midst of making progress, if any of these reach a certain level, they need to be taken care of or you can’t continue.

If they set the clock to tick down slower, this wouldn’t be such a problem. As it is, it only takes mere minutes before the meters fade away, and simply taking a wrong turn may be enough to send you crawling back home. This makes the mission structure frustrating, when it should be the focus of the game. Instead, you’ll spend more time worrying about where the bathrooms are.

The many mini-games included here are fun, and great time wasters. Very few actually use the DS features extensively, and being a Game Boy Advance port, almost everything has been lifted straight from that version. The menu system is a little easier to access and investigate thanks to the touch screen. This version is longer too. Those are the benefits.

It’s still fun of course to level up your Sim and turn him or her into a part of the society. That’s what made the original appealing. That’s simply not the focus anymore, and there are far more pressing issues at hand in The Urbz. The appeal here lies in meeting people and doing as they ask through mundane chats, which base themselves on memory. There’s no skill involved.

Of course, that’s what Sims fans want anyway. Easy to pick up and play titles that are family friendly. That definitely fits this version of the game. However, that doesn’t make it a good one. This desperately needed more tweaking to cut down on the aggravation, and then those missions might not be as off-putting.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.