Developer: Nintendo SPD Group 1
We've had a mad week here at Dealspwn.com. Not only have Matt, Carl and I been covering E3, but we also moved into our new homes on Tomodachi Island. Things escalated quickly.
We've spent our days chilling at the beach wearing hot dog costumes, playing slide puzzles with Darth Vader and visiting Switzerland. Our heavy metal band brought the house down, but Matt doesn't have much time for music ever since The Cat from Red Dwarf set him up with Jill Valentine. Shame it didn't last, even if Carl's recently been trying to introduce him to Danaerys Targaryen. I'm surprised Carl has the energy, what with his newborn kid and all, and continually losing rap battles to Reggie Fils-Aime on a daily basis. I'll catch up with them at the next communal barbecue, or perhaps enter their bizarre dreams like a friendly Freddy Krueger.
Replace our names with people you know and you've got Tomodachi Life in a nutshell. Less a traditional videogame and more an interactive Mad Lib, a little imagination can go a long way in this curiously addictive localised timewaster.
I wish that I was having as much fun as my virtual doppelgänger, in all honesty. Every image in this article is a direct screenshot.
Temper your expectations from the off: expect Animal Crossing and you're in for a disappointment. Tomodachi Life's island isn't a 3D space in which your imported Miis go about their daily lives, rather it's basically a menu of instanced events and compartmentalised rooms. The population either stay in their cells in the central apartment block or teleport around the shops and scenic locations depending on the time of day, most of which are effectively just backgrounds that occasionally trigger a special event depending on the schedule. You'll check in, see what's happening, spy on a few people and then deal with a lot of complaints.
Half of the game resembles a glorified if entertaining Tamigotchi. Miis demand feeding, preferring different types of food, while also assaulting you with requests for new clothes, hats and room decor, which the local shops are more than happy to provide. Sometimes a Mii will ask for something very strange, such as looking inside their stomachs or pulling a funny face, and occasionally you'll get to play a basic touchscreen minigame for your troubles.
It's all fairly simple stress-free stuff, permanently increasing each inhabitant's 'happiness meter' that acts like RPG character levels, and frequently lets you assign a new toy to play with or custom catchphrase to say.
This might sound dreary, but when the Miis resemble your friends and celebrities, it becomes hilarious. Not only are some of the minigames and requests delightfully bizarre, but the vocalisation software does its damndest to replicate every word, name and phrase with deliciously haphazard accuracy. Hearing Reggie tell us that his body is ready in a robotic voice is delightful, not to mention Darth Vader dancing around exclaiming that he's our father while wearing cargo pants and a straw hat (see above).
Better yet, it's the tip of the iceberg.
Much of the game is built around relationships, or at least Nintendo's simplified version. Sometimes Miis decide that they want to be pals (asking your permission, of course), introduce friends to one another or start dating with a view to marriage and starting a family. You've got no direct control, but can advise them on what to say and what to wear, watching icebreaking first meetings or proposals unfold. It's all oddly compelling, especially when your friends end up cheating on their real-world partners in truly nonsensical pairings or disastrous dates.
Unless you're gay. No relationships for you, I'm afraid. Apparently you're not 'whimsical' enough.
To be perfectly frank, the lack of same-sex relationships feels like an innocent and genuine oversight in the finished article, but we hope any sequel rectifies the omission -- for the emergent humour as much as inclusion!
And relationships are arguably just a hilarious distraction in an enormous ocean of hilarious distractions. You'll write your own lyrics and watch Miis perform them in their robotic monotone -- it never gets old especially when you go heavy on the explicit content. You'll blow smoke away from barbeques using the microphone, organise massive town meetings, watch zany news reports, engage in crazy interactive dream sequences that feel like Terry Gilliam's handiwork, spy on Miis in the bath, send them on holiday, play Frisbee, lead them into an arcade game and more besides. So much more, from augmented reality kaleidoscopes to compatibility testers.
The thrill and longevity simply comes from sitting back, occasionally stirring the pot and seeing what happens. So long as you've packed the game full of people you know, the resultant casual gumbo is delicious.
Which also sadly means that it's limited by design. Though fun for a few days, events start to repeat fairly quickly, followed by a drip-feed of surprises over the coming weeks that you effectively watch as opposed to play. It's also worth noting that these unpredictable events are actually fairly predictable in and of themselves; every player will eventually encounter all the same content only with different Mii names and certain randomised objects. Tomodachi Life still remains addictive and a part of your daily gaming regimen, but you'll find the gaps between visits getting longer and longer each time.
Getting you and your friends into Tomodachi Life is a bit of a faff in the first place. Every Mii has to be built from scratch or imported from your Mii Maker... but not from Streetpass Mii Plaza, which contains numerous ready-made friends, acquaintances and strangers that you can't access. A ridiculous oversight that otherwise forces you to spend an age or trawl the internet for QR codes. This is a great place to start.
And here's my QR code, in case you want to hang out.
That's the point, really. Tomodachi Life isn't so much a life simulator as a relaxing social sandbox that you'll dip into little and often, and succeeds at worming its virtual life into your real one. You'll enjoy hanging out, even if a sequel ought to pack more unique content and give us more granular control over our lookalikes.
Anyway, must dash, the next rap battle is about to start. Surely someone's going to take down Reggie today -- my money's on Nicki Minaj or Parker Luciani.
- Loads of bizarre events, quirky asides, relationship options, minigames and distractions
- Watching virtual friends embarrass themselves never gets old
- Outstanding vocalisation software
- Fiercely compelling and frequently hilarious
- Laborious individual Mii creation - why no Mii Plaza import or randomiser?
- Overly basic and barely interactive in parts
- Island is a sham (basically just a menu of instanced events)
- Events and conversations quickly start repeating
The Short Version: Tomodachi Life makes us the director of a zany reality show starring our lookalikes, friends and celebrities. More voyeuristic Mad Lib than life simulator, it's still a quirky and hilarious thief of time that constantly offers up new ridiculous situations to spy on. Sit back and watch what happens as hilarity ensues and unlikely relationships blossom, but you'll have to make your own fun as repetition sets in.