To­modachi Life

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher/de­vel­oper Nin­tendo (SPD Group No 1) For­mat 3DS Re­lease Out now (JP), June 6 (EU, NA)


Part soap opera, part sit­com, To­modachi Life is an os­ten­si­bly odd and sub­ver­sive life sim un­der­neath which beats a qui­etly con­formist heart. It asks you to cater to the whims and needs of the Mii char­ac­ters in­hab­it­ing a steadily grow­ing is­land com­mu­nity; you’ll earn money by mak­ing them happy, which is in­vested in new items in or­der to con­tinue sat­is­fy­ing them. Given the com­pany’s oft-stated de­sire to put smiles on faces, it could be seen as a satire of Nin­tendo’s own cor­po­rate pol­icy: keep ev­ery­one happy and busi­ness will be good.

It be­gins with you cre­at­ing a Mii dop­pel­gänger, your looka­like’s traits de­ter­mined by a se­ries of slid­ers. Do they speak car­ingly or di­rectly? Are they en­er­getic or lethar­gic? You can ad­just the pitch and tone of their syn­the­sised speech, too, but as a gen­eral rule, the more dead­pan the voice, the fun­nier the in­ter­ac­tions are. We never tired of our Mii ex­press­ing shock with a sotto voce “gosh”. That ‘To­modachi’ sounds like ‘Ta­m­agotchi’ may be co­in­ci­den­tal, but at times your in­volve­ment feels a lot like car­ing for a dig­i­tal pet, even if man­ag­ing your com­mu­nity is less de­mand­ing than look­ing af­ter a sin­gle Nin­ten­dog. While there are timed events, many are avail­able dur­ing mul­ti­ple time slots, and you won’t be pun­ished for ig­nor­ing your is­lan­ders for a few days.

As with An­i­mal Cross­ing, be­neath the wel­com­ing ex­te­rior lies an in­dict­ment of hu­man­ity’s ram­pant con­sumerism. You feed and clothe your Miis, buy new in­te­rior de­signs for their apart­ments and give them gifts, with each prob­lem solved top­ping up your cash, which you’ll spend on amass­ing a faintly mean­ing­less haul of items. Some are purely dec­o­ra­tive, while oth­ers prompt new in­ter­ac­tions, and it’s the lat­ter that keep you com­ing back. Con­text is cru­cial, and mun­dane ex­changes are made amus­ing by the par­tic­i­pants – we won’t for­get Sa­toru Iwata beat­ing C-3PO in a rap bat­tle any time soon. Of­ten it’s your own per­sonal touches that pro­vide the com­edy, with the abil­ity to se­lect phrases for char­ac­ters to say in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions. Else­where, the jux­ta­po­si­tion of cartoon char­ac­ters and re­al­is­ti­cally ren­dered ob­jects, in­clud­ing gi­ant digi­tised hands with which you can ap­plaud at wed­dings or pick fluff out of hair, in­jects a Gil­liam-es­que sur­re­al­ism.

Given Nin­tendo is con­sid­er­ate enough to pub­lish an an­nual re­port dis­cussing how its prac­tices could ef­fect pos­i­tive so­ci­etal change, it’s dou­bly dis­ap­point­ing that To­modachi Life pro­motes a life­style that will ex­clude many, with some fea­tures gated off un­til two char­ac­ters get mar­ried and have a child. Other­wise, this is a de­light­fully strange and of­ten sur­pris­ing piece of work; it’s more play­thing than game, per­haps, but the smiles it gen­er­ates will be broad and fre­quent.

Daily events are of­ten en­livened by your in­put, but the Quirky Ques­tions quiz is un­usual enough to be­gin with, as par­tic­i­pants raise their hands to ad­mit they’d rather have been born as a book­shelf, for in­stance

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