Every time I pop into The Sims Mobile to see what the Sim I've haphazardly modeled after myself is doing, some new random person is walking into my house and making themselves at home. My Sim is standing idly by with her striking teal hair. Most of the time, I'd want to have her chat with a friend, or go do a quick shift at the coffee shop, but I can't — not without paying some in-game currency to buy more energy, that is. No matter what I wanted to do, if I played the game for a decent period of time I'd usually be out of energy so doing anything of worth was a no-go unless I ponied up real-world cash, used an in-game item to get more energy, or waited an excruciatingly long amount of time to finish an event.
This set the tone for my time with The Sims Mobile. It's got potential, I'll give it that. It's a decent mobile adaptation of the beloved sandbox players love to interact with, mod, and spend hours customizing their characters in. The thing is, it could be far less frustrating. But the route EA chose had to be the most penny-pinching, cash grab-laden iteration possible, and for that I am deeply disappointed. I'm not surprised, mind you, but I am disappointed nevertheless.
Sim-ply Full of Possibilities?
The Sims Mobile starts out innocently enough. You can create your own Sim to start out, customize him or her to your liking, and get to work customizing your home. Much of the beginning actions of the game are similar to that which you'd see in the full version of the game as you get your sea legs, so to speak. You've got your home, which is a "fixer-upper" of the highest caliber, and a wide world ahead of you. You can jump right in and start interacting with the world with little fanfare if you want, but you'll need to know what to do first.
There's a tutorial you need to finish before you're let loose on the world after you spend some time with the surprisingly robust character creator. It's a decent beginning sequence that finds you interacting with a Sim named Bella, who welcomes you to town and shows you around a bit. It's fairly standard at first, but the game quickly opens up to more complicated matters.
It's a good thing the tutorial is there, because the game can be quite confusing at first. There are multiple kinds of currency, for example, multiple types of furniture, "career" stories, "relationship" stories, and tons of other intricate systems that you need to uncover to really get the most out of the game. The tutorial could have used a little meatier content beyond what was there, but it helped me get up to speed quickly enough.
There's plenty for you to do, though. You can explore the world (which isn't an open one, by the way), meet new Sims who pass by your homes and start friendly or romantic relationships or even rivalries, work a part-time job, hone a skill or a hobby, and engage in tons of different activities that further flesh out your time as a newly-made Sim. You can make friends, add them to your contacts, socialize with them, and even hold and attend house parties. The starting Barista career bridges out to several different job positions you can hold, depending on your level, experience, and even the items in your home.
If you want to be friendly with a Sim or start talking trash from the moment you meet them, that will color your interactions going forward as you choose a path to take your relationship down. It's entertaining to just start insulting some random person who happens to walk by your house, just as it's funny to start pathways with fellow "geek" friends you start making.
I enjoyed taking part in the group events as well, like birthday parties that involve other players. There's experience and goodies to earn by participating in those, and they're a good way to meet new players if that's something you're into or want to spend time doing. Chances are, if you're a mobile game fan, you probably already spend a lot of time doing that, so it's good that there are social elements included.
Nope, Just Sim-ply Money Hungry
Unfortunately, nearly everything that you can do is based solely on how much tapping you can do and how much money you can spend. If you don't want to spend money, which the game will almost incessantly badger you to do (without coming right out and saying so), it'll be based on how patient you can be. Shackers, I am not a patient woman. When I sit down to play a game for the long haul, I'm going to play the game. I'm not going to open my wallet and be nickel and dimed to death so I can become a barista and make some frenemies in a life simulation game that rewards you for continual clicking. What reason would I have to do that when I have The Sims 4 proper on console and PC?
To keep it brief, there are various systems to keep track of. You've got your Simoleons, which are your in-game cash option represented by golden coins, SimCash, Tickets, Boosts, and energy. A Wallet of SimCash starts at $4.99 for 250 cash, and goes all the way up to $99.99 for 7,500 cash. SimCash buys boosts, helps you finish tasks quickly, and lets you purchase special items. Simoleons can be used to help purchase items like home expansions, furniture, and the like as well as unlock new locations. You can buy Simoleons with SimCash, beginning at 800 Simoleons for 50 SimCash and going up to 120,000 Simoleons for 5,000 SimCash.
There are boosts too, of course, in the form of Cupcakes. You can buy them with SimCash, from a Plate of Cupcakes (2) for 75 SimCash to a Box of Cupcakes for 1,5000 SimCash. As if that weren't enough, there are also a selection of Tickets you can buy. First off are the Fashion Gems, which cost 225 SimCash to unlock new looks from Izzy's Fashion Shop. There are several different kinds of Tickets in various denominations from Sim Tickets to Heirloom Tickets and more, so many that it's absolutely atrocious to think that you need to keep track of so many forms of currency.
Of course, that's all separate from energy. Just like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, you need to use energy to perform actions. You need to perform actions to earn experience. You need to earn experience to progress. Most actions take a nominal amount of energy when you're starting out, but these totals quickly rise as your level does as well. Your Sim can just perform actions on their own if you want to turn off your phone and let them do their thing, but of course that doesn't mean you're actively playing any longer.
To be fair, you can absolutely wait it out to earn more energy or to speed up the process to get things going. There's a way you can watch video ads if you want to earn some quick energy as well. You can also nap and get some beauty sleep to earn more energy. But there's absolutely no reason to lock further progress behind a paywall, essentially, which rewards those who have a limitless supply of cash at their disposal.
Clicking a few icons and waiting for your Sim to perform the action so you can grind out experience and level up does not make for very much fun over a long stretch of time, and if you choose not to pay, which EA will oh-so-generously remind you that you don't have to do, you'll be waiting more than playing. Waiting around isn't very much fun for me. Not when I can jump into a ton of other free games right now with zero microtransaction nudges.
Sim-ply A Mess
As it stands, unless you're really jonesing for a Sims fix while on the go, there isn't much of a reason to let The Sims Mobile insult you by peppering you with its seemingly endless barrage of microtransactions. Unfortunately it doesn't seem that EA has entirely learned its lesson from the recent Star Wars Battlefront II debacle, nor the backlash facing pay-to-win models in recent memory.
To be fair, The Sims Mobile isn't approaching the free-to-play genre any differently than other mobile games out there on the market, and I've seen far worse. But to offer a mobile iteration that has even less value than the regular version of the game feels like a nonsensical move. The thing is, it could all be propelled with currency in-game without any option to buy cash with shorter timers (or no timers at all) and it would make a far better experience. As-is, however, as much as I want to see my Sims rise through the ranks, I'm going to have to direct my attention to the console and PC versions to live my virtual life.
This review is based on an iOS download code provided by the publisher. The Sims Mobile is set to launch on iOS and Android devices for free soon.