There was a time where anything could be a video game. Developers and publishers saw the potential behind creative ideas (no matter how zany or original they were) and took the risk supporting it. At first, many of these games were from Japanese developers and publishers, such as Parappa the Rapper, Cho Aniki, and the Katamari series. Hell, even classic game franchises are wildly different to the military shooters, simulators and gritty combat games of today. Look at Super Mario, an Italian plumber who goes on a crazy journey to rescue a princess from a turtle-dragon (demon king in Japan), all the while eating mushrooms, throwing fireballs and jumping on turtles. Try getting that idea greenlit today.
‘Tomodachi Life’ from Nintendo is a game made with complete disregard for the current trends in gaming – It doesn’t care what should be popular, it just wants to be fun. Starring Nintendo’s Mii’s, Tomodachi will see you and your friends living on an island, with all manner of strange and wonderful things happening every day. It’s unique, it’s weird, and it’s downright fun.
At the beginning of the game, players will import their existing mii’s, or create new ones. Tomodachi Life will see mii’s doing more than bobbling about like finger puppets though, you will then program their personalities, voices and other slick new features to make them unique. I tried to create my friends and I as accurately as possible, and it’s kinda scary how much they behave like their real-life counter parts, both on their own and when hanging out with each other. I have one friend (who shall remain anonymous) who is very direct with his speech. He also has this unique talent to derail any conversation with a completely non-sequitur remark, so I cranked his “unique” stat and his “direct” stats right up when making his mii. In game, he also derails conversations, and frequently says something unrelated or inappropriate. Perfect.
After you’ve made or upgraded your miis, you’ll be greeting them into their apartments on the island. From there, it’s up to you how you want to play. Tomodachi Life presents players with a very open style of gameplay, which is both it’s greatest strength and weakness. Engaging in various social activities with your islands inhabitants will steadily unlock new features for the island, but the game at no point tells you what you should be doing. You can look at the empty lots to find out what you need to do to unlock that building – but even then, that’s not a definitive goal as such.
In terms of activities, Tomodachi Life offers a huge amount of fun and bizarre things for you and your friends to do. Some times, the islander will straight out tell you that they want to try something ie “I want to dye my hair a fun colour” or “I want to relax in a bath” and other times, they will wander off on their own and discover something to do. One time I found my islanders gathered in a large group by the town fountain, where they were heavily engaged in a rap battle. Being a Nintendo game, the rhymes exchanged were family-friendly, with no expletives at all. This only added to my enjoyment though, as the islanders will rap about being “rap supernovas” or “rhyme psychologists”.
Other activities will depend on what gifts you give to your islanders. I gave my mii a guitar, which he then used to show off his skills to other islanders. I gave another islander a voucher for a dog, and the next time I saw them, they were enjoying the dog’s company in their apartment. There are heaps of gifts you can give your islanders, including skateboards, metal detectors, ballet lessons, mirrors, different outfits, sports items and of course, Nintendo products. You can also teach them different songs, and have them put on a concert for the other islanders. I laughed myself stupid when I wrote a metal song all about how much I love coffee, and then proceeded to headbang like it was a great choice of topic for a song.
At its core, Tomodachi Life is about relationships. Your islanders will socialise with each other, quite often becoming friends and sometimes, even more. You don’t have a great deal of interaction here, but rather, you get to sit back and watch the fun or chaos as it happens. There are times when you are asked if someone should become friends with someone else, or if they should reveal greater feelings to another islander, but you won’t be instigating these events – you’ll just be prompted for input as they occur. During my time with Tomodachi Life, it was difficult to gauge if it indeed has an end, as some features are locked until you can play with another player via Nintendo’s Streetpass feature. What I can tell you is that the more you encourage your miss to socialise, the more you will get out of the game. They might even have children!
As you may have guessed from the rest of the review, Tomodachi Life offers a lot of fun distractions, random events, and indeed all manner of strange things for you and your friends to enjoy. Kids are going to absolutely love the game, but there are definitely moments that adults will enjoy too. Dare I say it, Tomodachi Life will appeal to fans of the popular app Bit Strips, as it offers similar enjoyment (although a lot more variety).
- Tons of content
- Open-ended accessible gameplay that anyone can enjoy
- Wonderfully unique
- Lack of definitive direction
- Requires Streetpass to unlock everything
Tomodachi Life is great game that can be enjoyed for a few minutes, or as much as a few hours. It offers the best use of the Nintendo Mii’s so far, and combines accessibility with a sense of humour that anyone can enjoy. Kids will love it.
Score – 8/10