|System: Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Redwood Shores||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 21, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Navigating the map with the D-Pad works well, but the stylus controls have a tendency to be imprecise and frustrating. Picking up small objects and transferring them to an animal or your backpack often takes several tries, and shaking trees, flowers, and bushes to get fruits and nuts is more annoying than it is rewarding.
The tight graphical interface also tends to get cluttered and cramped, especially when you have your backpack inventory open across the lower screen. Fortunately, much of the important information for a selected animal or plant crops appears on the top screen. Drawing water with the stylus from nearby reservoirs to form clouds that can be stored and pulled out at a whim to water plants is clever; other abilities like charging up your happy meter and blowing into the microphone to knock seeds off trees are rather useless.
The crisp graphical presentation packs a lot of color to offset its simplicity. While the cute 2D animal and plant sprites are sharp and generally pleasant on the eyes, the caricaturized animal portraits that crop up on the upper screen are dopey in comparison. There's a good level of variety in the background and map designs. Each level looks quite different from the last one. Some are purely natural, featuring brooks, trees, and grassy plains, while others include piles of garbage, farm equipment, lodges, shacks, and human elements.
Kids who pick up SimAnimals on the DS will find it's easy to dive right into the accessible gameplay. The lack of variety in objectives and occasional controls problems might be less of an issue for these younger players who find the meat and potatoes of the game - attracting new cute animals to their forests - to be joyfully addictive. The handheld version is an improvement over SimAnimals on the Wii, and the intended audience should find much to enjoy in this virtual natural realm.
CCC Staff Contributor