As with many other consumer products, branding in gaming is obviously a huge consideration for publishers. As gamers, we can rely on annual installments of Tiger Woods, Madden, and Call of Duty, and by and large, the content of such games doesn’t see much change from entry to entry. With the MySims franchise, however, it seems Electronic Arts (EA) isn’t afraid of mixing things up, and once again the lovable little chibis are trying something new.
Unlike past MySims games, customization and creation isn’t the focus of MySims SkyHeroes. Sure, you can mack out your plane and dress up your MySims, but the gameplay actually takes center stage here. That’s a good thing, too.
MySims SkyHeroes is a tight, little package, but it’s also a fairly basic affair. As you might have guessed from the title, this is a game all about air combat. Similar to Snoopy Flying Ace (XBLA), you’ll spend most of your time in dogfights, and Mario Kart-style racing makes up the other half of what’s on offer here.
With that in mind, what MySims SkyHeroes sets out to do, it does quite well. The story mode is mostly a means of acquainting the player with the particulars of gameplay, but it’s still a nice addition when you’re forced to go it alone. The single-player game is mission-based, and based on your performance at the end of each mission, you’ll earn various plane parts and accessories, as well as unlock additional MySims for use in Quickplay.
The multiplayer options include both local, two-player split-screen, and online play (for up to six players) via the Nintendo WiFi Connection. Players can choose between either races or dogfights (free for all or team matches), but the options during online play are fairly limited. There’s no real lobby system, and map selection is the only thing you get to vote on when it comes to match options. There are achievements, as well as a ranking system that accompany online play, but all perks are unlocked from the outset. That’s a shame, too, since unlockables are always a great impetus for repeat play. Based on my brief experience playing online, the matches are lag-free. Unfortunately, I was rarely able to find anyone else to hook up with.
That pretty much leaves local multiplayer or online play with friends as the only viable options when it comes to competitive play. Here you’re given a bit more freedom to tweak matches and cater to your specific tastes. With twelve levels to choose from, there’s ample gameplay variety, and the design of each level has been given thoughtful attention to the action at hand. Power-ups are placed strategically, and players are rewarded with health drops after an enemy has been defeated. Additionally, the planes control well and are a joy to handle.
Controls are relegated to both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and though you can opt to waggle to perform various maneuvers, motion control is not a requirement. Everything’s been mapped smartly, and along with subtle rumble and other tactile feedback, controlling the planes in SkyHeroes feels natural and fun. My only minor quibble is that when you crash into environmental objects, your plane just bounces – no explosions, no damage. Sure, it helps keep the flow of gameplay going, but it also makes things a bit too easy.
For me, the overall vibe of MySims SkyHeroes is what makes it a winner. Though racing and dogfights are your only two real gameplay options, a lot of love obviously went into the game’s creation. Levels are a blast to explore, and the characters and art style have a quirky, lovable sense of humor. There’s enough room to eke out a good game of cat & mouse, yet the action always feels urgent due to the tightness of the level design.
Racing is equally enjoyable, which is a bit surprising considering the formula. Rather than simply race around closed-in tracks, players are forced to zip through checkpoints, all while duking it out with other players or A.I. bots.
In spite of my adoration for the MySims themselves, the game engine is probably ready to be put out to pasture. The original MySims for Wii wasn’t pushing the hardware three years ago, and little has been done to bring MySims SkyHeroes into the present. The visuals are strictly PS2-quality, though a steady framerate is always welcome. SkyHeroes never chugs, and the colorful palette and level variety help stave off any graphical woes. The tools may be out of date, but the developers still managed to put together an attractive package.
The music fares a bit better, with playful themes reminiscent of one of last generation’s unsung heroes, Worms 3D. The sound effects are nice and chunky, and audio cues serve the action well. The voicing of the MySims, however, isn’t going to win any awards. You’ll hear much of the same Simlish garble repeated over and over, and some of the voices feel out of place when matched with the cutesy MySims characters. Regardless, MySims SkyHeroes offers a competent presentation that doesn’t, in any way, detract from the game’s otherwise inviting nature.
It’s an odd distinction to declare MySims SkyHeroes the best MySims game to date. It lacks many of the Sims-like components most folks associate with the franchise, and the only real connection lies in the chibi characters themselves. The customization is geared toward gameplay performance, not creation, and dolling up your MySims is much less of a novelty this time around, since you’ll mostly be seeing the back of its head.
And yet, the game is just plain fun. There are some irksome design choices, and online play against random players is nothing to get excited about. However, if you enjoy the chaotic and silly premise of games such as Worms, Fat Princess, or Mario Kart, this is one MySims package to which you’ll want to pay attention. The humor is delightfully lighthearted, and the gameplay is rock solid. Story mode is a great way to pass the time alone, as is a quick match against bots, and multiplayer with friends promises a lot of bang for your buck.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
SkyHeroes isn’t a bad-looking game by any means. With what the developers had to work with, the game has polish. Technically speaking, though, SkyHeroes looks outdated. 4.3 Control
The speed, boost, and overall handling of the planes feels great relative to the design of the levels, and controls have been mapped wisely. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
I really dig the music, and the sound effects have tons of satisfying crunch. Some of the MySims voices can be a bit off-putting. 3.5
Though the mission variety is decent, you’re still essentially doing one of two things: dogfights or racing. That being said, it’s a great package that offers real value when played with friends.
3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.