The Sims Mobile review: Lifestyle changes

Credit: EA
Credit: EA /

What happened to The Sims Mobile? What we thought would be a mess of timers and microtransactions turned out to be a well-paced, enjoyable pastime.

Title: The Sims Mobile
Developer: Maxis, EA Mobile
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Android (Version reviewed), iOS
Release Date: March 6, 2018

No apologies for sounding hipster here, but I was cynical about EA and microtransactions before it was cool to rag on Star Wars: Battlefront II. I tried out The Sims Mobile at E3 2017 and walked away exasperated at what I saw as another waste-of-time, wait-timer-heavy, mobile cash-grab. It felt especially disgusting because it came under the guise of a series I’ve loved for years with a popularity that transcends a general gaming audience. I intended to put the game out of my mind entirely, but a review opportunity presented itself, so I cynically peeked back in.

And I have no regrets.

EA and Maxis have done almost a complete 180 on The Sims Mobile since I saw the preview build nine months ago, and thank goodness. Sure, it’s still a free mobile game with microtransactions; that’s to be expected. But The Sims Mobile as it is at launch possesses the charm I’d expect from The Sims universe, a fitting amount of customization, and a surprisingly satisfying gameplay pace that will comfortably fit the lifestyle of casual players and invested ones.

Credit: EA
Credit: EA /

You’ll begin by creating your first Sim. No one could expect the kind of robust options for customization you get on PC, of course, but I was pleasantly surprised with how versatile the tool was. Body shape and type, hairstyles, colors, and face shapes all include both templates and basic sliders to ensure your Sim looks as close to how you want it as a phone can get it. Apparel options are more limited and are one of the places where microtransactions sneak in to impose on clothing collectors. But there’s enough there to satisfy you if you don’t want to pay out, and you can always slowly earn in-game currency to purchase a coveted outfit.

PC players accustomed to immediately diving into careers, personalities, hobbies, and relationships may be startled by the “storylines” feature, but it’s an elegant fit. Your player level, which grows as you complete events and tasks, dictates what activities are open to you. To begin with, your Sim is devoid of personality or hobbies and can only get a job as a Barista. But as you progress, you’ll be able to romance others, become a professional musician, change jobs, and build a family. I found plenty of unlockable options for all these as I played, with a hinted promise of more through free updates as the game ages.

Credit: EA
Credit: EA /

I emphasize how well this works for mobile due to the basic structure of almost all events and activities in-game. Your Sim can begin a work shift, start a hobby-related or relationship activity, or begin another event, and will be given a timer indicating how long it will be before it’s complete and they can level up their respective skill and gain experience toward your player level. You can close the game and wait out the timer, or you can interact with related objects and people to finish the event faster.

Like many games of its ilk, my concerns center mostly around the late-game slowdown that encroached into my play toward the end of the review period.

You have a limited amount of energy with which to interact, but it recharges over time, can be fully recharged once a day by sleeping in a bed, or can be bought. Mercifully, this was rarely an issue for me while I was playing, even as I got to more complex events. Your character has plenty of energy to finish several small events through player action, and I never minded waiting for longer ones. I, like many others, play mobile games in short bursts. I frequently found myself closing my game for an hour or two, then, when I reopened it, spending a tiny amount of energy to interact and wrap the event up so I could start something else. I progressed quickly like this and never felt overwhelmed (as I do in games like Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp) or bored because I couldn’t finish something for hours.

Credit: EA
Credit: EA /

Design lovers who built elegant mansions in the PC versions might not be as thrilled with the mobile version, but again, I think the smaller scale makes that unsurprising. There are plenty of furniture options for those who just want to deck out a cool pad for their Sims, but high cost and a steady but sometimes-slow cash flow can make fancy furniture dreams seem far away. For me, this was an incentive to check in on my Sims more often, create more (you can have multiple doing different tasks at one time) and finish daily to-do lists and quests more often. But if you just wanted to hop in and create, this may not be the right version of the game for you. Or you’ll be paying for it with real money.

Like many games of its ilk, my concerns center mostly around the late-game slowdown that encroached into my play toward the end of the review period. Higher levels mean more experience to get to the next one, which means your Sims will frequently be stuck doing the same task again and again just to progress to something new. If you’re a “set and forget” type player, this won’t bother you. If you prefer to micromanage your Sims, you’ll quickly get sick of playing 20 questions with you on-again/off-again lover in hopes that you’ll eventually get a break-up option sometime next week.

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The Sims Mobile works on two fronts: it’s a satisfying, bite-sized version of a game I already love, and there’s enough going on I can either play for twenty minutes at a time or ignore it all day and still feel accomplished. Though it’s too soon to make a definitive call, the transformation this game underwent from my preview to release gives me the tiniest bit of hope that EA listened to fans of its biggest properties. The Sims Mobile is heavy on the things Sims fans like and low on mobile cash grab nonsense. Just as it should be.

8. <em>The Sims Mobile</em> satisfies almost everything a <em>Sims</em> fan could want from a smaller, portable counterpart. Considerable customization options will please designers who don’t mind a slow but steady unlock progression. The rest of us will be more than content with storylines to direct gameplay flow and convenient pacing options for both hands-off players and micromanagers. Assuming EA delivers on eventual post-launch updates, as they should, then I’m happy to recommend this to any <em>Sims</em> fan I know.. Maxis, EA Mobile. . The Sims Mobile

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.