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Last year, SimAnimals gave us a cartoon ecosystem where everything lived in harmony until you turned your back, at which point hungry foxes would move in and eat all the rabbits. Harsh but fair. Educational, certainly. But it wasn’t all that much fun, and the effort EA put into underpinning the game with a proper simulation was lost on an audience that just wanted to hand-feed a bunch of cute animals.
So it’s back to the drawing board for SimAnimals, with a journey to Africa that changes almost everything. You’ve still got a disembodied hand for pointing at things, but most of the interactions with the game world are done by controlling the animals directly. Befriend a beast by shaking the remote at it, then scamper around the little savannah scenes, doing what anthropomorphic animals do.
The objectives are very simple – a typical task is to plant a certain type of seed when the trees that grow them are dried up. You have to get a hippo to dig a water hole, get an elephant to squirt the trees, then get a zebra to kick the seeds off when the trees bloom.
Each type of animal must be befriended individually, which involves a tedious amount of shaking the remote. Once you’ve got its attention, you can do other minigames such as jumping to grab floating flowers or playing catch with fairground hoops.
Although the animals will do their own thing if you leave them alone, the game leans heavily towards the virtual pet side of things. It’s all about the comic facial animations and getting lions to roll over so you can tickle their bellies. The ones you’ve made extra special friends with get covered in colourful tattoos so you can recognise them easily.
There’s little challenge, and you don’t even need to know that one type of animal might like to eat another. If you want some death to happen, simply control a lion and decimate your zebra population.
This is another one for younger players. They’ll enjoy it far more than the original, but we were hoping for more depth out of Africa.
Nov 20, 2009