Carnival was the first and shortest review I ever did for Resonance. It's not exactly my best work as the focus at the time was on getting the site up and running as quickly and cleanly as possible, but it's still a fair review of the spin off puzzle series.
As everyone even remotely interested in PC gaming knows, The Sims has been one of the best selling computer game franchises in history. Adored by many younger and female gamers, and often hated by members of the hardcore gaming community, no matter what you think about the game and EAs marketing strategy, The Sims has been a huge success, and will continue to be a success for a long time to come. The Sims Carnival piggybacks on the success of this licence, and SnapCity and Bumper Blast have been brought out under its name. As both games are casual and share some similar properties, I’ve decided to review them as one, and give them both a single score.
SnapCity is simultaneously the most original and playable of both games. The game is an interesting mixture of Tetris and SimCity. Instead of simply placing zones and buildings, the game drops different coloured blocks from the sky, which you can rotate and place down to complete a zone. When you’ve placed enough pieces the game will give you a ‘puzzle block’. When these puzzle blocks are completed, you can choose a variety of different buildings to place on them.
The games story mode gives you a series of ‘objectives’ to complete on each map. For example, completing a set number of zones without missing any blocks, or building a police station. Despite the large number of missions in the story mode, the pace of the game is incredibly slow. Most of the missions are near identical with the layout of the zones and the type of building the game requires you to build the only real change each time. The game starts slowly adding new buildings and different shaped blocks as you reach the higher levels, but it’s too little, too late.
Everything in the game is also far too easy. Even moving up the block speed to maximum doesn’t really make the game any harder. Casual games are known for being easier than their more in-depth counterparts, but SnapCity just didn’t offer any challenge at all. The different buildings are meant to affect your cities budget, happiness and density. You’re left feeling like it doesn’t really matter, though. You nearly always have enough money, and happiness and density seem to have no effect on gameplay whatsoever. The only buildings that actually seem to do anything are the Police, Fire and Health buildings, which make it easier to dispatch the various problems you’ll randomly encounter.
SnapCity also offers an open ended mode, much like the regular Simcity. However, the regular game had a lot of depth and strategy involved, and by SnapCity’s very nature, it has neither. SnapCity does offer a fair amount of entertainment though, even if it does miss the mark. The graphics are bright and bold, replacing the realistic urban graphics of The Sims with cartoon buildings and cars. The Sims-style, enthusiastic music is both annoying and addictive at the same time, and through it all, I can’t help being impressed by how two entirely different styles of game have been mixed together.
BumperBlast has less going for it. You control a ‘bumper’ that can shoot other bumpers to ‘tag’ them, and once all bumpers in a level have been tagged, you win. What do bumpers have to do with the Sims? They have faces of different Sims on them! In fairness, it plays better than it sounds. It’s a puzzle game at heart, and its entertaining and, thankfully, more challenging than SnapCity. It’s shame then that there is no originally here at all, and the links to The Sims is tenuous at best. Simply taking a game that has already been made several times before and slapping on a few Sims graphics isn’t very impressive.
Putting “The Sims” in front of anything is going to guarantee at least some retail success. As standalone items, they are polished and playable, and both should entertain for a while. However, at $20 each, they are expensive for casual games. If you’re willing to sacrifice the brand name you’ll find plenty of games just as good, if not better, than either of the games on offer here. They’ll be cheaper as well. Perhaps I’d be less critical of these games had they been $20 for both, or released as part of the content of a regular Sims expansion pack, but as they stand, I’m not convinced.