I’m what most people would consider a “filthy casual” when it comes to games, and I’m totally cool with that. My favorite games can be dropped and picked back up with ease, have a short story line (or none at all), and are simple to learn. Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., Left 4 Dead, Nintendogs… the kinds of games I like to play are cemented in the “casual gamer” camp.
When Nintendo’s Tomodachi Life for the 3DS was released, I heard reviews that it was like a weirder version of Animal Crossing, and I was immediately intrigued. To me, it’s more like The Sims meets Animal Crossing — with a lot of Nintendo wackiness thrown in.
To call it a game is a stretch — it’s more like a visual novel in choose-your-own adventure format, with a few mini-games and customization options thrown in. Even after playing Tomodachi Life daily for several months, it’s still hard for me to categorize. Let’s delve into the weirdness.
Quirky, Open-Ended Gameplay
The quirkiness starts right away — the islanders refer to you as [your Mii’s name]’s look-alike. So you’re sort of the deity of the island as well as a friend to the islanders, and you interact with them directly by feeding, clothing, and playing games with your islanders. Are you a God? Can your islanders feed themselves or do they rely on you for everything? We just don’t know.
Because all the characters are Miis, you can import Miis that others have created or make anyone you want to be an islander. My island is populated with characters from Madoka Magica, Adventure Time, and Rupaul’s Drag Race, among others. While there are limited personality types for Miis, they are pretty spot-on, and some of the stuff your favorite characters do and say is hilarious. You can also give each Mii a unique voice and items to give them a little more personality.
The main gameplay in Tomodachi Life comes from either solving islander problems, playing mini games, or unlocking events. Islander problems are anything from “I’m hungry!” to “Do you think so-and-so wants to be my sweetheart?” Mini games in Tomodachi Life are simple, but enjoyable: matching games, questions about your islanders, and simple item quizzes. Events happen whenever your islanders reach a new life stage, like marriage or having a baby.
Ron Swanson marries Cooking Mama, and JonTron and Madoka had a baby!
Aside from that, there are lots of other ways to stay amused: collecting all the items in-game, which rotate daily and seasonally; watching Mii news; discovering your islanders’ favorite and least favorite foods; watching your Miis give a concert; sending travelers to other Tomodachi Life games; taking photographs of your Miis; or simply observing your islanders’ shenanigans. It sounds simple, but there’s so much to do and each gamer could have a totally different experience with their island.
A little nosy, but not rude!
My favorite part about Tomodachi Life is that you aren’t penalized for playing sporadically or in short bursts. If you take a break from Animal Crossing, suddenly your town is covered in weeds and your villagers are furious with you. In other games, it’s hard to remember what you were doing and how to progress. In Tomodachi Life, though, your islanders are totally cool with you leaving for a few days… or weeks… or months. Then, once you do have time to play, you can play as much or as little as you want. Only have 10 minutes? Cool! Feed your islanders, fix a few problems, then log off for the night. As far as games go, it couldn’t be more forgiving if you are an extremely casual gamer.
Some of my favorite moments so far: Threatening Stan Lee, flirty RuPaul with a crush on Kanye.
The downside for people like myself who enjoy games like The Sims is that you can’t really control the “story” of Tomodachi Life. For example, if someone has a crush on someone else, you can tell them it’s a terrible idea to pursue it, but you can’t manipulate the game much further than that. I’ve been trying to get my Mii to date my IRL-partner’s Mii for months, and they are still just best friends. For the control freaks among us, this game might not be what you are looking for. But if you’re a little more chill about the fate of your islanders, then it’s plenty of fun.
Marceline and PB marry (in my dreams), and Madoka and I have a makeup party.
Another weird thing is that Tomodachi Life doesn’t allow for same-sex relationships. Nintendo has announced that this will be rectified in a sequel, but there’s an okay work-around currently. A Mii can have any appearance and clothing, regardless of intended gender, so if you have an OTP you really want to recreate in Tomodachi Life, just make one of them the opposite gender. I hope in future games, there’s an option to have attraction to men, women, both, or neither, or maybe even some other gender identities, but I’m not too hopeful that it will go beyond gay and straight.
Perfect for the Casual Gamer in Your Life
Despite the relatively simple gameplay, Tomodachi Life has me hooked. From watching someone skyrocket to the moon when eating their all-time favorite food (an apple?!) to discovering that three different islanders have a crush on your least-favorite Mii, watching your Miis interact is highly amusing. If you like open-ended games like The Sims and Animal Crossing and adore weirdness, or you are looking for a game you can play in short bursts, then Tomodachi Life is the perfect game for you.
Love confessions and Wii U gaming.
More Tomodachi Life Resources:
- Vinnie from Vinesauce streams Tomodachi Life regularly, and the results are hilarious.
- Tomodachi Life QR Codes is a great source to share or import Miis.
- My personal Mii QR code, in case you want me in your game!