STAFF REVIEW of MySims SkyHeroes (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010.
by Ken Laffrenier

MySims SkyHeroes Box art Flib, shubba nard. Lorned putta im saba wicheb slumm? Catiplat, shim nubbem leb. Before you ask; no I have not been drinking before settling in to put together this latest review. I am simply trying to put to paper some of the nonsensical jabbering, that the characters of the Sims universe use as they go about their day. If you are any kind of experience gamer you have likely spent a number of hours (enjoyable or otherwise) immersed within the Sim world. And like any rational Human being you have also spent a number of restless evenings attempting to translate the ramblings of our Sim counterparts (of course, I also spend restless nights translating the ramblings of many of my this could be just afflicting me).

Way back in 1989, game designer Will Wright developed Maxis studios and introduced the world to the the Sim universe with the release of SimCity. What began as a city planners nightmare quickly became one of the biggest selling series in gaming and it helped to solidify a new genre of video games. The Sim universe came to include hotels, farms, and even ants. But it wasn't until early 2000 that we had the opportunity to interact directly with the residents of these Sim worlds. The Sims immediately became the biggest selling PC game in history and several million gamers spend endless hours in one of any number of the series sequels or spinoff offerings. The Sims made their console debut in 2003 and while titles haven't been as well received as the PC iterations, the developers at Maxis continue to seek out a firm footing in the console marketplace.

Thus, Maxis has created focused Sim based games that utilize many of the unique iteration and control aspects of the console market. Which brings us to the introduction of 'MySims: Sky Heroes'. MySims: Sky Heroes (MS:SH) is the first of 5 MySims titles to be released on a console other than Nintendo and it is the first to create MySims based characters from other gaming titles, including Mass Effect, Army of Two and Medal of Honor.

The story driving MS:SH is very straightforward. You find yourself among the wreckage of a fighter plane, with more than a touch of amnesia. Lucky for you, there are friendlies around, that somehow have no idea who you are or where you came from. These friendlies turn out to be fighting to rid the world of MorcuCorp and company founder, Morcubus, out of the skies to eliminate fear from the world. This is the first indication that the game is 'meant' for younger gamers....there are no underlying plots or depth to the story. The visuals of the characters should have been the first clue, but the price tag had me thinking otherwise (more on that later).

The story missions take place throughout the world allowing you to 'pick' where to go next....the story is linear and the mission types are limited. All missions will be either a race, a dogfight or a 'destroy the objective' (really just dogfight with stationary enemies) style. All of the missions can be frustrating at both ends of the spectrum. Races are of typical offering: if you're in first place someone will be able to fire off some sort of weapon to slow you down, whereas is you are behind you will (sometimes) be able to take out the person in front of you. All of the rubber-banding, psychic AI, and wildly ineffective weapons are in play that we've come to expect from these types of games. And really that's where the race aspect falls apart....not only have we seen this before but we've seen it much better. The dogfights and objective based modes are more challenging and somewhat more satisfying, however; it can really irritate even the most seasoned gamer to have your teammates acting as anything but on your team. Once again there seems to be programming in place to delay you slightly but then to allow you to come out on top every time.

The visuals are of typical Nintendo quality, seemingly catering to a younger audience. The problem of course is that we are playing on the Xbox 360...we've seen other titles simplify the graphics but this one doesn't even try to improve upon its predecessors. That isn't to say they're bad....just disappointing. The game features some interesting weapons that react well on the Xbox but they are all lacking on the 'game' level. I get it, the developers want to stay true to the genre...weapons that work with airplanes, but if our characters can be 1/3rd the size of our planes then we should be able to expect more than just missiles, shields and mines (there is the Tornado and Supernova but there should be more like this).

The game has some minor customization that is quite favorable. You are able to choose from wings, tails, engines and more; as the game progresses you can unlock even more choices. Painting each of your pieces and adding a 'logo' is nice but again you are locked into a template style that isn't always flattering. There are options to 'tune' your airplane but once again it is limited and doesn't have a great amount of effect on the actual can finish out the entire game without ever needing to upgrade. Customizing your character is akin to the customizing in many other 'bargain bin' titles and the developers could have easily increased the options here.

There is an added gameplay component included with up to 8 player online and 2 player split screen local multiplayer. However, the matches are equally lackluster and competent players will become bored quickly, whereas casual gamers will often be over matched. This being said it is refreshing to be able to play a split screen game with my kids where 'letting them win' takes very little effort.

MySims: Sky Heroes followed a formula that worked very well on a more kid friendly console. The title could have been ported well, but at a $50 price tag the game comes off as poorly developed and begs for a child audience. The problem seems to be that the games challenges are too hard to grasp for children. My children are ages 6 and 9 and both had difficulty grasping the core gameplay. It would seem the title is geared toward a 12-15 age group with age 6-10 graphics and an aged 25-35 price tag. Needless to say I don't think there are many individuals that fit this necessary demographic.

Overall: 6.8 / 10
Gameplay: 6.3 / 10
Visuals: 6.7 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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