Tomodachi Life review: turn friends into Tamagotchis in this curious life sim

3DS (£34.99)

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The Independent Tech

There's something quite nineties about Tomodachi Life. As a life sim game (sequel to the Japanese game Tomodachi Collection), it's similar to both The Sims and Animal Crossing but it's also quite stripped back, like having a collection of Tamagotchis based on your friends.

After taking control of your island, you firstly create or import your own Mii (which remains separate from the real 'you' throughout the game), and then either import friends' Miis or create new ones. The aim is to keep them happy and encourage friendships, and while simple, it's also quite charming. 

If you have ever fancied yourself as a match maker, Tomodachi Life is perfect. While you can't control who falls for who, when they've spent more time together you can advise whether you think it'd work, and then set up the perfect scenario for them to reveal their feelings. My friend Jack's Mii just confessed his love for my sister, and there might be a Davis Island wedding before long.

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There are some positive messages for kids to take from the game, such as making up after an argument is better all round, and helping someone out makes them happy. That's rewarded with both a gift from the Mii and money for you to run the island. You can give people new interiors for their home, new clothes, or presents - of which there could be a much bigger selection - it includes a couple of odd items such as a metal detector, and of course some Nintendo products. (Though I don't think that counts as mo re Wii U sales).

There's also a couple of negative messages, such as the rankings boards which asks things like "who's the hottest hotty on the island?" and when kids already have so much to worry about in school, that's a great one to encourage. Then of course there's the issue addressed earlier in the year, that characters couldn't form gay relationships in the game, which is of course hugely disappointing. Nintendo did apologise after the backlash, and said though they couldn't add a patch, they pledge that:  "if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players". Let's hope they actually do.

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While you only have five personality trait sliders to choose between for each new character, for example 'caring' or 'direct', 'serious' or 'light', I found my Miis actually seemed to really fit my friends' personalities rather well. They then overshare some private thoughts every time you speak to them, which are usually more refreshingly honest than most people's real social media accounts!

There are some slightly terrible games to play with Miis, like zooming in on items and identifying what they are, including some foods children would probably not know, like Polenta or Panna Cotta. The mini-games are the worst part, completely lacking imagination or effort. 

There are many things that make the game unique, however. The quirky touches including looking into people's dreams - which are always wonderfully strange, or your Miis competing in a rap battle with genuinely funny lyrics. Though the game doesn't require any thought or effort, I often found myself laughing at characters' behaviour and interactions, and for that, I'm keen to see how they'll all develop in future. 

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