A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a nature simulation game that combines rules found in nature with fantasy. Animals can eat one another, but nothing is shown – all you see is a cloud of dust and then an announcement that an animal has died. Procreation is likewise not shown – animals are seen as being affectionate to one another (as in intertwining necks, etc) and then babies just show up. There is some comic mischief in suggested tasks which have negative consequences; as when you are told to provoke a skunk into spraying you, and when you do, your avatar (a white hand) faints. The Wii version deals with pollution issues. To play it alone, you must be old enough to read. But younger children will enjoy exploring this game with older siblings or parents on the Wii which offers cooperative gameplay for up to 4 players.
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What's it about?
SIMANIMALS is a forest simulation in which you control all the animals and plants found in a variety of locations. The overall goal of the game is to keep everyone happy, which is monitored on a happiness bar shown at the top of the screen. Animals need food, shelter, sleep, mates, and fun. Plants need the right soil with the right amount of moisture. By planting trees, bushes, and flowers, you coax certain animals to check out your part of the forest. And when these herbivores arrive, their predators aren't far behind. You can intervene in their interactions including picking up animals and depositing them far away.
Playing as the white hand of nature, you start in just one environment which is open to your ministrations. However, as you make the plants and animals happy by doing things like dropping acorns near squirrels or moving maple trees into grassy areas, the happiness of your forest increases to the point that a new environment becomes available to you. You will find new animals and plants in each new environment including waddling ducks, shy skunks, busy beavers, and playful bears. And each location is full of unique challenges that you can choose to pursue or not.
Is it any good?
This is a deep and intriguing nature simulation that will appeal to both kids and adults. It does a great job of teaching you how to play game by offering nature challenges. Most of the information you discover about the animals is true; but the game also introduces fantasy elements that add zing, including the ability to send lightning bolts to destroy intrusive plants.
By playing SimAnimals, kids will learn about the interconnectivity of plants and animals, and, in the Wii game, about how pollution affects us all. Since there is no "right" way to play in this giant sandbox, every time you start a new game it is different. Also, for kids who are real animal-lovers, one of the fantasy elements of the game is that you can reprogram a predators' eating habits so that no animal ever eats another. The Wii version allows up to four players to explore an environment together making it a great game for families to play together.
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