A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
There's no overt focus on providing positive messages within the game, but players will find that acting positively toward the other Miis on the island will help you boost the happiness of the characters you interact with.
Positive Role Models
Characters are fairly neutral, although they lean toward being kind. You have some control over the types of actions the Miis choose, and each has a different personality that you can edit at any time.
Ease of Play
There's a strong tutorial to help get kids started. Some activities, such as the Magic Act or helping Miis sneeze, aren't as responsive as they could be. The 3DS touch screen doesn't seem sensitive enough to handle those tasks.
Violence & Scariness
You can play an RPG-style game with the characters where they have to defeat enemies (almost all inanimate objects) by attacking or casting spells. It's extremely watered down and, although characters lose health, there's no blood. When the character's health runs out, they fall asleep until the mini-game is over.
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Products & Purchases
The Miis (avatars) can appear in other Nintendo consoles and games.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tomodachi Life is a lighthearted sim that lets kids create Miis and watch their whole island community evolve over time. Miis become friends, have fights, date, get married, and even have babies (all in mysterious ways, of course). Players have some control over the outcome. For example, if two Miis want to go on a date, you can say it's a bad idea. You can also encourage or discourage friendships between the characters. Miis speak everything out loud, as well as in a thought bubble on screen. Even those who aren't strong readers can understand what's going on. While StreetPass (Nintendo's data exchange feature with other 3DS users) isn't required to play, kids can't unlock one of the island areas without it on, which could raise privacy concerns.
Is It Any Good?
Tomodachi Life isn't a traditional game, and it may not appeal to kids who are goal-oriented gamers. But for those who enjoy open-ended virtual social experiments, this is a real treat. The customization options for characters are vast, and you can even use a picture of yourself to get started. Have a name that's hard to pronounce? You get a chance to enter the phonetic spelling of your name, ensuring that your Miis can both spell and say their own names correctly.
Each day there are different food, clothes, hats, and decor available, so you can see which ones your Miis like best. The games the Miis like to play are tricky, often expecting you to identify a food item from a blown up or pixelated picture. Since the foods available are quite diverse, it's not always easy to guess between the loco moco, tiramisu, schnitzel, and string cheese, but it's fun trying. Plus, the Miis give you treasure when you're right. Tomodachi Life unfurls slowly over time. It may not be a game you play for hours a day for weeks, but it's one you're likely to revisit over and over to check in on your Miis and see what's going on.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.