REVIEW: Tomodachi Life (3DS)

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  • Nintendo 3DS / Rated E / $34.99 / released June 2014
  • FINAL: You should TRY this game. 3 out of 5 stars

For years, Nintendo’s Miis have been depicted as happy-but-bland user avatars, as ready to play tennis as they are to drive a go-kart. In “Tomodachi Life,” available now for the Nintendo 3DS, the Miis are finally given their own personalities, interests and, sometimes, loves.

Tomodachi Life” is, essentially, a hilarious skit-creation service featuring your Mii characters. You populate a vacation island with Miis and get to work appeasing their requests and giving them silly things to do. You’ll frequently stumble upon items and locations that trigger brief scenes where your Miis do something cute or funny or, often, just bizarrely dadaist. The game includes an easy screenshot feature so you can save these goofy moments and share them to social media services.

The game is absurd, and it delights in stressing that. If your Miis are mainly people that you know in real life, this means your mother might headline a techno band, or your little brother could anchor the evening news. And, as Nintendo suggests on the “Tomodachi Life” website, if you sprinkle in Miis based on celebrities, then you might find your aunt romantically linked to Shaquille O’Neal.

Yes, Miis can find love in “Tomodachi Life.” With each Mii having a unique personality profile (defined by you and other players who create Miis), female and male Miis will try to pair themselves up, go out on dates, and even get married. The game allows you some input as a matchmaker, however, so if it is weird for you to see your best friend going on a date with your grandmother, you can try to dissuade the potential lovers from that path.

Or, you could let that happen and end up with funny scenes of Grandma and your college bestie going on vacations to Africa. While that sort of thing may fly, “Tomodachi Life” does not allow same-sex romantic match-ups. Given how silly (and innocently un-sexual) the game is, it is unfortunately backward that there’s no representation for adult gay couples.

Tomodachi Life” uses a voice synthesizer to actually speak everything your Miis might say. There’s enough variety so that it does not sound like the same robotic voice for every person. There are many instances where you get to type in lines for a Mii to speak, and the system does a great job at bringing them to life.

But while there is a lot to do in “Tomodachi Life,” there is not a lot of depth. You will end up doing a lot of the same stuff, just with different Miis. Buy them clothes, feed them food, watch their dreams, all with the regular payoff of another ridiculous skit. This is great for a time, but eventually you realize that while you may not have seen everything the game will do, you’ve seen everything that the game is capable of.

If you walk in with your eyes open, you can have a lot of fun with “Tomodachi Life.” It is a crazy, funny game that lets Miis cut loose. As long as you’re all-in on Mii shenanigans, it’s a solid time-killer. If you’re less interested in the Miis themselves, or expecting more control over their virtual lives, you can pass on “Tomodachi.”

This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. Image courtesy Nintendo of America.