I love the sims, and when I found out Electronic Arts released a mobile version, I was both skeptical and excited. Electronic Arts is unfortunately known for using pay-to-win mechanics in their games. There are few mobile games that don’t use in-app purchases, but this is because the game is free, and the developers need to make money. "The Sims Mobile" is also free, so I downloaded it and expected to quit after a day due to the inevitable pay-to-win.

Another aspect I anticipated was the mechanics of "Sims" games that made it iconic: player choice and fulfilling needs.

There are usually a set of needs that a sim must attend to, like eating and using the bathroom. On top of that, a sim is the player’s clay to mold. The player should be able to pick their outfits, their careers, their hobbies, etc.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found that the in-app-purchases were well balanced for players who didn’t want to pay, and thoroughly disappointed when the game tossed the need-based mechanic and player choice.

The in-app purchases

SimCash can be purchased for as little as $4.99 (to receive 250 SimCash) and as much as $99.99 (to receive 7,500 SimCash). From there, SimCash can be used to buy cupcakes (which refill the energy bar), the various tickets of the game that are used for purchasing items, and Fashion Gems, which are used for a place called Izzy’s Fashion Shop.

In addition to buying it, players can also earn it by completing some of the more complex quests like mastering a career or building a new room in your house. Players can earn cupcakes by completing to-do lists, and Fashion Gems are a reward for the to-do list mission “Give Stickers.” There are ways to earn these in small amounts, which helps balance the game.

It’s just a social platform

There are no needs that the sim needs to fill. Sleep? Unnecessary. Eating? No thank you! The only aspect from the previous games that stayed is the ability to interact with other sims. Some of them are even other players! A problem noted with the social aspect is that only other player characters can move in with your sims.

I romanced one of the pre-generated sims, and he just stands around my house. It doesn’t feel like he lives there because my sim never got the chance to ask him if he’d move in with her.

What is the point of buying all of these things for the home if using them is irrelevant? The simple truth: there is no point. The game rewards you for buying things for your home by improving your lifestyle, but that only unlocks more rooms for the player to build in. In the original “Sims” games, the player buys things because the Sim needs them, and cannot survive without them. The idea of building a fancy house wasn’t just to emulate a cool castle, but to also maintain the environment need. There’s no real incentive to make the house look beautiful, other than you get more rooms to fill.

On top of all of the needs being taken away, the concept of player choice is also taken away. In the beginning, the game is running you through tutorials of how the game is played. The first sim is forced into working at a coffee shop (at least, that was the case for me) and the first hobby couldn’t be anything but cooking. The first two sims aren’t really what the player wanted, but what the tutorials demanded. That’s not player choice.

The player unlocks more careers and hobbies by leveling up, bringing back that player choice. However, it’s missing from the beginning of the game.

"The Sims Mobile" is available in both the Apple Store and Google Play Store for free.