For many, the demise of the Tamagotchi fad came not a moment too soon. Those tiny electronic pets which held such sway over their owners’ lives were almost like real living creatures – albeit without any of the food, waste or actual life. Given that the popularity of these high-maintenance critters has faded so much over recent years, it may be surprising to find that one of the best games available for Palm OS handhelds makes much use of Tamagotchi’s always-on, micro-management style of play. Village Sim combines these elements with a Civilization-style strategy format to produce an original, enjoyable game which makes the player feel like this is what Palms were invented for.
Taking a remote tropical island as its backdrop, Village Sim tells the story of a tribe of villagers determined to rebuild their lives after being forced to flee their homeland. Starting off without any skills or sense, your role is to guide these villagers through a series of learning processes so that they can achieve higher levels of technology and comfort. As they learn, they also explore their new island which is replete with mysterious nooks and crannies, with something new and interesting around every corner.
The learning process is slow and must be controlled by the player. For example, to encourage a villager to become a doctor, you need to pick the villager up (a snap using the easy stylus interface) and drop her by a mysterious medical plant. Your villager will normally fail to see what they’re meant to do but after some time, they start to get the idea and begin researching the role you’ve given them. Other jobs on the island include builders, foragers and the all-important scientists. These characters gradually garner more and more research points, eventually enabling you to progress to the next level of technological advancement.
Your villagers will develop pretty slowly. This is where the Tamagotchi-style gameplay comes in. Even when you switch off your Palm PDA, your villagers live on, learning and eating so that when you next start the game up, they will have progressed. When you start out though, you’ll need to check up on them fairly regularly because they still lack the capability of looking after themselves.
The game features attractive, simple graphics in two main view modes, ‘map’ and ‘zoom ‘. These modes allow you to focus on one villager and their tasks or take a more macro approach, watching your charges as they interact, learn and… have babies. Yes, your responsibilities go further than merely encouraging your villagers to gain new skills. Or rather, one of the new skills that you’re expected to encourage them in is ‘breeding’. Everything’s done very tastefully though, so there’s no reason that this should upset anyone. Indeed, for many, this will be a pleasant shift from the more war-like habits of characters in similar games.
Village Sim has managed to strike the perfect balance between ease-of-use, longevity, fun and humour, making it a truly excellent little game. The only tiny gripe we had with the game was that its sound effects become pretty repetitive after a while – but this is normal in games of this type. Otherwise, the game is highly recommended!