Saturday, 8 October 2011

Game of the Week: Virtual Villagers - A New Home (DS/DSi)

The popular PC games franchise, Virtual Villagers, finally landed onto Nintendo DS/DSi consoles this week. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, Virtual Villagers is a real-time, strategy-based virtual life simulation.

 Players must help to take care of a  tribe of people after their previous home has been destroyed by a volcanic eruption, and they are now forced to work to rebuild their homes and the tribal population. The Nintendo DS version is actually a condensed volume of the first three games from the PC series.

Virtual Villagers does seem to naturally suit the Nintendo DS consoles, and Mini Gamers is surprised that there has not been a DS console release of this game until now.

The overall gameplay is simple: Players can assign tasks to the villagers. They can choose from a selection of jobs such as Farmer (grow new plants and crops), Priest (nuture the souls of your tribe, boost morale), Parent (give birth and raise children to adulthood), Builder (erect huts and other buildings for the tribe),or a Healer (to heal sick or wounded villagers)  etc. This will help your tribe to grow, develop and settle into their new homes.

As this game is played in real-time and features a strong story progression, your tribe members will continue to learn new skills and grow in ability within the task that you have set for them, even if you are not playing the game - The tribe continues to function even when your DS/DSi is turned off!

The same can be said about the Villagers lifespans. Villagers who are born into the tribe will start off as babies and progress through childhood, adulthood and old age, where they will ultimately die.

However, it has to be said that the entire life process can be fulfilled quite quickly, so you might lose more inhabitants to death than you want to. Nevertheless, players do have the option to 'freeze time' overnight if they wish, which can be useful if you want to build a very skillful tribe or limit the amount of deaths or illnesses that occur whilst you are away from the DS console.

The game also features over sixty different puzzles for players to solve. Players must raise the villagers skills up to a specific level in order to solve puzzles, which takes a bit of time and patience, but is very rewarding, as these puzzles provide clues, which will then help the player to unlock the secrets of Mysterious Island.

 Virtual Villagers: A New Home  also contains a good selection of mini games, which can be completed to earn extra skill points or to speed up certain daily tasks. The mini games include tasks such rain-dancing, fruit-picking or fishing and even sawing wood, amongst others, and they help to add extra entertainment value to the game.

Official DS/DSi Trailer
In conclusion, this cute and gentle game will not suit everyone, but is likely to appeal to fans of strategy games and real-life virtual simulations such as Animal Crossing, Enchanted Folk or My Sims. The attention to detail about each villagers thoughts and feelings help to create a very realistic virtual environment and makes this an incredibly charming game.

It has easy-to-understand controls, which also makes it a good game for younger gamers to enjoy, but does not exclude older gamers who are looking for a simple and fun little game for those spare few  hours. Overall rating: 8/10.

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