As Repetitive As Real Life
Given that tomodachi is the Japanese for “friend”, this game has a bit of a misleading title, given that it’s less about friendship and more just about Miis trying to get it on. In fact tell a Mii that they should just be friends with another and they get really bummed out.
The initial premise of the game is that you take ownership of an island and hotel, but quickly get bored and wish you had more friends to play with. So then begins the task of filling up your hotel with Miis, which in turn will open up other places on the island. Since the game is basically all about interactions between the Miis, to get the most out of it you need to jam pack the hotel, but this means you now have a bunch more Miis that need you to do the same few interactions with them.
So, go to a Miis room and they might ask you for food, or a new hat, or to look inside their stomach (if that’s leading to something I haven’t seen it yet), or to play a game with them. And ultimately that's all the game is, bowing to the nonsense whims of characters that seem to all demand the same types of stuff. When creating them the game gives them personality types, which I would assume dictates whether they’ll like what you give them, but who do you know what type of hat an extrovert type character likes? In the end it really doesn’t seem to matter, it just slows the rate that they level up.
Leveling up offers you the choice of giving a song, a new room layout, a catchphrase, or just give them some money. Once you’ve given them a room layout, leveling up pretty much loses its importance, yeah you can give them songs to go to the karaoke with, but once you’ve done that a couple of times it loses its luster, giving them phrases is fun the first couple of times, but dull to give to every Mii in the hotel.
While the game gives the impression of being autonomous, practically nothing happens without your direct approval, characters will even ask for permission to become friends. It would have been great to open up the game and find that a character had decided to change into an outfit that looks hilariously out of place on them, provided the old costume was still available, but no, characters merely say "I want a new hat"... Then give an awkward stare until you succumb to their wishes.
The worst is when you decide they like someone that you don’t want them to and tell them it won’t work. It did make me laugh seeing Stone Cold declare he’d lost all confidence, but then he proceeded to mope in his room and I couldn’t get him to cheer up, then I never went to his room again. I wanted to see a Mii snap, maybe start pranking the others if I pushed them hard enough. If a Miis love proposal gets rejected I want to see them staring through their desire’s window while they sleep, not just moping in their room. I played frisbee with two Miis and only threw to one, all that happened was the other pouted until the other threw the frisbee to him. For something that’s all about Miis wanting to have sex, it’s incredibly childish and tame.
Interacting with the Miis generally rewards you with money, and you’ll get a daily contribution from the town donation box. This money is then used to buy stuff to keep the Miis happy, to get them to give you more in an endless cycle. Dressing them up becomes less fun when they regularly demand new apparel from you and they hate everything you pick out for them. New stuff appears in the shops daily, but there just isn’t enough considering the number of Miis you’re expected to take care of.
Because you can't really explore the island yourself, you're kind of stuck at the whims of the game as to whether it will place Miis in a location to give you a reason to go there. Some interactions are more interesting than others, if you consider throwing a frisbee to be more thrilling than hiding in the sand dunes to peek on a Mii digging in the sand. You can make up stories that they're burying bodies and that's why the island is uninhabited, but then there’s the realisation that you’re having to make up your own fun because the game is excessively dull.
The main problem that plagues Tomodachi Life is the same that plagued Animal Crossing; what's loveable and charming at first quickly degrades into repetitive and boring. The game promises zaniness, but what’s actually given feels incredibly mild, like an adult’s poor attempt at acting childish.
Tomodachi Life is a great idea, a perfect extension of the Animal Crossing formula. But sadly doesn't reach far enough, and just a bunch of activities that it feels like you should be able to do with Miis by default, not have to buy a separate game for to actually be able to interact with them.