Review: Miami Nights: Singles in the City (Nintendo DS)

Miami Nights: Singles in the City
Genre: Life simulation
Developer: Gameloft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: 1/15/2008

Eight years ago, the original “The Sims” game debuted on the PC, featuring a very in-depth look at the idea of managing the life of a little imaginary version of yourself (or whoever). It was a simple game with simple designs that became complex the longer you played and micro-managed it, and it was a rewarding (if flawed) experience because when you got to that point where your house was freakin’ huge and you had billions of dollars you felt like you’d DONE something, even if all you did was build up an imaginary house and life for a little digital guy or gal in a video game.

So, of course, everyone who rips the idea off is somehow COMPLETELY incapable of understanding this, and ends up giving us something that gets the first part (simplicity) right without ever, EVER getting the second part (complexity). Nolan Bushnell weeps for you.

And so too is it with Miami Nights: Singles in the City. Like The Sims, Miami Nights gives you the opportunity to create a character and “live out their life”. UNLIKE The Sims, however, the game is linear, limited, boring, simplistic, rote, and utterly uninspired in any and all possible respects. The fact that it is based off of a cell phone game is irrelevant. The fact that it is on a handheld system is not a factor. Miami Nights is simply bad from the beginning to the end, for more reasons than anyone can even begin to articulate in the pages of a review.

But we’re gonna give it a go anyway.

The “story” in Miami Nights is about as elementary as they come: you start out by picking one of three professions (singer, actor, or model, because THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IS HOW GOOD LOOKING YOU ARE, FOLKS), and from there you play through almost the exact same story every single time (the people involved and certain locations change, but the events are largely identical). The problems here are three-fold. First, the fact that the story repeats regardless of your chosen gender or career path is annoying for anyone who wants to play the game over after completing it. Second, the story essentially makes you into a whore/gigolo regardless of your personal opinions (and gender preferences), thus proving, apparently, that you HAVE TO SLEEP YOUR WAY TO THE TOP. And third, the story is just plain stupid… when you just HAPPEN to have a fairly mint copy of an ancient manuscript a museum collector is looking for in your ratty apartment, that’s silly. When the (member) of a band (performs an activity) with you one night, and the next day decides they are going to GIVE YOU THEIR YACHT, that’s just ridiculous. There’s no emotional investment to the story at all; you’re not given any reason to care about anyone in the game, be it your own character or any of the people you meet, and while that’s not really a prerequisite in a Sims-esque title, if you opt to stick a story in the game, making it a sucky one DOES NOT HELP YOU.

The presentation isn’t much better. The graphics alternate between bland 2D artwork (including a city map that is functional but nothing else and a bunch of 2D minigames that are also nothing special, as well as “character portraits” that are the same face about a million times) and horrible 3D looks like you could slice open a digit on the jagged edges. Granted, the DS isn’t exactly a system for fantastic 3D graphics, but we’re talking sub-first-gen PS1 level stuff here, which is still below what the DS is capable of churning out. The audio isn’t much better; half of the tracks sound like legitimate (and wholly uninteresting) musical tracks that range between techno, classical and rock; the other half of the tracks are weak MIDI tunes that are uninteresting and uninspired. What sound effects are in the game are okay enough but, again, they are nothing interesting.

Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, as bad as the story and graphics are, the gameplay manages to (in most respects) be WORSE. As you first start the game, you create your character from a myriad of clothing and hair options (which you will essentially HAVE to inspect, as none of the DRAWINGS of the clothes and hair look very much, if anything, like their 3D counterparts), then go out into the game world. At the core, the game very much resembles The Sims: you have to manage four bars representing your character’s needs: Energy, Hunger, Hygiene, and Bladder. So long as you remember the 4 S’s (shit, shower, sleep and sustenance) you’ll be okay. Instead of living out a free and open game experience, however, your neighbor (who is the opposite gender of whatever your character is, just to tease you that much more that you might have some sort of PURPOSE to your mission, like, for instance, impressing said neighbor) gives you various tasks that will, presumably, guarantee you success on your road to your chosen career. These tasks will range from learning to dance to making new friends to earning money to buy or pay off something, but will always be in service of the underlying plot, as it is.

This exposes the two major problems of the game, however. First off, following the storyline progression is both ridiculously easy and incredibly boring: ultimately, you’re just doing a bunch of inane crap to earn money and become famous, but the actual stuff you’re doing is pointless. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys playing mini-games, Miami Nights has a few, including one for washing dishes, one to wait on tables, one for dancing, and one for spinning at a DJ booth. They all play okay enough (though the DJ and dancing games are little more than silly rhythm games that seem curiously similar and oddly un-rhythm oriented, and feel like they go on forever), but you only need to actually play one of them. The dishwashing mini-game is SUPPOSED to be your introduction to the mini-game playing, but you can circumvent it entirely by BSing the guy washing dishes at the establishment into doing said job for you, and by spending five minutes staring at every painting and statue in the Museum you can become cultured enough to give speeches there, which requires you to do very little and pays out highly.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s right: look at everything in the Museum and you end up cultured enough to GIVE LECTURES THERE FOR CASH. Hear that sound? That’s the sound of Lucard having an apoplexy.

You can also make yourself pretty/handsome simply by combing your hair twice a day (once at home, once in the Hair Salon) and by shaving/applying makeup once a day until you are so sexy you can model the Jacuzzi at the Salon, and work out a few times until you can teach a workout class at the Beach (which is probably the ONLY thing out of the lot that makes sense, sort of), which also pay out hideously huge amounts of cash compared to, oh, anything else in the game. From there, earning cash is simply a matter of making a circuit from one location to the next to the next, doing the same jobs over and over until you have cash, which is simultaneously the best way to do it (as otherwise you’ll spend days earning chump change playing the dishwashing mini-game) and INCREDIBLY BORING. Thus: there is no challenge to earning money unless you are a masochist, and regardless of how you elect to earn money it is a hideously boring, rote and repetitive waste of time.

So of COURSE the game asks you to do that a whole f’in lot.

And when you’re not earning dough? You’re upping statistics, which is fundamentally identical to earning cash except you just get increases to arbitrary statistics instead of profit. Most of the stat improving activities are as simple as going to a location and electing to do the activity in question, leaving to do something else, and coming back later to repeat this thing. Again, this is fundamentally boring and rote, and again, it’s little more than forced game length, where instead of the game expecting you to DO SOMETHING it simply makes you do the same thing over and over until you complete some arbitrary marker of success. It’s like your characters have OCD and can only placate it by repeating the same horrible acts over and over again until they bore themselves into remission. And it’s not like these statistics MEAN anything outside of A.) making you eligible for certain jobs or B.) progressing the story; outside of these two categories, your poor statistical rankings mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the context of the game except in the case of making friends, which you can work around. The entirety of completing the story amounts, ultimately, to little more than repeating the same things for a couple of hours, most all of which stretch the definition of “interactive” by asking you to simply go somewhere and initiate an action, then go somewhere else and initiate another action into infinity.

Which neatly brings us to the other major problem: outside of completing the storyline of the game, there is NO reason to play the game. Redecorating your apartment/house/yacht means nothing because most all of the decorative choices are functionally identical, and frankly, unless you’re maintaining one of the 4 S’s or you’re fulfilling something to do with the storyline, you will never be IN one of your living establishments for any period of time because THERE IS NO NEED TO BE, EVER. Making friends makes no significant difference and unless the game forces you to make one, you will never need or want to. Having girl or boy friends makes no significant difference (and isn’t difficult, as apparently nearly everyone in Miami is bisexual) and unless the game forces you to have one, you will never need or want to. Stats mean nothing except to what jobs you can take… if you require a certain stat level for the story, you just go and earn it; otherwise, the stats make no difference. Oh, and don’t think I’m being flippant with that statement… I literally mean THEY MAKE NO DIFFERENCE: on one hand, people will tell you that you are entirely too ignorant of the topic of conversation you wish to engage in when you have 100% in the relevant statistic (and after four separate occurrences of this in a row, I have to believe that it’s not just a random thing and the game is simply BROKEN), but it never matters because if you select, in order, “Joke about me” twice, “Compliment” twice, and “Give gift” once, 80 – 90% of the time you will always make good friends with this person.

And that’s not even taking into account the things that are just broken, weird or WRONG in the game. Your character doesn’t seem to need to eat, sleep or bathe for days at a time, which is strange enough, but by avoiding anything unless forced to, I took care of the basic necessities ONCE in the entire game. Considering something like three weeks passed, that’s one hell of a bladder these Miami people have. The in-game “Dealer” is a shady guy who sells, well, a bunch of weird stuff you want or need at various points (jewelry, two cars, vitamins…). And speaking of “vitamins”, in the context of Miami Nights, they cause people to loosen up and feel more like having fun… which would make them completely not like any vitamins one can buy at the grocery store (which might explain why they’re on sale at the hair salon). Also, why am I paying the rent for my apartment when I have a house (and the game actually makes it a point to REMIND you that your apartment rent is due, when any reasonable person probably would have, I don’t know, MOVED OUT)? Most everything seems to be open all hours of the day, which is convenient but… who wants to listen to me give a speech or model a hot tub at 2AM? And, oh hey, everyone who isn’t you only has one outfit, so if you met a girl or guy at the beach, be prepared for them to show up for your date at the bar in a swimsuit. And, last but not least, working out makes you less cultured, because apparently only skinny dweebs and fat losers READ BOOKS.

And now that Alex has bitten COMPLETELY through his tongue, let’s go for the big finish!

The game comes down to having a certain stat level at a certain time or having cash at a certain time. The final section, where you need to earn $10,000 to end the game, is ludicrous. And the game simply says, “Congrats, now keep playing,” which leaves you to make friends who don’t matter and earn cash (because even though you’re a huge star YOU’RE STILL BROKE). There is no reason to replay it because you will have to do the exact same things you just did, AGAIN, for a functionally identical storyline and ending. Also, the game is buggy: talk to the girl playing pinball in the backstage area of the Concert Hall and watch yourself magically shrink! Thrill to kissing her crotch! Also, there is a bug associated to hiring the Captain: the girl I needed to recruit to distract the guy who was ALSO trying to recruit him never appeared, thus leaving me to restart the game and try again (which fortunately yielded better results).

Look, in the end, Miami Nights is an abysmal, horrid, hideous, wretched pile of electronic excrement, and the only POSSIBLE effects that playing it could have is to make you hate video games or to make you stupider. The concept of the game is absurd on multiple levels and insulting on many more, the visuals are atrocious, the music is bland, the gameplay is horrible, there’s no reason to play it ONCE, let alone multiple times, it’s utterly unoriginal, utterly uninteresting, AND IT’S BUGGY. Miami Nights is not just one of the worst games ever, it is one of the worst THINGS ever.

The Scores:
Story: 2/10
Graphics: 3/10
Sound: 5/10
Control/Gameplay: 3/10
Replayability: 1/10
Balance: 3/10
Originality: 1/10
Addictiveness: 1/10
Appeal: 1/10
Miscellaneous: 1/10

Overall Score: 2.1/10
Final Score: 2.0 (DREADFUL).

Short Attention Span Summary
Miami Nights is atrocious. You could buy games of identical concept with better design for less money. Don’t buy this, don’t rent this, DON’T PLAY THIS. If you somehow receive a copy, break it with a hammer, you will be better off.



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