Virtual Families 2: Our Dream House
Last Day of Work loves virtual sims. I mean seriously loves them, at least according to their lead designer. And, well, their product line, which includes the massively popular Virtual Villagers series. For those of us who love messing with the lives of little virtual people without all that faffing about on an island, Last Day of Work created Virtual Families, a game that features all the animated people without all the exploding volcanoes. Now they've come out with a sequel to that fabulous game, Virtual Families 2: Our Dream House, which deepens the gameplay of the original in new and interesting ways!
Virtual Families 2 begins, as many families do, with a single person and a place to live. Once you've chosen a character to start things with, your next goal is to get them working, marry them off, encourage a few children to spring along, and help take care of the wreck of a place the family calls home. Each person has their own individual looks and personality, and careful consideration of their quirks is the first big decision that you need to make in the game. Folks that don't want children, for instance, can be difficult to persuade to produce the next generation, which is pretty important if you want to keep the game going.
The house itself comes with only four usable rooms, everywhere else is a toxic wasteland, a critter cavern, or just a burned-out wreck that needs time and money (or know-how) to fix it up. The house (and surrounding yard) are also littered with, well, litter. Lots of effort is needed at first to make part of the house clean and inhabitable, and as the game goes on you can eventually renovate rooms until your little folks are living in their dream house.
Money can be earned by the adult family members as they work at their careers. Money also comes in as a reward for each trophy you gain, for completing a tutorial task, or with e-mail as a random event. Use the coins to buy food for your family so they don't starve, and the upgrades needed to make the house more habitable or their jobs easier. As your little folks get on with their lives you can affect their habits and their environments in a variety of ways from conditioning them to perform certain tasks to buying them upgrades for their workspaces or leisure. Each family is unique and a product of your imagination and the various upgrades available to affect their behavior and living conditions. As long as the next generation shows up your family can keep going in an endless cycle of birth, life, and death, providing countless hours of entertainment.
Analysis: The original Virtual Families was fun but rather limited in an important aspect of the game: the environment. Most of the rooms had a specific and fixed purpose, and even though the characters themselves were varied, the living space remained stagnant most of the time. Virtual Families 2 fixes this problem with movable furniture and room renovations that can become anything your imagination can conjure. Kids' rooms can even be repurposed once they grow up and move out, allowing you to set up that media room you always wanted.
There are also new and improved ways to interact with your characters, such as upgrades that help advance their careers or re-train them in an entirely different field. New collectibles will appear in the yard and there are new trophies to earn, new jobs for your little folks, and a ton of furnishings and accessories that can be purchased in the store, which has gone from a single screen place that sold groceries, medicines, and the occasional other item to a multi-screen bonanza that covers furnishings, appliances, food, medicine, behaviors, decorations, renovations, and much, much more.
The touch-screen controls are easy to master and are tucked conveniently at the bottom of the screen. Furniture and other movable items are controlled by a handy drop down decorate bar where things will first appear when bought. Items can be moved from the decorate cells to the house or vice versa for easy movement and storage. Items when first placed in the house have little arrows that allow for rotation to orient each item as needed.
Last Day of Work also promises regular upgrades with new add-ons such as pets, new puzzles to solve, new storylines and events, and new items in the already massive store. Although the promise of the upgrades whets the appetite, there is already enough content to keep you busy for quite a while attempting to build your dynasty of simulated people. The game runs in real time which means events are happening even when the game is off (unless you've put the game into pause mode which freezes time).
By overhauling the environmental aspect of the game Last Day of Work has taken an already successful formula and vastly improved the gameplay while keeping the entertainment of the first game intact. Be prepared for some major time suckage as you get caught up in the lives of your little sims and have fun directing their lives!
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad 2. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.