The 800-pound video gaming gorilla known Electronic Arts (EA) is now dabbling in the casual game space, and we’ve tasted the fruits of their initial efforts with The Sims Carnival SnapCity, a highly enjoyable spin on the SimCity building games.
EA’s second offering in its Sims Carnival franchise, however, isn’t as impressive, with an average arcade diversion known as BumperBlast. Oh, and it has absolutely nothing to do with The Sims, which may irritate fan of the series, but we’ll get to that in due time.
Created by EA’s Redwood Shores studio, The Sims Carnival BumperBlast has players aiming and firing at little circular "bumpers" with Sims faces inside, in the effort to "tag" all same-colored bumpers before the number of available shots runs out. Each level has a unique layout, such as a ship on water or a maze, including obstacles to shoot through or go around, and the bumpers float around as well. It’s up to you to move the mouse to aim the pointer at a Sim and click to release a ball that travels towards it. If it connects, it tags the Sims – which stops the bumper from flashing – and creates a small ring around it that can also tag nearby Sims of the same color ("combos"). Levels have multiple Sim colors to tag – such as a group of blue, a group of black and a group of yellow — but the level isn’t over until you’re out of shots.
Skill comes into play when deciding who you should shoot next (based on the target’s proximity, its color and how many shots you have left) and if you can pull off a trick shot, such as bouncing off a wall before it hits a hard-to-reach bumper.
At the end of each level you’re graded with a percentage of successfully tagged Sims (such as 90 percent), awarded a medal (bronze, silver, gold or for a perfect score, diamond) and what the best score was for that level if played before.
Obstacles include walls in a particular pattern that may or may not be breakable by firing at it (green walls require three hits, for example), while traps include black holes that can suck in your ball and waste your shot. Power-ups, on the other hand, can give you all kinds of advantages such as a ball that goes through walls, another that causes a huge ring around a tagged bumper (so your chances of a combo are better) and a third that lets you click crosshairs over any bumper on the screen, even if it’s blocked by a wall.
In total the game has 140 levels spread out over various pattern themes (and unique obstacles and power-ups), including Crazy Cloud, Outrageous Orange, Savvy Sunflower and Snowy Screwball. Some levels resemble PopCap’s popular pachinko-inspired puzzler, Peggle.
While The Sims Carnival Bumper Blast is a deviation from the hidden object and time management games of late, after playing through 30 or 40 levels I couldn’t help feel like the game merely hovered somewhere above mediocrity. Unlike many other games you just can’t put down, I didn’t have much of a problem exiting to the main menu and leaving.
As alluded to above, besides a Sims face inside the bumper, this title has nothing to do with The Sims. I mean, nothing. I could ask rhetorically why EA would put "The Sims" in the title but I’m sure it’s a branding thing, capitalizing on The Sims success. But it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and as a result comes off as a shameless milking of the franchise. SnapCity, on the other hand, at least was about your Sims moving into a city so it’s not a stretch like this.
I don’t mean to come down hard on EA as this game can be fun for a while, and the many levels begin to offer neat-looking designs, but in the end it’s simply an average experience you might soon forget.