Why yes, I would like to make out with that lamppost.
It's hard to reach dreams of fame and fortune. It takes commitment. This may mean that you will go six days without food, sleep, or even a trip to the bathroom. If you want to be a famous actress it may require spending your days modeling in a Jacuzzi while your creepy boss (aptly named "Boss") watches you soak for four hours. Such is the life of a rising starlet in Miami Nights: Singles in the City, an utterly boring "lifestyle simulation" game.
Miami Nights models itself after The Sims. The game begins with you picking your character’s gender, face, hair, and clothes. The added dimension is that you pick which way you want to achieve fame – by modeling, singing, or acting. I created a red-headed actress named Emma. Much like The Sims, you spend the rest of the game buying new outfits and furniture, and working hard to pay for all those indulgences.
Oh and the indulgences you'll buy. The game prompts you to spend five-hundred dollars for an old car, only to tell you to spend another two-thousand on a new one a short time later. Spending three thousand dollars in new furniture is something this game bills as a challenge. Two-thousand on a yacht, twenty-thousand on a big yacht, and three-thousand decorating the insides are all mandatory purchases. Unlike The Sims, Miami Nights is a very linear game.
The game's "goal" is to become a famous celebrity. To that end your nosy neighbor, Joey (if you're female) constantly calls your cell giving you one disjointed objective after another. These objectives vary widely in that they either involve you charming (and invariably making out with) someone in order to get them to do what you want, or paying someone an exorbitant amount of money for some object for which it’s not clear why you need it. Sometimes the game shakes it up by making you charm them before you give them your hard-earned dollars.
There are a handful of ways to interact with people in the game: "Speak," "Flirt," "Share," and "Assault." The "Speak" function offers the options to discuss topics, in the hopes that you'll find the other person's interests, offer compliments or make jokes. "Flirt" offers the opportunity to make out with anything that moves. "Share" offers the options for asking someone to dance, inviting them to your house, exchanging phone numbers, or buying gifts. "Assault" lets you beat or rob the person you're talking to. Beatings are by far the most fun.
Non-player characters react to you based on a series of stats, almost all of which can be ignored. If you're "hot" anyone will make out with you. Men, women, androgynous used car salesmen – they will all blurt out "You got me baby, kiss me on the lips" at seemingly odd moments, simply because you complimented them and made a joke.
Paying for all your prized possessions is done by working a handful of jobs. Most jobs are done via a simple mini-game. None of the jobs pay very well. The strange thing about it is that you don't move up the "fame" ladder. Emma only got one acting job prior to completing the game, and it was a scripted event. It would have made a lot more sense if you were able to move from menial labor to increasingly impressive gigs. Instead you're left serving tables, cleaning dishes, being a DJ, and doing the aforementioned seedy Jacuzzi demos right up to the point that you become a "jet-setter."
Miami Nights is a series of contradictions and disjointed events. You can engage in drinking games, make out with anything that moves, and invite people home. Once you get them to your pad there's nothing to do there but make out some more. Despite the sleazy veneer, the most suggestive moment is a guy passed out in your bed after a party, of which nothing is ever said. In another nod to the Sims, any kind of nudity, namely when you go and shower and use the bathroom, is pixilated.
Visually, the city of Miami is diverse and rendered in full 3D. It is an impressive game world, but the map you use to get around is terrible. On top of that, character faces all look like a GI Joe after a date with a magnifying glass. There also isn't much in the way of character diversity. Almost all bodies are identical, and outfits don't change your appearance appreciably.
The sound is not nearly as polished. There is a lot of music, but none of it is recorded and most of it is bad. The game's soundtrack is mostly comprised of dance music. The less said about the terrible rendition of "I Like to Move It, Move It," played in the start menu, the better. The game is also almost completely devoid of any sound effects. The occasional ringing of a cell phone or scrubbing of dishes is basically it.
The controls are a mixed bag. The game offers full stylus control or D-Pad and button control. The option is nice, and the ability to change on the fly is helpful, but you probably won't want to. The stylus control is imprecise and occasionally suffers major glitches. The D-Pad based control is better but you're constantly forced to switch to the stylus for all the mini-games you encounter and map navigation is unwieldy with the D-pad.
Miami Nights simply isn't fun. It's highly repetitive, as the entire game is "get money, spend money." Character interactions don't feel realistic in any regard. Despite the clear effort spent on the graphical end the game can't be recommended to anyone.