Buy 'THE SIMS: Superstar': PC
The year 2000 featured an astounding breakthrough in real-life simulation with the release of Maxis' The Sims. A top-down strategy game that allowed the player to create a family and manage that family, i.e. the families jobs, school, construction of a house, etc. Earning rave reviews, Maxis and Electronic Arts teamed up to develop a series of add-ons to the popular game. The Sims: Hot Date and The Sims: Livin Large to name a few of the add-ons, added new furniture and environments to the game, enabling the player to venture deeper into The Sims universe.
Continuing with these popular add-ons, Maxis recently completed development of the latest add-on, The Sims: Superstar. Superstar adds an area known as Studio Town that can first be accessed by taxi, and eventually by limousine. In Studio Town the player is able to shop, eat, and built up the popularity of his/her sims in order to get them a job as a singer, model, or actor. Once the add-on is installed the player is then allowed to either get an actual job via the newspaper or internet, or take a chance and try to make a living as a celebrity. As one will quickly learn, the life of a celebrity is not as easy as it seems. Not only does this add-on feature an entire new town, but it also features over 150 new items to choose from including a sky-diving simulator and an oxygen bar.
As most of the add-ons before it, Superstar looked quite promising at first glance, brining an entirely new concept to the table. The ability to manage your career while managing your life at the same time was an integral part of the games success. What made the original sims so popular was its level of interactivity, and with Superstar, Maxis turned that level of interactivity up one notch.
The game's install size was average for today's games at just over 1 gigabyte, but for such a small size, the game took quite a long time to install; over 10 minutes it took. Enough time for a food break before the party got started. Once installed, the only feature remotely related to a tutorial was the help pop-ups that showed up once and a while throughout the game, but other than that, the player is really on his/her own in learning how to become a celebrity millionaire. Fortunately, superstar was an add-on and therefore most people buying it would already have experience with the series and would have no need for a tutorial. In the long run the lack of a tutorial was not the end of the world.
Once moved into a house and everything was the way it should be, it was time to go down town. Once downtown, the player is able to meet various celebrities, it is through these celebrity connections and other key industry personnel that the player is able to get ahead in Studio Town. It is crucial though, in order to succeed in Studio Town, to be a well rounded individual. The player must increase his/her charisma by practicing speeches, increase his/her creativity by painting or playing the piano, and increase ones logic by playing chess. With high counts of logic, creativity and charisma, it is much easier to get ahead in Studio Town. It is also key to be in a good mood whenever in Studio Town. That means, looking after the sim's energy, hygiene, bladder, comfort, etc.
Unfortunately it is very, very hard to keep a sim in good spirits while maintaining a job and trying to make a name for ones self in Studio Town. One of the games few faults is that it is quite hard to manage one person and get ahead in simulated life, not to mention the difficulty of managing a family. Sims cannot be left to do things on their own because they end up burning houses down, falling asleep on the floor and defecating where they shouldn't be defecating. So really without the aid of the player, the AI of the sims is pretty bad. This really isn't a downside, but it just means that the game is very labor intensive.
Seeing as the game is called The Sims Superstar, it seemed appropriate that Maxis included various celebrities in the game. When walking around Studio Town, it is not uncommon to come across Avril Lavigne, or Christina Aguilera. When the player spots a celebrity it is possible to converse with him/her, and ask for his/her autograph. But when any other sim catches wind of the celebrity, all nearby sims flock to see the superstar. This makes the player less popular with that celebrity and harder for the player to get ahead in that celebrities industry.
Aside from the incorporation of new items, Maxis has not added anything to The Sims graphic engine, and so in turn, the graphics in Superstar were the same as those of the original game. It would have been nice to see Maxis tweak the graphics and make them a little crisper with the release of each add-on or do what valve did with Half-life: Blue Shift and release a high definition pack to take advantage of the latest and greatest systems available. But seeing as the sims is not known for its visual finesse, and then the dated graphics engine is not that much of a problem. Again, it's just something that would be nice to see in say a later patch or something to that effect.
The Sims is famous for its use of the higher frequency gibberish voices issued to each sim. When conversing, instead of exchanging real words, a conversation about trees would sound like "Haa don jaree, donkra totay." This adds a neat comical aspect to the game, but is an interesting tactic that Maxis used to enable their sims to talk about anything. Instead of recording every word in the English language, they were able to generate various verbal emissions that resembled gibberish. The game also features an uplifting soundtrack, that whenever played is something like music that one would hear on The Brady Bunch. The uplifting soundtrack is key to the success of this game because when people get frustrated with the game, they will rely on the happy music to keep them going, not the deep gothic music. The sound, although nothing really new from the original game, was very well done and does a fine job of keeping the bar up for this series of games.
Overall The Sims Superstar was quite well done for the latest installment in the series, but Maxis should think about finishing the series after this title and concentrating on the sequel to the original game. The sound and graphics although nothing new was added, were still very nice and as good as any top-down game out today. From a gameplay standpoint, the game was a little on the difficult side, as it is hard to manage a sim's life and a movie career at once, but that is part of the fun. The addition of the new items was a cool bonus as it added neat new objects to buy like the oxygen machine. In the long run, this was a very worthy add-on, and would be a worthwhile investment to any fan of the series.
Score: 8.0 / 10
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