Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: December 16, 2003
Have you ever had the desire to try out something new but weren't ready to deal with the repercussions? I have dreamt of trying out several new things, but I always seem to chicken out at the last second. To me, new things are just sometimes way too scary to try. Have you ever fantasized about how things would have turned out if you were in control of someone else's life? I haven't had a desire to control another person's life (my own is difficult enough), but EA and Maxis have created a game that caters to either - or both - of these needs. Welcome to the first installment of the Sims franchise for the console market: The Sims Bustin' Out.
This is my first Sims game, so this review will be solely based on my impressions of the product, not on any knowledge that might have been garnered from previous titles. Some people will probably scorn me for this, and while I can't blame them, the Sims was never something in which I was incredibly interested. However, my best friend has been a highly dedicated fan to this series, so I decided that it was about time that I give this game a shot.
Upon loading up the game, I immediately understood why this game has such a large, dedicated following. Controlling someone else's life and not regretting what happens somehow has its own sense of enjoyment. No, I am not a power-hungry control freak who wants to become an omnipotent controller of others' lives (although it does have a nice ring to it). Before I get out of hand with my fantasies, Bustin' Out is definitely a true simulation game. You control every aspect of one or even two characters' lives, making sure you provide for all of their needs.
If you think controlling a person's life is a simple task, think again. Once you play this game, you will understand. It also makes me wonder if I have the same requirements for myself. To find out how to appease your character, you must view their stats. The stats show what the character is lacking as well as what the character is happiest about. These are of utter importance, and you should always observe these whenever you get the chance. To access this stat menu, you will need to hit the up arrow on the directional pad. These stats would be the same ones you expect to see in everyone's life, including: hunger, hygiene, energy, social, comfort, bladder, fun, and room (a clean, well-lit, and nicely furnished room). Yes, a human life is truly high maintenance. After playing this game, I really appreciate controlling my own life.
Within the game, your character will constantly need attention, insisting that you try to keep them as happy as possible. You will see at any given time that your character always requires one or more things. I personally have a problem keeping my Sims occupied with enough entertainment as well as giving them enough sleep. There are just too many things you need to do, and the characters just seem to do it at the slowest possible speed. Personally, I eat food in probably under a minute, but it seems like you have to plan accordingly in this game, or they will continue eating until they miss their bus for work (which is never a good thing). To make up for this, I have forced my Sim to sleep at 10pm, allowing her to wake up whenever she is refreshed and just start the daily routine then. She may be at half energy by the time she heads out for work, but hey, I know for certain that she won't miss it.
Work is probably one of the most interesting aspects of the game. Just like in real life, you search for jobs from the paper, finding the best one that suits you. However, one thing that truly boggles my mind is why is it necessary that you take the bus to work? I mean, your Sim owns some form of transportation, and constantly relying on the bus is a drag, so much so that I personally prefer to walk. In a sense, I can also understand why they don't allow you to drive to work, because when your character is working, you have zero control over them. You don't get to see your characters working or do anything within that time until the character returns home. During this time, you just wonder what to do.
This is why I'm truly glad that EA and Maxis have implemented a fast forward button. If they hadn't included this function, I don't know how many strands of hair I would have pulled out. Waiting at a screen where you can only watch is just unbearable, especially in a game. It is bad enough that you have to deal with load times, but to be given no control over the game at some points is just unbearable. I truly hope they fix this in the next Sims by also allowing you to take control of their lives at work.
Well, if you become bored enough during this time and can't stand waiting, you can always mess around with the house. You can completely remodel your house to your liking. Hit the start menu and presto, you will find the ability to purchase items for your crib as well as rearrange the entire house. The only downside is that when you are rearranging the crib, the time doesn't move on. This is a good thing at times, but when you are waiting for your Sim to come back, it's a drag. Regardless, it is fun to move items around into different places, like putting the toilet in a public vicinity. Surprisingly enough, the characters will still use it. What is probably more surprising is the fact that there seems to be no privacy whatsoever in the game. When you take a shower, another random Sim can come in while you are taking it. I find this as odd, because I personally wouldn't like uninvited guests watching me bathe. In the Jacuzzi, on the other hand, it's fine, because you are usually dressed for the occasion. If you do decide to go au natural, however, there is censorship to keep the game at a T rating.
It is fun to hit the Jacuzzi once in a while because you can always call in a friend to join you, and most of the time, they will accept. I haven't seen anything obscene like what I've seen with the screenshots from Sims 2, but I'm pretty sure you can manage to pull it off. After using the Jacuzzi or shower, you may leave some unwanted messes (usually puddles of water), and when you see this, it is your choice to clean it up or leave it there. Keeping the house clean is an important part of keeping your Sim happy.
While at times you may not feel like you want to keep your house clean or ensure that everything is in working order, sometimes it is an objective you must achieve. With each objective completed, you gain more variety to help take your Sim's life on a wild ride. Examples of objects which require unlocking would be new rides (a new car), objects for socialization, and items to improve your lifestyle.
You can clearly see when your lifestyle has been improved. You will notice the new object in the household or even how clean you have kept everything. At night, you will notice the lighting effects from the lamps you have purchased and strategically placed, allowing for guests to come and raid your crib even at night, chatting with your Sim into the wee hours. The only problem is that during that time, you may never get to really see their facial expressions. Rather, all you see are the thoughts going through their heads when the two of you are chit chatting. The only time you will truly get to observe the facial features of a character is probably during the creation screen where you created your own Sim. You have the ability to completely customize your Sim by choosing clothing, body type, facial type, as well as many other characteristics. This will probably be the only time you can see your stunning Sim. The rest of the time, you will usually be in a zoomed-out view of the crib, seeing what is going on as a whole. You do have camera control, allowing you to zoom in and out and rotate the angle, but you will never see a first person or truly up-close view, a feature which would have been greatly appreciated if implemented. The main focus is on the household and watching your Sims enjoy or hate their lives. With the ability to customize your crib, you get to enjoy how it feels to live in the lifestyle you may have always dreamed about. A stereo and TV here and there just makes the household so much livelier.
Most of the sound you hear in the game is probably coming from the stereo and TV, and you will only hear this when those appliances are actually on. You can choose the type of TV show you want as well as the music you want to hear. The genre you choose will be what you hear until you or a fellow Sim turns it off. Other music you may hear will come from the random garble when conversing with a friend. Lastly, you may hear sounds from the objects in the household which you are interacting with or which you happen to be around at the time.
The Sims franchise has a strong audience, and while I can understand the reasons behind its popularity, this game is definitely not for me because I simply lack the patience. I don't want to deal with the tedious task of always taking care of another person, which is quite complex. Assuring your Sim's happiness is no easy task. Because of the tiresome assignments for the player, the game seems both very simplistic and quite advanced.
As I mentioned before, I am a PS2 fan, and since this is a console only release, I am unable to compare it to its PC brethren. With decent sound and graphics, the game is probably what you would expect to find in any Sims game. The thing that I see as a big plus is the fact that this game is playable with a friend or even online. I say give this title a shot, and if you aren't already a Sims addict, err … fan, I'm sure this game will help you become one.
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