Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: December 16, 2003
Maxis' The Sims is the highest grossing PC game of all time. It has enjoyed wide popularity, and continues, to this day, to be updated with expansions, all of which have enjoyed solid sales. It would have been a bad business move for Maxis/EA not to bring a version of the series to consoles, so, of course, a redone version of The Sims was conceived for the three major consoles. While it's sales did not reach anywhere near the level enjoyed by the PC version, they were good enough to convince EA to have Maxis develop a standalone sequel (not an expansion, likely due to the lackluster reception past expansion pack-style add-ons have received in the console market), The Sims: Bustin' Out.
In every game in The Sims series, the premise of the game is the same. You follow "Sims", simulated human beings, though their entire lives. You have god-like control over your Sims by giving them directions as to how they should carry out their days, and organizing their homes.
Similarities (no pun intended) aside, The Sims on consoles has one major difference from its PC brethren; it is not nearly as open ended. From the start, you are met with constant, sharply defined goals, and you can actually complete the game. Console gamers are used to a different style of gaming, so I think it's wonderful (for the most part) that Maxis decided to change the Sims formula a bit for the console versions. The goals vary from simple (read the newspaper to find a job) to slightly difficult (get a promotion at your job), but are never extremely hard to handle. Overall, though, these goals take away from the laid back pace of the original game, and honestly, it drastically changes the formula of the game a bit too much. It's kind of overwhelming to handle both the bodily functions of your Sim, all of the goals, and your daily activities. For example, lets say you have an hour before your Sim has to go to work. You still need to take a bath and use the toilet, but before that, you decide it would be best to serve breakfast. The phone starts ringing, but before you can even think about telling your Sim to answer it, the oven bursts into flames, just as the bus arrives in front of your house. The fireman still hasn't arrived, yet you send your Sim to run over to the bus anyways, but there's one problem - you're still in your pajamas! Your Sim starts to change into his or her work clothes, and… the bus drives off without you. And throughout this whole time, you've had your roommate nagging you about having your mom visit sometime. These kinds of days are really humorous to watch play out, but they happen a bit too often to be genuinely amusing every single time. As a matter of fact, by the third or so time it happens, you'll be ready to throw the controller into the nearest wall. Bustin' Out's biggest downfall is it's lack of stable pacing - it throws too much at you at once, and having goals floating over your head all the time doesn't help one bit.
There is a wide variety of items available, such as furnitire, electronics, kitchenware, and even pets. By completing goals within the game, more items are unlocked in the store. You can put your hard earned simoleans (money, in The Sims) toward whatever is available at any time, as long as you can fit it into your house. There are enough items to unlock that it will keep collection-fiends glued to this game, but, as with any Sims game, they aren't usually functional enough past their looks. Gamers looking for a truly rewarding challenge should get their gaming fix elsewhere.
As with the rest of the games in the Sims series, the graphics are nothing to write home about. Quite frankly, The Sims doesn't need to have the latest, most cutting edge graphics. It's all about atmosphere, and the game handles that quite well. The problems that separate Bustin' Out from the previous PC titles lie in it's shaky framerate, and near-constant slowdown. The framerate tops off at about 30 FPS, but it hiccups so often, it will remind you more of a slideshow than a full-motion videogame. With such primitive graphics, the spastic framerate is unforgivable. Slowdown is also a common occurrence, to the point where it may cause some people to avoid this game altogether. If you're that impatient, you probably shouldn't be playing a game like The Sims anyways.
All of the Sims and items in the game are simplistic but effective in appearance. The sheer amount of customization possible in this game is simply amazing. The low polygon counts and simplistic textures are almost worth dealing with when you have hundereds of pieces of furniture to choose from, not to mention nearly limitless combinatons of physical attributes for your Sims. If you are the type who thoroughly enjoys a collection-fest, Maxis has developed the game for you!
The one feature that is completely without any complaint from my lips is the sound. First, the voices. They are fantastic. Sure, Sims speak in a garbled, confusing mess, but it really works! The sounds Maxis used throughout the game work extremely well to communicate what the Sims are feeling. Not only that, but it's really humorous to watch the Sims conversing with each other, or screaming in frustration. The noises they make really are hilarious! Surprisingly, the charm of the "Sim-speak" did not run out on me.
The music in Bustin' Out is pefect. Whether it's disco, techno, or metal, you'll get a solid rendition of whatever genre you have your Sim listen to. For example, the metal selections are not the expected 80's "butt-rock" tunes, but actual amusing versions of modern takes on the genre. I couldn't help but crack a smile when a black metal song came on, complete with Cradle of Filth-style high pitched shrieking. It's all obviously tounge-in-cheek, but it's well done enough that everybody would be entertained by at least one of the tracks available.
The Sims: Bustin' Out is not the best Sims game on the market. This might not be true if Maxis didn't put such a tight leash on the console versions of the game, and tried to experiment a bit more with the formula. While they did add various goals to keep console gamers occupied, they end up turning the game into more of a stressful mess than the passive pace of the original. This doesn't mean that the integrity of the series is completey ruined here; it is simply altered for the worse. This game does not get my highest reccomendation, but if you don't have access to the PC version, and you really want your own copy of The Sims, this game will definitely suffice -- just be prepared for a slightly frustrating ride.
More articles about The Sims Bustin' Out