Release Date: September 14, 2004
Creating the follow-up to a successful title is tough. The Sims 2 could have suffered from the famous sophomore jinx, but instead has done what a successful sequel should do: builds upon the strengths of the original while introducing enough originality to stand on its own.
I’m going to spare you the back history of the Sim franchise; it’s one of those rare titles that you either know and love, or know and hate, but you know of it.
I also have a confession to make: I was actually looking forward to this title, even though I found the original Sims interesting, but lacking what it takes to go all the way in the playoffs. Even then, I’m a huge fan of “sandbox” games, where the developers hand you a tidy little world and go: “Have fun, see what you can do.” Also, as a chronic un-finisher of games – the road to my Hell is paved with half-completed games – a game that doesn’t have a clear end works for me.
What I enjoy most about these games is simply having my little lab rats do various experiments to see what limitations the designers place on what you can -- and cannot -- do. I’m happy to report Maxis has made it so there is very little you can’t do to your Sims.
I was surprised at how deep the gameplay was this time around. In the first Sims, you covered the bases of the game very quickly. After 10 hours, you’d seen the bulk of it and the rest was just small variations on a theme. The Sims 2 is significantly deeper.
Once again, Sims are bestowed with personality traits. Are they neat or sloppy, outgoing or shy, strong and silent? All of these traits will determine how the Sim reacts to the people around them. You aren’t limited to creating a Sim that’s single, either, as you can also form the whole fam-damily if you want.
In the first game, you’d create your Sim, but it was Groundhog Day in Simsville. Every day, they’d get up, go to work, come home, relax, eat, whine, and gesture in the air with visions of Egyptian hieroglyphics going through their heads. There was literally no difference between Friday and Saturday, Your Sims never died, unless you did something nefarious to kill them off – like block off the bathroom or take away the stairs from the pool. Your Sims had no hopes, dreams, or fears; as long as they had friends, food and a place to go pee, they were happy.
Now, your avatars have aspirations such as: to be popular; make a lot of money; and have a hot love life. There’s an Aspiration Meter that keeps track of Sims progress towards their goals. There are also Wants and Fears, which affect the score. The Sim could get 1000 points for making a new friend, but lose 900 if they have a bad conversation. It also gives you a quick little “to-do” list for your Sims to help maximize their score. Not all aspirations work well together, though. If you’re a torturous sort, pair a Family Sim with a Romance Sim to watch the SimKiddies go on SimProzac.
That’s right, kids. In the first game, your Sims never reproduced, but now his genes are passed on to her offspring. The original also had the Sim existing in a Dick Clark-like ageless state, but now you face the Grim Reaper, as he will come take you to the Land of Happily Ever After.
It’s interesting watching how Sims react to each other. My Sim first took a liking to Melissa, a nearby neighbor, but when Lucy the Maid came spic-and-spanning through the door it was all over; call me a sucker for a French maid outfit. Soon Lucy had moved in, but that’s when things got interesting. As it turns out, Lucy’s kitchen door swings both ways as she started having affairs with the local women – I guess those were some good Tupperware parties.
My Sims reaction to catching her woohoo’ing – what your Sims call “doing it” - was interesting. First, he slapped her around some (so much for him being a sensitive man of the new millennium), but within five minutes was in the sack giving her a little woohoo of his own.
There are two options for making the Beast with Two Backs: woohoo, or make a baby. I guess one uses protection, and the other is sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church. After a few tries, I was rewarded with the sounds of a baby crying as the Sim’s gestation period started. It’s a pretty quick pregnancy, as a few Simdays later a baby appeared.
How the Sims treat the newborn is one of the flaws in the game. To a Sim, the baby is an object similar to a plate of food. If a Sim is holding a baby and another task enters their queue, it will put the baby on the floor and go tend to the other need instead of finding a more appropriate place for the rug rat. As the baby grows up, it develops fears, aspirations and hopes. They also behave much like real teenagers, with crushes, first kisses, coming of age parties, temper tantrums, and sneaking out of the house. If the relationship between the parents is poor, especially if there’s infidelity, it will affect the child, much like real life.
The children are fantastic addition to the game, and they do a great job at raising some serious hell as well. I never understood what Junior’s fascination with the toilet bowl was all about, though.
Raising a family takes money, so where does your Sim get their Simeoleans? The old fashioned way: they earn it (or use cheat codes). Sims have several career choices like mechanic, rock star, and mobster. There are skill points your Sim can improve in, and the one circled is the one that helps them excel at their job. I’d like an answer on why my mobster Sim had creativity as his career skill, though. What did he do, make sculptures with corpses, tarpaulin and power tools? Simoleans literally grow on trees as well. Once your Sim hits some aspiration goals, they can buy Simoloean Trees, which are harvested for cash. Look out, as there’s nothing stopping guests from helping themselves. Your Sims also get days off, which is a nice change.
There are other nice touches as well. If your Sim gets too run down and depressed – easy to do – the SimShrink pays a visit; if your social-minded Sim is in need of a good time – no, not THAT good of a time – the Social Bunny comes for a visit. The best part is only the Sim that needs the attention sees the bunny; the rest of them think they’ve gone fruit loops, making the universal “yer freakin’ crazy” motion.
The game sports a nice new 3D engine. Everything – Sims, houses, furniture – is nicely rendered, doing away with the forced isometric view. While the new engine is an improvement, the controls are a little wonky, as I had some troubles getting the camera placed right where I wanted. The sounds are nice, with the Sims still having their trademark gibberish speak, which does an excellent job at conveying emotions.
People hoping for the same quantity of objects from the first game may be disappointed, since there are far less of them here. Have no fear, you can download more off the Internet, and I’m sure Maxis will release another billion expansions with more.
As much an improvement over the original that The Sims 2 is, there are still some key areas in which the game falls short. The original suffered from micromanagement issues, and while things are better this time around, the Sims still require far too much attention. Sims will let the fridge run dry and are incapable of calling for the grocery delivery (funny, my wife says the same thing about me). The biggest flaw is they are incapable of accomplishing their own wants. A Sim may have a want to talk to Brandy, but why can’t she go pick up the phone and call Brandy herself? Why can’t they do more than one thing at a time? I live in the age of multitasking, so shouldn’t they? A Sim is either cooking dinner, or talking on the phone. They can’t do both? While the AI is worlds improved from the original – despite my criticisms, your minions (aka the Sims) do a better job at thinking now – I just wish they could have taken it to the next level.
Naturally, if you despised the first game, you’ll hate this one as well. The Sims 2 doesn’t change the theme so many love or hate; rather, it builds on the successes of the original. If you were a fan of the original game, there is little doubt you will like this one as well. While it still suffers some of the same micromanagement issues as the first one, The Sims 2 is a stronger game than its predecessor. It’s addicting as hell, too. The first test run kept me up until 2 a.m.
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