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The Sims

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Maxis
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

For some years now, The Sims have infiltrated the PC market, with a monster success, countless expansions, and even an online version that has gained some recent popularity. Perhaps the most outstanding factor of The Sims is its below par graphics system. After a few years, the PC version of the game still features the same two-dimensional, static visuals that were behind the times even in the early days. Nevertheless the title is a hit, and the series survives and thrives to this day. Apparently, a different sort of calling was necessary when the prospect of console versions of the game came into play. The current state of the PC version could easily be seen on a Game Boy Advance, which hardly seems righteous for the next generation consoles like the GameCube. Apparently, somebody recognized that situation, which led to the development of The Sims in its fully three-dimensional splendor.

The GameCube version of the popular people simulator makes use of some very nice looking 3D characters and backgrounds, features slightly faster scrolling and navigation, and provides some fashionable features to show off the three-dimensional architecture.

That's not to say there are no issues with the three-dimensional viewpoints of The Sims. While characters are more stimulating to watch as they can interact in any angle, the camera's ability to zoom does not go far enough to make out precise details. I would have liked the ability to zoom down into a life-like 'eye-to-eye' level. However, The Sims only zooms to a point where you can make out the characters and their situations, and some things such as The Sims' 'talk bubbles' are slightly fuzzy.

Sound is basically identical to the PC version, which has always been consistently high quality. Spoken Simlish, the simulated language of the computerized people, as well as the sound effects and music, are all of excellent quality, which makes for an amusing 'Charlie Brownish' life in the game.


Gameplay:

In 1999, when The Sims was first released, it was met with mixed reactions, and some people glorified the title for its odd 'social experiment' situations, while others signed the title off as unintuitive and needless. For whatever reason, The Sims took off when it hit the shelves, and gamers entered a world where they lived, or relived their own social mishaps in a virtual environment.

To outsiders, watching the game seems boring. Yet once in the driver's seat, the game takes on an ultimately different light, becoming an unending obsession. The PC version only set players in a single 'free for all' life that gave the player complete control over their populations at all times. In the GameCube version, two different play modes are available: 'Get a Life' and 'Play the Sims.' Both modes also feature a multiplayer option at certain parts of The Sims, which lets each player simultaneously take on different objectives throughout the game.

'Get a Life' is the 'game' mode of The Sims and introduces the idea of winning the game to the series. After creating your Sim, you begin jobless, and still living with your cranky, do-nothing mother who constantly nags at you to do something with your life. After completing a set of objectives for each scenario, such as fixing up your house or obtaining a certain job level, you move on to different stages of life. Progression through this mode brings you to different house arrangement, giving you different roommates (who you or a second player must also care for), unlocking items such as new outfits/styles and new pieces of furniture, and a different set of scenarios and conditions to overcome.

'Play The Sims' is a mode reminiscent of the PC version. You choose a house, or family, and play through their daily lives. There are no objectives, just straight, unending, continuous gameplay.


Difficulty:

The Sims seems to have a fickle difficulty association. It seems that just as you are getting used to the style and situations of the game, something goes terribly wrong and everything becomes unfixable. Moments later, everything is calm again and the game goes by with ease. The same situations that we face in our everyday lives from preparing dinner, to caring for relatives or children, to learning and trade and working, is evident in The Sims. Some things may be easy for one type of person, but dreadful for another. The ability to recognize time management and life management skills will be the only way to succeed at The Sims troubling situations. Oddly, the same features necessary to play The Sims well might lead to an irresponsible decline in those skills in real life, as the game becomes increasingly addictive.

Game Mechanics:

A simple, easy to follow and control interface makes getting into the world of The Sims easy and approachable. The C stick performs camera angle controls, where navigation is easily performed with the main joystick. All other controls are equally simple to manipulate and control.

All in all, The Sims may not seem like any powerful force in the video game world. Nevertheless, it's a series that many have tried to replicate, but none have ever succeeded, except for the creators of themselves. The GameCube version of the series is making huge leaps, but it still focuses on the same basic concepts of life simulation. How this game reaches such a level of popularity and obsession is beyond me, yet it always seems to do just that. The Sims is a mysterious force that plays with our minds, leaving us always wanting more, and playing until we get it.


-==Boy, GameVortex Communications
AKA Kyle Prestenback

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