Review by Jerrynsteph4eva

Reviewed: 03/14/12

Addiction in CD form

Before I begin, I'd like to mention that this review based on a fresh install of The Sims base game and does not take into consideration any of it's patches or expansion packs (though they may be referenced). Thank you.

There's a reason that the Sims was the best selling PC game of all time. Several words can describe it: addicting, fun, revolutionary, the list goes on. From the moment you play as the Newbies and learn the ropes you'll be itching to create your own sims and play as them, spending hours doing so. Fortunately, one word that can't describe it is bad. Why is that? Read on.

For the two of you who live under a rock and don't know what the Sims is, it's a "People Simulator" made by Maxis and Will Wright, the masterminds behind the SimCity series. This time, however, instead of building a city from the ground up, you create people and guide them through their lives, giving them jobs, meeting people, getting married and having kids, even building them houses and befriending neighbors. It's a simple concept, but one of the most addicting I've ever come to know.

There are four modes in the game (three of which you use to play the game). The first is the neighborhood, which is likely the first thing you'll see upon booting the game up. From here, you can choose to create a family, move a family into an available house or play as a family already living in the neighborhood. The sim creation process is simple and intuitive. You choose an age (child or adult), gender, race and then can cycle through available heads and bodies for your sim. You then use 25 points to build your sims personality, giving them to five different traits (nice, active, neat, playful and outgoing [up to 10 points per trait]). The more points in the trait, the more nice/playful/active/outgoing/neat your sim will be. You can give your sims a biography (which displays in the relationship status) after which you're done! You can create up to 8 sims per family. After creating your family, you're given $20,000 and can move them into any available house in the neighborhood (as long as you have the money that is!). You're then presented with the other three modes: Live mode, Buy mode and Build mode. Live mode is where you'll spend most of your time, living out your sims lives and trying to keep them happy. Buy mode is a catalog that allows you to purchase objects for your sims to use to better their needs or just for decoration or fun. Build mode is where you can make adjustments to your house, such as adding or removing walls, putting up paint or wallpaper and adding stairs or fireplaces.

The main reason it's so time consuming and addicting is due to it's open ended gameplay. After you've created your sim and moved them in, you're free to do as you please. You can be a couch potato and waste your time and money watching TV. You could be a social butterfly and befriend all your neighbors. You could be a hard worker and get a job, spending your free time earning one of six different skills that you'll likely need for a promotion. You could build onto your house, adding rooms, changing carpet and wallpaper or even buying new gadgets and stuff with the built in catalog. You could even create all your friends, your family, even your heroes or famous people you'd like to meet. Plus, when you get bored, you can always move to a different house, create a new Sim with different traits or just switch to one of the other Sims on the map and start playing as them. Plus the fact that your sims live eternally, unless you happen upon a serious accident (such as burning to death, starving, drowning, electrocution, etc.)

The game also caters to all sorts of different play styles. The romantic can create themselves and their partner and start up a family with them. The socialite can create all their friends and befriend new people. The proud independent can create themselves and take them through the different career paths. The loner can even kill off sims they don't like in certain ways! Each family also has a scrap book which you can use to create stories or just take pictures of things you find funny (though the game will automatically create scrapbook entries whenever something significiant happens in your family such as a fire starting, a burglar entering your house or your Sim's marriage).

Another addicting feature of the game is it's difficulty. While the game is a very easy concept and is very much easy for even the most casual players to pick up, Sims are needy people who's needs seem to deplete quick and have no trouble screaming at you to help them replenish them. Sims have eight basic needs that will affect their overall mood (which is defined as between four green bars and four red bars): hunger, bladder, hygiene, social, room, fun, comfort and energy. When each mood gets to the red stage, your sim will begin to whine to you about it. If it completely depletes, various negative consequences will occur depending on the need (sims will wet themselves and completely deplete their hygiene bar when their bladder empties, pass out when their energy is gone and even die when their hunger is depleted). It's certainly not difficult to regain these needs (especially later on when you can afford different furniture that will regain these needs faster), though it oftentimes seems that there is simply not enough time in a Sim day to regain everything to where you want it to be (though if you're unemployed that's a different story). Your mood also affects nearly everything from job performance (including whether or not you get promotions), interactions between sims (sims in bad moods will oftentimes have a lot more negative encounters) and even whether or not your sim will listen to you (sims in bad moods will oftentimes refuse to build skills). Even those of you who've played Sims 2 and Sims 3 will notice how much quicker needs deplete. However, in the long run, all it does is hook you in further and keep you playing as you attempt to make your Sim happy.

One of the main things you'll notice about The Sims that's absent in the later games is it's sense of humor. Though not blatantly obvious, The Sims is full of humor that will make you chuckle. From the item descriptions to the sims over-the-top animations and complaints, there's a lot to laugh about in this game. You'll get prank calls that tell you to watch for the number 6 (some of which will actually give you a bit of money), neighbors who refuse to visit your house cause they're waiting for the postman or their 'spiritual advisor told them not to leave the house today' and even the romantic music that plays when your Sims kiss. I remember chuckling cause my adult sim was laughing his head off while watching cartoons. Even as the game loads and shows you what it's supposedly loading ("Reticulating Splines"), it's humerous. The game has a style that EA has long since lost when moving the series along.

If you have friends and family members who enjoy this game, it makes the game even more fun. While you can't play simultaneous multiplayer, the sims made by your friends and family will oftentimes wander around or stop by your house, allowing you to interact with them. Plus any way you interact with their sims gets carried over to their family the next time they play (though the same goes for you). For example, if your brother's sim wanders to your house and you start arguing with them till they become your enemy, the next time your brother plays as his sim, he will be enemies with your sim. If you happen to kill their sim, their family will be deleted off of the neighborhood and they will no longer be able to play as them. Another cool feature to show off to your friends is the Web Page creator. While you play, the Sims creates webpages of your Sims, their houses and the neighborhood in general. These show off your sims, their house, money, days in existence, skills, personality and even your biography and scrapbook. Though it's saved locally, you can upload them to your own personal webpage and use them to show off your sims to your friends.

There's also a lot of attention paid to detail in this game. Sims have bills and if they're not paid in a timely fashion, the repo man comes and takes your stuff away. Sims who have bad hygiene often have bad encounters with other Sims. Trash cans slowly fill up as you throw stuff away. The paper boy brings the paper every day. The little things truly make this game shine.

Not everything about this game is perfect however and if you're coming to this game from it's sequels you'll notice almost right away the differences. First of all, the most noticeable flaw is the neighborhood. While this problem was eventually rectified in later expansion packs, you only have room for ten families in your neighborhood. Yes, you heard right. TEN. And there's only two houses you can afford if you don't feel like building one from scratch or moving out the tutorial family. This isn't so much a problem if you're just looking to create yourself and not rely on the social aspects of the game, however, since job promotions in this game rely heavily on friend counts, this usually means you have to create a few houses and move in huge families just so your one sim can have enough friends to get promoted. But if you've got a big family who plays this game or a lot of friends you have play this game with you, you'll certainly want to check into one of the later expansions (such as the first expansion Livin' Large, which adds 4 neighborhoods or Unleashed which ups houses to 40 per neighborhood and adds more neighborhoods).

Another aspect, which relates to making friends, is the fact that it's actually quite hard to find specific Sims. While Mortimer Goth will be knocking on your door practically every day, the Sim your girlfriend created may take days to show up (if at all). This too was rectified with House Party (which lets you throw parties at your house, causing randoms to show up), Hot Date (which allows you to go Downtown and randomly find Sims there) and Unleashed (which introduced Community lots), though if you're just playing vanilla Sims you'll likely be waiting for your Sim to randomly show up at your house. One annoying nuance that relates to it is your social need. While this certainly isn't a problem for families with more than one person, single sims will often find that this need is almost always low, mainly because of work taking up most of your availablility. Not only that, The Sims is missing a feature on their phones that was added in later: a Talk option. What this means is that you'll have to constantly invite Sims over to improve your social need, which oftentimes they will reject you (unless you're really good friends with them).

For starting sims, you'll notice something that is quite irksome if you haven't quite got the hang of things yet: burglars are way more common in The Sims. Within five days of creating my sim, I had two burglars. Of course, this is easily rectified with a burglar alarm (netting you an easy $1000 for their warrant), but if you're not aware or you forgot how easily burglars came, you'll find that most of the time your expensive furniture you worked a week to afford will get lifted and you'll be forced to replace it.

The biggest complaint I have with Sims is the family structure. While Sims 2 allowed you to designate how each sim in the family was related (if at all), Sims assumes everyone in the family is related/not related regardless of whether or not it's true. If you want to create a family with your best friend living with you, your best friend will have to take on your name and be your sibling/child. The game also can't differentiate when it comes to relationships. If you and your two adult siblings have a younger sibling and one of your adult siblings gets married, they will most often take the child sibling with them as if it were their kid. There is also no such thing as an adult child in the game's eyes and too often parents have full romantic options with every adult in the house. Also, don't get sims too mad because if they move out, Sims don't go to the create-a-sim menu like in the sequels, they're forever lost. While it's not a huge issue in itself, it's quite annoying when you bring your younger brother with you as your 'child' when you get married, considering the next complaint...

...Children are useless in the game. Though Children can only be gotten in the game through Create-a-Sim, adoption or continued kissing, they are unfortunately a burden (unless you're going for accuracy, story or simply enjoy the challenge). Children in this game cannot make food for themselves and are very dependent on your adult sims, reducing the time you have to bump up skills and needs even more. They also cannot grow up into adult sims, forever locked in eternal youth and only earning money when on the honor roll (which takes dedication to keep all their needs full enough). Though realistic, I wish there was simply a way to age your child sims up so they can take care of themselves.

One minor issue I have with the base game too is that there is very little content in the game. They obviously focused on the main engine and gameplay, but with so few objects, interactions and sim choices in create-a-sim (less than 20 heads and bodies?), it's easy to get bored of this game once you hit the top tier of your job and build up your skills to max (of which you find out later that only cooking and mechanical have any real use out of the job). But like I mentioned, with seven expansions, that's easily remedied (considering how cheap the expansions are nowadays you should be able to get all of them for less than $40).

All in all, The Sims is a refreshing change in games and a revolutionary one that's still fun and addicting nowadays. Though there are some flaws (especially if you're coming to this one from it's sequels), there's no doubt that this game is worth every penny, even if you have the sequels. Plus, with the low system requirements, you're almost guaranteed that this will not only work but work well on any system you have. I highly recommend this game, though you may want to pick up one of the deluxe versions (which contain the expansions or even Complete Collection which has all seven). You'll be hooked.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: The Sims (US, 01/31/00)

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