Review by MPollard

Reviewed: 02/29/00 | Updated: 02/29/00

An original, flawed classic.

Life. What is life exactly? Well, it’s different for everyone really isn’t it? For some it may be the beginning of childhood to when you die. For other’s they feel it is how you live your life, adventurous, outgoing, lazy. Some other’s feel it is the day-to-day chores that make up life, eating, drink, peeing, bla, bla, bla. Well, whatever it is, Will Wright, the creator of SimCity™, has decided to bundle it all up into one neat little package and produced a game of it. That game, if you’ve been living under a rock and did not know, is called “The Sims”.

The name of the game in The Sims is life. Your objective is to raise, or raze, a family. This is a unique concept and has a large element of originality, something that is sadly lacking lately in this current era of sequels of sequels of sequels. The originality of The Sims is one of the things that makes it stand out from the rest of the same-old same-old at the moment. Why? Well, look at the release list at the moment: Gran Turismo 2, Resident Evil 3, Quake 3, Final Fantasy VIII, Delta Force 2, and the news of that there may be another Tomb Raider game on the way. Need I say more?

But I digress, and I’m sure you are wondering how you go about raising this little family of yours. Well, there are various ways you can set about it. You can start off with a pre-made family such as The Goths (who scare me to be honest), the Pleasant Family (Your typical two parents, two dahling kiddies family), The Bachelor Family (who is just that, a bachelor) or the Roomies (Two female flatmates, hmm, some potential there). You can then plonk your pre-made family into their pre-made house and set about filling the house with everything that your little sims may desire, or that they’re budget may possibly afford.

Or if you don’t want to get lumbered with one of these pre-made families, then you can toddle off to the create-a-family screen and knock up your own nightmare waiting to happen. Tip: It is always to start off with a one or two person to family, because any more at the beginning is a bit of a handful to say the least.

In the create-a-family screen you can put together how your family looks, by changing their head and bodies to the combination that you desire. And then you can knock together your families personality, their tidiness, how outgoing they are, how active they are, how nice they are and finally how playful they are. All of these affect the way they live their life one way or another. For instance, they’re tidiness will determine whether they tidy up their plates after themselves after they’ve eaten or whether they decide to leave them on the table/floor/work surface to gather mould and flies – in which case it would be a good idea for them to hire a maid for a mere $10 an hour which will save you an awful lot of time running around after your Sim and telling them to go and tidy up the mess they have made. Or, depending whether your Sim is an active Sim or not, will determine how quickly they will get out of bed. Once you have create your family, it is time for you to go out and get them moved into a house. You CAN try and build them a house from scratch but that requires a lot of money, and the $20,000 you start off with isn’t enough for you to build your home and furnish it with everything your Sim needs to get along.

And believe me, these little buggers need a lot of attention and goodies to keep them happy. Bit like real people really! You’re gonna need a bed for them to sleep in, a TV for them to watch, a kitchen for them to satisfy their appetite, a bathroom for them to shower and… well, y’know, in. And Sims need to have fun, so a TV may not be enough, especially if they are the active sort. So, you may want to splurge out on a pool table for your little fiends, err… sorry friends. As you can, imagine, it takes a lot of planning and work to keep them happy. And you may not get it right first time. But don’t worry, the Sims is a game that is one of those ones, that is easy to pick up, but very hard to master, so if you are looking for a challenge then you will be in for one. But novices need not worry because it won’t cause you to give up after 5 minutes, but it will be tough.

The Sims, also need to advance up the career and social ladder, which both neatly go hand in hand. To advance up the career ladder you need skills. Which come under body, logic, charisma, cooking and mechanical. And can be advanced in different ways, for instance logic can be increased by a game of chess, cooking by reading a cookery book, and charisma by practicing your speech in a mirror (you vain devil, you!). Different jobs require different skills, for one, an actor needs to be charismatic and have a good body too, whereas a businessman needs logic and charisma. But one thing that jobs have in common is they all need friends. No friends, no promotion. And the social aspect of the Sims is one that is too complicated to go into here. Buy it and see.

On the more technical aspects of the game, the game is not overly impressive graphically, but it is still nice to look at. It’s not going to win any awards for them, but they are more than adequate for representing daily life. Hey, if you can put up with looking at your wife/girlfriend/parents day after day, then I’m sure you can easily handle these! And no, you don’t get to see them naked; when they take a shower/bath/Jacuzzi/pee it gets blocked out a la “Jerry Springer”. You perv.

The audio is quite impressive in the Sims. There is a hell of a lot of attention to detail. From the running of the bath, the sound of the TV, the groovy tunes the Sims will bop to when the stereo (if you have one) is on, right down to the sounds of the chopping boards (and accompany “ows!” if your Sim happens to cut themselves due to poor cooking skills – read a book!). One weird aspect of the sound is they way the Sims actually talk. It sounds like they received speech lessons from a combination of Pingu and Bill and Ben, the flowerpot men, when they talk to someone, you can expect something along the lines of “flopalobalobadob, el e dow, bal a bow!” Buy it and see!

The gameplay, is well, as you can see, very deep indeed and although can get a bit a repetitive I’ll admit, is enough to keep you hooked for hours. And you can forget any ideas about completing it! This game has no end. And if it did, it would take a lot of work to complete it. But most important of all it is fun, fun, fun!

BUT, and there is always a but, only if you can learn to live with the niggles that plague the game. Firstly, the daily chores in the game that the Sims have to perform take FAR FAR too long. It takes them an ages to get out of bed, something along the lines of 25 game minutes, which is not a good thing when your Sim has to go to work. And making even a quick breakfast takes a fair amount of time. And if your Sim has to go to work at 9am, then you can forget about doing all of the things required in the morning.

Also, making friends is fairly straightforward once you know what makes a person tick, but holding on to them is more difficult. Friendships degrade (as they tend to) over time, and when you are trying to get that all important promotion that requires 10 friends and you keep losing them, while trying to do all of the daily things like having fun, eating, sleeping etc. It can get pretty frustrating.

Really, the main flaw of the game is trying to juggle all of the time in the day to do all of the things to keep you sim happy. And whereas that is part of the skill, it can get frustrating. The fun is the CONTROL you have, and the fact is, it’s REAL. No poncy elves here, or fight Robots called Zarg or shooting people with lasers here. Nope, good old plain real life. And there is so much detail to keep you involved. I don’t have time to go into, the house building aspect, the household items, burglars, random events, emotions, fights, love triangles (or squares or hexagons or more!), emergency services, repo men, and, phew, there’s more! It’s complex, it’s detailed, it’s FUN! It’s real life. And it’s ORIGINAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!! Everyone should have a copy of this game in their collection. Even if it’s just to say “I’ve got it!”.

And I won’t even go into how you can kill your Sims. You sick puppy, you.

Graphics: 8 – Pretty, function, but unspectacular. Can slow down a lot due to the complexity of the game.

Sound: 9 – Detailed and good to listen to.

Gameplay: 8 – Detailed, fun, complex, easy to get into, hard to master but frustrating sometimes. But definitely worth persevering with, if you can’t get straight into it. If the flaws were straightened out then it would be a masterpiece.

Replayability: 10 – Err. You can’t complete it, it goes on forever. It’s massive! Good enough for you?

Bugs: One annoying bug with the virus checker. It freezes. Turn off your Virus Checker. Sorted.

Verdict: A flawed classic. Can’t wait for The Sims 2 when all of the annoying niggles have been ironed out. It’s a learning progress. But in the meantime, this will keep on your hard drive for a long time. It may come down to a matter of taste, but I, along with many others, love it. Yum. 8/10.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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