First released in February of 2000, The Sims has turned into a gaming juggernaut despite its incredibly simple premise. Selling over 16 million units, The Sims is by far the most successful PC game. Since then The Sims 2 has also made an incredible impact on the PC market, while providing both improved graphics and gameplay. Since The Sims started to dominate on the PC market, it didn’t take a genius to determine that The Sims should be made into a console game. The Sims first hit consoles in January 2003, and since then there has been The Sims 2, The Sims Bustin’ Out, and a spin off called The Urbz. It has been a long road for The Sims franchise, but it has also been a very successful one. The latest console version of The Sims is based off the expansion pack for the PC game, shares the same name, The Sims 2: Pets.
The premise of this game, as well as any game in the franchise, is to develop a successful family and lead their lives. You ensure their needs and wants are fulfilled day to day, and try to live their lives as best as you can manage. Why is this so addicting? For some, it’s a challenge to turn a family from dirt to riches or from depression to success. Maybe it’s the exaggerated animations, colorful gameplay, and unique feel the game offers. It could be that the level of customization offers a huge amount of variety to your characters, houses, and more, which leads to some interesting role-playing. You can end up with a house full of college grads, an old lady who only talks to her cats, a family who are really aliens, or anything else you’d like. You decide how you want to play the game. The graphics have been adapted from The Sims 2 on the PC and have a very similar feel. That said, there are a few places where there is a notable drop off in quality, mainly relating to the low resolution textures. Though not an entirely big deal, it is noticeable having to step from The Sims 2-level graphics on the PC, to a bit lower quality on the PS2. Don’t be alarmed though, because they are as good as most PS2 graphics. If you haven’t played the PC version you won’t notice a thing.
The style of graphics is still there. The level of detail is amazing, and the appealing nature of The Sims has not lost its touch in any way. The pets are the focus of the game, with good reason, and they have great animation and look fantastic. They blend into the world well, and you can customize your own pets with a great set of tools. In fact, you can customize your pets better than your character. If you have any pets in real life you can likely get a close resemblance to them on your TV set.
While the graphics are appealing, there are a few performance issues. Despite the drop off in texture sizes, the game does not perform as well as you’d hope. If you’re picky with your graphics, you’ll be quick to notice many graphic items “popping in”. For example, you’ll notice a two second delay when opening up the ingredients list from your fridge, only to again be greeted with a “popping in” when looking through the ingredients. This problem isn’t limited to the ingredients list, you’ll see it in your inventory and your object purchase menu. By “popping in,” imagine a slow loading website on the internet, and how it takes a second for each seperate image to load in. That is roughly what you’ll notice with the many items in-game. Though even with these items popping in, the problem itself doesn’t “pop up” a whole lot. You’ll see it when looking through ingredient lists or when you are buying an object, but when just playing the game you will rarely see this.
Despite the slightly downgraded textures and some pop-in issues, there is also a significant FPS drop in any busy areas. The busiest area is the Town Square, and that is when you’ll notice an FPS drop. This problem isn’t very frequent, and casual players are likely to be unaware of its presence. Even though there are some nagging graphical concerns, it performs and looks on average with most PS2 games.The charm and appeal of The Sims is still there.
If you’ve ever played The Sims 2, you’ll immediately be familiar with the game’s many different sounds. You might start humming to some tunes you recongize. The harmony of the music really fits the game. The music sounds like background music, it is very ambient. Yet it’s also very catchy at the same time.
The ambient and in-game sounds are both familiar, if not identical, to The Sims 2. Which is to say it borders close to reality, but almost a bit cartoon-ish as well. Your people will communicate in Simmish, which is basically a unique take on gibberish. This witty take on every day sounds is appreciated as much as it’s appreciated in every other aspect of the game.The idea for controlling the game is solid. You control your character with the left analog stick, and you control the camera with the right analog stick. You view various information bars, such as relationships and your Sim’s wants, with your D-Pad. You use the X button as the default action button, which quickly becomes your favorite button. I could go on and on describing the controls, but in the end the idea is you control your character using the analog sticks instead of just giving them commands. While they offer a “classic” mode, it is more frustrating than anything.
Even though the idea is solid, and implemented well, it’s no mouse. After playing the game for an hour, I really just wanted to go on the PC and play it there. I endured, and eventually I was able to play without constantly thinking of how I could be using a mouse. Still, whenever you go to make a new house or reorganize your current lot, you wish you were on the PC doing it instead.
Though the basic controls seem solid, as you dig in deeper they become less and less so. You would figure as a console game, most of the commands would be easy to do and execute. But instead of making the game smarter and easier to control, the controls more complex as to give the player a feeling like they are doing every step along the way. This is not fun to do, and you’ll be switching away from your player just to get away from the tedium of many of the tasks. How could a console game based on The Sims 2 be complex to control, you say? Let’s take making a group meal:
- You start by opening the fridge
- You pick out the ingredients you want, usually using the recipe book
- You take the ingredients out, and head over to an empty counter top to prepare them
- You select what you want to prepare from a list, even though you already select a recipe a second ago
- You then move to the next step, such as cooking it in the oven or blending it in blender.
- When it is ready you must go back to a counter top and select “Serve Meal” from the menu
- You then select “Grab Plate” from the menu
- You walk over to the table and navigate into the Food menu to select “Eat” near a chair to sit there
- When you are done watching your character eat, you must get off the chair manually
- You walk over to the dishwasher and select “Wash Dishes”
Now luckily not everything is as complicated as this on the console, for example you can use the shower without making an additional choices. However, doing things like taking in a newspaper, sitting down, and finding a job now becomes a multiple step problem, as well as sitting down on the sofa before watching TV. Just this added level of commitment in the controls makes the experience more frustrating than it does fun. Part of the appeal of The Sims is being able to give simple commands for a variety of tasks, and that is sorely missed for this console iteration.
Honestly, the best thing you can say about the controls is the added fast foward button, which comes in handy quite a bit.
It’s The Sims, what can I say? If you have never played The Sims, it’s basically a family simulator. If you have, you’ll notice a few changes here and there depending on what version of the game you have played, but mainly it’s The Sims 2 with pets. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Pets are a big feature of the game, and pretty much the feature. The the game doesn’t offer much beyond the addition of pets, when comparing to other Sims games. Pets do work, though, especially if you’re a pet lover yourself. To start, the customizations of the pets is very extensive, you can get your pets to look very close to any real life counter-part fairly well. Once you venture with your pets in-game, you’ll notice their behavior is rather cute and exaggerated much like their human counterparts. It provides a challenge to keep your pet’s needs fulfilled, especially since you can’t control them directly. Training and providing for your pets is fun, and in the end also rewarding. By being a good own, you are rewarded with PetPoints. You use these points to purchase and unlock more items for your pet at the Town Squad.
Some features are poorly implemented and there are several bugs in general. For example the poor implementation of jobs. You’ll always get a warning one hour prior to your carpool arriving to pick you up. The problem? When multiple people use the same carpool, it only gives out one name most of the time. Even when the carpool arrives, and a person needs to go to work, they won’t do it on their own, and forces you to walk them out there. I’ve been fired again and again because the game never gave me the proper information or warning about this. The only way to find out if my character needs to go to work is manually look up the information through the menus for each person. When I’m done trying to get everyone in my family to work on time, I’m entirely frustrated.
This lack of information and detail on the interface becomes problematic in more than just getting to work on time. Finding out where you need to improve to get a promotion, how to improve those skills, what skills you are actually improving at that time, how you satisfy needs, and how to harvest foods is not included in the interface. It tries to make the game appear simpler, but instead it just leaves out many of the details from the interface and keeps the complication. So instead of getting a good idea of what to do through the game’s interface, you have to dig through the pause menu to gather information. It ends up feeling like they decided to use a simple interface for a game that isn’t simple, and as a result you’re digging through menus more often than you should be.