Imagine for a moment: letâs say youâre responsible for creating and producing one of the most popular games on the planet. People in the know swear up and down that you are the gaming equivalent of the second coming of Christ. Youâve been going strong for the last ten years or so, but you want to make sure youâre keeping the game fresh, interesting, and habit-forming for current gamers, and while youâre at it, grab that small part of the population out there that you havenât yet managed to bewitch. What do you do?
What, indeed? Youâd do what anyone would probably do in your situation: try to mix it up a little, make the odd change here or there that might appeal to different types of players, maybe even try to port your game to different platforms. Oh, and release heaps and heaps of expansion packs.
Thatâs exactly what Maxis (and everyoneâs buddy, Will Wright) has been up to. Itâd be outrageous for us to expect perfection in every instance (case in point: see my earlier review of Sims Pets for the DS), but youâve got to admire them for trying. So it goes with the latest incarnation of Sims wares: the Life Stories series, âspecially slanted at those who are new to the game. Itâs hard to believe that there are still people out there who havenât played the Sims yet, but yea, verily it is so.
My first impression of the game was to marvel at the quick loading times. Before the game even started I was already thinking âhm, maybe this Sims lite isnât so bad after all.â Indeed, at a glance, it was difficult to really see what the difference was between what I was playing, and my somewhat bloated conglomeration of Sims 2 plus expansions that is threatening to take over my hard drive. Slowly, though, the differences creep up on you.
The main difference is that thereâs actually a storyline! Initially youâll probably find yourself wondering whatâs going on as dialogue box after dialogue box pops up as your main Sims character presumes to tell you what to do! Things such as âI think Iâll get dressed nowâ, or âthereâs Jane at the door, Iâd better answer it.â Itâs an odd shift for those who are so used to being in control, and developing storylines in their head. At first I thought it was a strange sort of tutorial for those who had never played the game before, but nope, the instructions just kept on coming, all the way through the twelve chapters of the story.
Other changes include: windowed mode is the standard, which is meant to be more user friendly for those who like to IM and check our email while they play; hotkeys for your simâs needs â as an example, pressing the hotkey that corresponds to how tired your sim is will automatically select the âsleepâ option on the bed; inclusion of wants, the same as in the original Sims 2 game, although fears have been left out. And while this game is called âSims PET Storiesâ there are inclusions in the game from other expansion packs, such as the ability to ask another sim out on a date, and head to a club for some karaoke or dancing.
The storyline is broken up into different chapters, each of which has a specific goal. At the end of each you are rewarded with a new object. Once youâve worked your way through each of the two different stories, you are then able to explore the different neighbourhoods in sandbox mode.
While I was surprised to find myself amused by most of the changes included in this game, I canât really see myself (or other players) wanting to go through either of the two âstoriesâ again once theyâd been completed. Replay doesnât offer anything extra in terms of unlockables, or different achievements to go for. They are also able to be played through rather quickly â three or so hours for each one, if you are already familiar with the gameplay and layout. So once youâve finished with the stories, youâre left with a cut-down version of The Sims, which is a little strange considering the game is called Sims Pet STORIES; I would have expected the focus to dwell a little longer on this aspect of the game.
That oddness aside, Iâm still impressed with how much game (including content from the expansion packs, as well as new content) Maxis has managed to cram into one DVD. This game is absolutely perfect for players who want to take their Sims gaming with them when theyâre travelling, or those who would like to play the game but donât have the most amazing specs on their computer. Itâs also great for players new to The Sims who want to have a look and see what itâs all about, without forking over major cash to set themselves up with all the expansion packs.
Current fanatics who already have all the packs probably wonât get great value from the $60 price tag attached to this game. It is, however, perfect for those laptop wielding noobs out there (bless you one and all).