GAMECUBE REVIEW: THE SIMS 2

The best-selling PC game series of all time has finally released a true sequel - and it's now available on the consoles. It may not be as deep as the PC version but compared to most console games, this one is a bottomless pit.

After countless Sims variations and expansion packs, The Sims 2 is the first official sequel to the original simulated life experience that came to life as SimCity on the Commodore 64 in 1989. By the early 90s it had endeared its way into the hearts of computer nerds everywhere. After the nerds had their way with it, The Sims would eventually become a mainstream phenomenon and the most popular computer game of all time.

What makes the game so popular? In a way, it's like the ultimate role-playing game but without the monsters, swords and dungeons. You play as a regular person in a simulated, real-world environment where you interact with other characters in an attempt to make something of yourself. The incredible depth gives players unlimited freedom to make choices that continually alter elements of the gameplay. Not to mention that there's an excellent sense of humor and mischief that courses through the game's digital veins.

The Sims 2 on the consoles differentiates itself from the PC version in that it doesn't deal with aging, death or offsprings. Instead it offers more console-friendly fare such as the ability to control your characters with the analog stick. This gives them free range of movement like you would find in an action game. You can still use the controller in a point and click fashion but why would you want to?

Story and Freeplay are the two main modes. Story is a good place to start as it will give you some structure to your simulated life. Creating your character can be an overwhelming experience if you're the type that can't make up your mind. Not only can you choose among faces, hairstyles, clothes, accessories and body types but you will also have to define your character's personality traits. Not to mention sex. Did I just mention sex? No, there is no sex in this game. Only in relation to gender.

Will your character be lazy, ambitious, freaky, conservative, hot, hostile, shy or playful? During conversations you will be offered a variety of topics, statements, questions and answers. You can assume any variety of traits simply by your actions, questions or responses. Ultimately you must fulfill your ambitions in the story mode to complete the game. By accomplishing small goals and making your character happy you will earn aspiration points which you can use to acquire more material good such as furnishings for your home. Progressing results in various spin offs such as better jobs, better income, a better class of friends and eventually romance. You will eventually find yourself in control of numerous sims which can become more than a little hectic.

For every action there is an opposite reaction. Sims will have to eat, go the toilet, shower, sleep, work and play. If you're having too much fun you might not be able to make it up in time for work thus jeopardizing your livelihood and current lifestyle. If you fail to watch your personal hygiene you might begin to lose friends. If you don't eat properly you might get sick. There are a lot of things going on but you will be reminded of most of them. It's not annoying in the typical micro-management sense that seems more of a burden designed to keep you from the fun parts of the game. Micro-management is the main objective in the game. But it's crafted in such a way as to be an incredibly entertaining experience. You are controlling the game as opposed to it controlling you - at least that's the way it feels.

For more freedom and less structure, the Freeplay mode lets you choose a character, neighborhood and home and have at it. You can create or acquire just about anything you can imagine but of course you've got to come with some means to pay for it all. There is no GTA mode where you can turn to a life of crime for fast, huge profits. Hey, there's an idea for a sequel.

Conversations appear more natural in that you are actually given visual clues to interpret the other characters' feelings. Body language will let you know who wants to get close to you and who may not like you simply by how close they are standing or if they are looking away or crossing their arms. Another not-so-subtle indicator is the hue surround the scene. If it's blue, things are cold. If it turns to a deep pink then romance has a chance of blossoming. The interface is incredibly easy to access and there are some choices that you just can't resist making just to see what happens. This makes for tons of replay value since you can't be everything to everyone at one go-round.

Graphically the characters and environments are much more refined than the original game. There is depth and dimension both visually and in the personalities. The visuals are well detailed and colorful while retaining that patented Sims cartoon look. The animation is fluid and the songs are upbeat and tuneful if not a bit too much on the poppy side. The Sims don't talk but communicate in a form of gibberish that allows your imagination to fill in the blanks.

There's nothing not to like in The Sims 2. Since it's all up to you the only thing you can complain about is how you played the game. If this is your cup of tea then you can expect weeks and months of game play. For the right consumer this game will provide unrivaled replay value.

System: Xbox, PS2 (shown), GC, PC
Dev: Maxis
Pub: EA
Release: Nov 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
5.0
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
4.5