|System: Wii, PS2, PC, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Maxis||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 29, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Premise-wise, Castaway Stories covers some new ground, literally. This island instantly is your home, so it's not imperative that you acquire a home. Loaded with resources and interactive characters, the island is definitely fun to explore. Having to scratch out an existence from what you hunt and gather may seem like the same old familiar Sims formula, but consider that the economics system has been reduced to its basic component and you can see the potential as you expand upon it. As usual, you will be able to enter into a variety of relationships with the other characters on the island.
The island isn't very big, but the load times will have you thinking otherwise. There are all kinds of food items from fish to fruit, as well as various weapons and tools such as an axe and a fishing rod. You'll acquire more useful items exponentially as you acquire more resources, mostly as a result of bartering. You have to be careful not to push your character too hard, as he or she expends energy rapidly, requiring you to rest, eat or take a shower. This causes some annoying delays. Occasionally your character will not obey an order if he or she is too tired or is displaying a low reading on the mood meter. While this may keep you from rushing through the game, when combined with the long load times, the overall pace of the gameplay seems choppy and sloppy.
There's nothing sloppy about the graphics, and nothing choppy about the water, which looks really smooth. We all know how difficult it is to make water look realistic, and while it still won't fool anyone, it's a great cartoonish representation. Considering that this game is built on the aging Sims engine, the colors, graphic details, and animation are great, even at medium resolution setting. The jungles are dense with trees, shrubs, and other exotic flora, not to mention rich with audio ambience. There are many convincing ambient sound effects in this game. The music is upbeat and catchy, and it's not entirely repetitive. Voiceovers consist of the gibberish Sim-speak. Nothing new there. The interface couldn't be easier to use. The first few hours of the story mode is basically a tutorial introducing you to the control system. The tutorial is so subtle, and the interface so intuitive, you'll be playing like a Sims vet in no time, even if you have no previous Sims experience.
Castaway Story is perfectly priced at just under thirty bucks. It's definitely worth every penny, but since it's so relatively short, I can't say that it's worth a penny more.
CCC Senior Writer