|System: PS2, Wii||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: Oct. 23, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
As said earlier, Castaway revolves a lot more around exploring the environment than previous simulation titles. One of the main things you will be doing while trekking through the island is searching for skill books. These books, along with raising your individual attributes, will be the primary way of improving your Sim. Each manual you find will contain plans for creating different tools such as: larger houses, clothing patterns, furniture, and more (looks like you weren't the first group to have crash landed here). Alongside showing you what items you need and where to acquire them, the prints will also explain what skill level you need. These "levels" are broken into different categories, and by performing different tasks, you will raise each one depending on the factor involved. The issue here is that sometimes you will get confused on what job to perform to raise a certain skill. Also, the game only lets you know when you have gotten a new skill once, making it even more difficult to keep track of just what you can and cannot do. Bummer.
Though the game thus far sounds like nothing more than a collection hunt, Castaway never really goes overboard with it. If you can occasionally look past the repetition in some of the objectives, you will find a relaxing game experience similar to that of the Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing series. As with those, you always have some small thing to maintain, such as health, finances, building materials, and food, but they are easy enough to keep tabs on. Also, upgrading your individual attributes will come naturally, as you continue to improve while going about your daily life. Nevertheless, it is the interaction with the other islanders that really shines as the centerpiece of the game. Whether it is traversing to a nearby part of the island to look for new arrivals or strengthening your relationship with the other Sims, the core community element of the Sims series is still there and better than ever.
Along with a new setting and task system, the game also features a new visual style. Characters are a little smaller than in early installments and the environment has a mix of both 3D and cel-shaded graphics. There could have been a little more detail on the islanders and the land occasionally gives off a very "sketchy" feel to it. However, it really doesn't look too bad for a game this late in the Playstation 2 life cycle. While the visuals may not come off too stunningly, the audio department fares a lot better. Unlike the last few Sims games which borrowed a lot of music from previous versions, Castaway brings along a tropical island set-list, with a lot of songs you'd expect to hear at the beach. Overall, the sounds help give off the impression that you really are stranded on a far-away island. Whether that is a good thing or not is entirely up to you.
In closing, The Sims 2: Castaway is a unique approach to the series and is one of the more pleasant simulations to have come out this year. With plenty of new tasks to accomplish, people to find, and lands to explore, there is little more you could ask for in terms of content. Sure the visuals could have been better and there are a few gameplay kinks that could've been worked out, but for a Sims fan, it is right on target. Newcomers to the series will fit in quickly, and if you don't happen to own a gaming PC, then all the more reason to pick up this particular version anyway. It may not be the best simulation ever or even in the series itself, but it makes for a rather lengthy adventure with plenty of charm. Try not to burn yourself out though.
CCC Freelance Writer