Since its debut, The Sims series has become the poster child for a different type of game and, incidentally, become a huge success, but mostly on the PC. It was followed by a line of expansion packs, then The Sims 2, and now has moved on to expansions for Sims 2. The obvious step was to try to bring this great triumph of original gameplay to the consoles, but that has been less successful. Unfortunately, the latest attempt at this, Sims 2 for the PS2, continues where previous failures left off.
The Sims series, as you probably know by now, allows the gamer to control a little world of virtual people, monitoring their every need from achieving their life goals to using the bathroom. The Sims 2 expanded on that with an aspiration system that gave new direction to the little people’s lives, as well as nice details like a family tree system that allowed the player to create two adult characters, roll the dice, and see how their kids would turn out. As expected, the character creation and building options were expanded upon as well. There was not a similar expansion when moving the game to PS2: some of the features that were added are not worth the effort, and other features from the PC were eliminated.
I’m sure the goal of this new version is to try to keep the deep gameplay that fans of the series expect without drowning the newbie in too much detail the assumption somehow being that console owners are less competent to handle that kind of detail than PC nuts. The problem is that the game tries to please everybody and will end up pleasing no one especially Sims fans.
There are two modes a story mode and a freeplay mode. For some reason, they share the same saved game, so you can’t try both out and then return to whichever one you like better unless you feel like starting the game from scratch. There’s not much to say about the freeplay mode it is supposed to duplicate the traditional feel of Sims gameplay on the PC, but ends up feeling like a stripped-down version of the PC game with an awkward control system that uses the analog sticks to help build your house. Story mode is the one that is supposed to appeal to console players, so let’s focus on that.
The character creation is detailed, as always, with some interesting changes from the PC version. The family tree feature pops up right away, but since your Sim doesn’t have children, the genetic dice are rolled to come up with what your Sim will look like. Now, you can customize that as much as you want, but it gets a little irritating when you have to roll the dice repeatedly just to get a family tree that doesn’t have aliens in it.
You pick out your sim’s clothes, an aspiration, personality, etc, just like always. Then you are put into an already existent house with already created roommates and the game basically becomes a pattern of meeting your aspirations without any clear picture of where the story is going. My sim was creative, so his aspirations were automatically tilted toward wanting to play the guitar and paint all the time another sim I played with wanted to be the Great Lover and “make woo-hoo” with as many sims as possible. Those kinds of aspirations come from the PC game and work well. However, I also got aspirations like “make a meal that doesn’t make people sick” and “pick a fight with the neighbor,” and I’m still trying to understand what that has to do with either creativity or being a great lover. I picked the fight with the neighbor, achieved my aspiration, and waited
but nothing changed, except that the neighbor kept coming over and wanting to throw things at me. I got tired of it and tried to make up with the neighbor, and that promptly took away my earned aspiration. Why? I picked a fight with him why do I have an aspiration to keep him mad? Did I somehow pick an aspiration to be a jerk without knowing it? The game feels like an electronic “to-do list” even more than Sims usually does.
I’m not a huge Sims fan, but I’ve played enough to be familiar with it, and yet I was confused by a lot of the gameplay on the PS2. This isn’t helped by the fact that the manual is a total of 8 pages long and devotes as much as a half a page to things as important as socializing. If the assumption here is that console fans can’t handle the deep gameplay that makes the Sims what it is, wouldn’t they need more help? My wife has a whole collection of hint books for the PC Sims games! There are two modes of control Direct Control and Classic Control. Classic gives the player a cursor to move around and set up a series of actions, while Direct keeps focused on the single character you control and only lets you do one action at a time. It’s an interesting adjustment for the console, but transitioning between the two is the only real way to go and the transition is awkward. Particularly irritating is that you can only use Direct Control during social interactions, which is precisely the time when I like to line up a bunch of actions. Let’s face it Sim socializing can be pretty repetitive talk a couple times, gossip a couple times, joke a couple of times
good, now we’re friends and we move to the friend interactions, then (if we want) move to the flirty/lover interactions. If I’m trying to be the Great Lover, why on earth would I want to watch my Sim go through these same actions 100 times over as he hits on everything that moves? In the PC version I can set up the actions and go look at something else or control another character and then come back when I’ve got an interesting interaction lined up.
That’s another problem with story mode you only control one character, and the other characters’ A.I. leaves a lot to be desired. Since the A.I. in Sims 2 on the PC was one of its strongest new developments, this is particularly disappointing. It makes gameplay feel very limited, especially to Sims fans who have played the series on PC. After all, part of the fun is manipulating your whole household into chaos (if that’s what you enjoy and let’s be honest, isn’t that mostly what we play Sims for?). It’s harder to create chaos when my roommates more or less ignored my presence until they came and took some of my food.
The changes to food preparation were an interesting addition. There are now recipes your Sim can learn and you have to select the specific ingredients to have them make a recipe with the effects you want, from nausea to love potion #9. It takes some getting used to, but it is a fun addition if only it wasn’t replacing so much that was fun in the PC version.
Visually, Sims 2 suffers a little in the translation to console, but since it’s the PS2, that’s not too surprising. The musical audio is strong, with some new additions to the same old Sim-elevator music feel, but the Simlish feels weak by comparison I wanted to mute the people instead of the music, while it’s typically the other way around in the PC game.
Two other new features for Sims 2 PS2 include using the EyeToy and a two player mode. Two player mode just allows you to control two characters at the same time, which feels like a dumbing-down, since I’m used to controlling multiple characters by myself on the PC version, and the EyeToy allows you to put your face on characters, billboards, etc, which might be a fun addition to play with, but hardly enough to rescue this feeble translation of an originally strong game.
This game just can’t decide who to please, so it tries to please everyone and fails totally. For PC fans, the adapted control system feels awkward and the gameplay limited, and I suspect that console gamers who pick this up to “see what the fuss is about” will be confused as to why anyone could get addicted to a game with such boring A.I. and predictable gameplay. So far, the most successful “port” of the Sims universe was the Urbz, which had its flaws, but allowed for a more directed game that was less predictable and more fun to play. Hopefully, future console efforts will follow that trend, rather than this one.