The Sims 2 Hands-On

We journey to Strangetown for a look at the GBA version of Maxis's virtual-life game.

It's no surprise that EA and Maxis are bringing The Sims 2, the immensely popular simulation of everyday life, to the Game Boy Advance. But it is surprising that the game bears only a passing resemblance to its PC and console cousins. We got to try out a prerelease build of The Sims 2 for the GBA to see how Maxis has adapted its biggest franchise to a portable format.

You'll become the biggest reality-TV star in Strangetown by the end of the game.

In the PC version of The Sims 2, you create your sim from the ground up and then guide him or her through the experience of everyday life, attempting to realize your little digital person's hopes and aspirations so they can lead a fulfilling existence. From what we've played of the GBA game so far, that initial character-creation component is the biggest similarity between the two games. You'll get to pick gender, hairstyle, hair color, clothing, and all the other expected variables of your sim. The aspiration system does make an appearance here--you'll choose if your sim is most interested in wealth, popularity, or knowledge, which will influence some of your starting attributes.

But once you've made your character, The Sims 2 seems more like an adventure game than, well, a Sims game. You play the part of the main character in a new reality-TV series taking place in a rather bizarre little hamlet called Strangetown. You'll answer to Daddy Bigbucks, a media tycoon who owns your show and will communicate with you via an earpiece as you go about your business. (In other words, Bigbucks will be giving you your mission objectives.) The gameplay is divided into episodes, and in the course of completing an episode you'll chat with various characters, search for required objects, and even earn extra cash from engaging in various commercials (which are actually minigames).

Your performance in each episode is critiqued based on a number of factors: how many main plot points you completed, secret desires you fulfilled, and conversations you had with other characters. These scores are tallied into an overall ratings number, and you can use your ratings points to unlock new "plot points," which include new settings, objects, and props, and new social moves, which let you vary your interactions with the various residents of Strangetown.

The Sims 2 on the GBA probably isn't what you were expecting from its name alone, but it does look like a quirky and entertaining little action game with some of the original PC version's sim-life trappings. The game's got a fair amount of charm--one of the early tasks involves making you intimidate a space alien so he'll dismount your toilet in your time of need. The game is slated for release in November, and we'll bring you more soon.

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