After conquering PC's pretty much everywhere, EA's monster The Sims franchise is branching out into handhelds later this year with The Sims 2 for the Game Boy Advance. This version isn't quite like its PC or console brethren, though, as the gameplay has been altered to work on a small handheld. And we got a firsthand look of what to expect at EA's summer press event.
The key thing to keep in mind about The Sims 2 on the GBA is that it's not the open-ended, virtual-people simulator/dollhouse that you've come to expect. Yes, you can still create a unique sim by choosing a gender, a skin tone, different hairstyles and color, and clothes, as well as an aspiration (such as friendly, romantic, or intimidating). After that, however, you won't go around trying to create a virtual life like you do in the PC game. Instead, you'll be dropped into Strangetown, the popular town from The Sims 2, where your job is to shore up the ratings of a sagging reality television show that's based in Strangetown.
Your sim will work for Daddy Bigbucks, a strange, wealthy recluse who owns the show. The GBA version of The Sims 2 is essentially episodic in nature. The game is divided into 15 or so distinctly themed episodes that have you going out in the world and accomplishing a bunch of goals. If you manage to do so quickly and well, you'll boost the ratings for the show (which are determined by the reactions of the Goths, the first family of The Sims). You'll be rewarded with cash, which you can then use to purchase lots of cool stuff to decorate your house.
We really don't want to give anything away, so we'll skip over key details, but the episodes in the GBA version are downright weird, as befitting a show set in Strangetown. For example, "The New Cola" tells the tale of what happens when a soft drink company sets up shop in an abandoned nuclear power plant, and everyone who drinks the cola experiences a very unique side effect. Your goal will be to reverse the side effect, and that will involve a lot of action and adventure as you try to figure out how to overcome both obstacles and unusual enemies.
Each episode will feature minigames and other content to keep you happy, and you'll work your way through the various episodes to unlock the secret of Strangetown. Once that's done, there should be a ton of replayability in the game, as how you get through it depends on how you interact with characters, in addition to the choices you make. And since you can create sims with different personalities, you'll interact with characters differently each time. The Sims 2 for the GBA appears packed with an intriguing story, lots of different styles of gameplay, and tons of trademark Sims humor, so it's a pretty promising affair. It's scheduled for release this winter.