Sure, University is nothing more than a mini-game, but this is one huge mini-game, and great fun to boot.
Well, yes, I'm one of the 5 people on this planet who loved the original Sims yet didn't buy any of the 7 subsequent expansion packs.
Since I'm a big fan of the original, it should be clear to you that I rate The Sims 2 very highly. One complaint I had at the time was that the game, despite tons of new features, shipped with too little content. Of course, such a problem for Sims games is something waiting to be inevitably rectified. The Sims 2 University is here, and it adds many things beside the obligatory new household items.
As its name states, University's main feature is the ability to send your Sims to college. Sims who go to college gets to live the new Young Adult life stage. Gameplay changes dramatically when you play a student Sim. Time management becomes top priority and micromanagement is almost unavoidable if you want your Sim to have a chance at succeeding in college. The game time is measured in hours left before each semester's final exam. The clock starts at 72 hours and goes from there. Unfortunately, no break of any kind is to be found since weekends no longer apply. This can make the game tedious at times, with your Sim milling around the place trying to get good grades and make new friends in order to get Influence Points.
Influent Points, a new addition which also applies to the core game, enable Sims to spend these points in order to make other Sims fulfill their wishes. Clean up the toilet? No problem. Put a lighter to the sprinkler? Affirmative. The more friends a Sim has got, the greater amount of Influence Points he can muster. The Points themselves can be earned by fulfilling the various Wants, in a fashion not unlike the Aspiration Points in the core game. Wants (and Fears) which affect Influence Points have blue borders around them, so they should be spotted easily enough.
The game also adds several new interactions - such as Pranks (3 are available, none of them quite good enough for real college students, but it's The Sims. You get the idea.), new games under the Play menu like Pillow Fight and Kicky Bag - and many intriguing items. Cell phones, MP3 players, and a handheld console can be purchased from kiosks in community lots. The new musical instruments (plus new actions for the existing piano) enables you to make a SimBand, although it's odd that singers are nowhere to be found in SimCity. Actually, there's a Freestyle action under Entertain that makes your Sim rap, but it doesn't fit with the types of music you can play with the instruments at all. Oh, and you can do all those for tips, if you like. The pool table is an even more entertaining instrument of socialization. Sims can simply practice, play with others, perform trick shots, or even hustle other Sims for money! Juice kegs (in place of beers) and bubble blowers (for weed, perhaps?) serve as great party items, as well as the new bonfire.
Back to the campus life. Sims can opt to join (or even create) Greek Houses, fraternities/sororities, and - with enough luck and keen eyes - Secret Societies with brilliant benefits. There are scholarships to be won, using a Sim's grades and skills as criterias. A graduation party option is in, and so is the sports party activity. And then there are... bugs.
Visit www.thesims2.com, get in the BBS, and you can read about them. University introduces new bugs to the series, many of them rather odd. While I haven't encountered any of them myself, it's not a good sign. More expansions are bound to introduce bugs and conflicts, and the original Sims managed to hold them at bay for quite long. A first expansion with bugs isn't exactly encouraging. Performance also goes down due to the new content and the dorm environments, which feature a lot of Sims on the screen at once. Load times are still quite long, slightly longer than before even.
Still, don't let those small glitches prevent you from purchasing this great expansion pack. The Sims 2 University adds a very enjoyable mini-game, some new content for the core game, and will probably reinvigorate your interest in The Sims 2 enough for hundreds of hours of plain fun. Let's see if Maxis can continue this legacy with The Sims 2 Nightlife, on track for a late 2005 release.