The Sims 2 PSP Updated Impressions - Making Friends in Strangetown

The Sims 2 for the PSP will attempt to pack in as much of the popular PC game as possible onto Sony's handheld console. We take an updated look.

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At a recent EA press event, we took an updated look at The Sims 2 for the PSP. The new game will attempt to pack in just about everything from the original PC game, including a full-fledged create-a-sim mode that lets you create a character with different hair, hats, eye colors, and plenty of different clothing. However, unlike the PC version, the PSP version of the game will have an underlying story that will drive the game's goal-oriented missions.

Apparently, your new sim has just struck out from home and has been driving past Strangetown, one of the new neighborhoods from the PC version of The Sims 2. Sims 2 fans will recall that Strangetown was heavily influenced by TV shows like The X-Files and Roswell--basically a backwoods desert town with a lot of weird sightings that suggest alien encounters. We were able to watch the opening part of the game unfold, which gave us a good sense of the gameplay.

After our character's car broke down, we stumbled to the nearest gas station to find Oscar, the mechanic. To convince the guy to fix our car, we had to use the game's social interactions to make him our friend. Afterward, we moved on to the nearby curio shop, presided over by the kindly store owner, Mamba Loa. As we approached, we found ourselves with the option to either use "social" or "converse"--a first for the series. In The Sims 2 for the PSP, you'll actually be able to have role-playing-game-style dialogues with other characters using onscreen full-text dialogue trees, similar to something like Knights of the Old Republic. The conversation with Mamba Loa is one of the most important ones, since although you can choose your character's appearance at the outset of the game, you'll determine your character's personality and aspirations (life goals, as in The Sims 2) in conversation, answering questions about whether you'd prefer, for example, something like wealth to the company of friends.

As it turns out, Bella Goth, the wife of Mortimer Goth from the original Sims game back in 1999, disappeared in The Sims 2 for the PC and has reappeared in the PSP game, as a resident of Strangetown. Apparently, Bella had been abducted by aliens and landed right back on the outskirts of SimCity in Strangetown--which will be an in-game "secret" you'll discover along with a list of other secrets you can trade to other sims or other players. After getting our aspiration from Mamba Loa, we walked down the aisles of the curio store to have a "social"-based conversation with her. Like in previous games in the Sims series, you can also converse with other sim characters using a set of different "social" animations. And like in other games in the series, this will cause your characters to chatter in the Sims series' spirited "simlish" gibberish language while simultaneously causing comic-book-style "speech bubbles" to appear over their heads, showing various icons for different topics (such as a book icon to indicate that the sim is talking about books, or a rocket icon to indicate that the sim is talking about war).

In the PSP game, the different characters you'll encounter will have a "patience" meter with a specific number that indicates how many times you can commit a social faux pas before the other sim gets bored and walks right out of the conversation. For instance, Bella had a patience meter of "five," which would have given us five chances to correctly identify what she was talking about based on the icons in her speech bubbles against a conversation timer that ticks down continuously as you talk. Fortunately, we made all the right moves and got Bella to take a liking to us. As it turns out, the former Simcity resident has just about had it with Strangetown and its alien activity, so she handed us the keys to her house, which we could then use to live in and customize with furniture and other objects.

The Sims 2 for the PSP wouldn't be a console Sims game without minigames, and the PSP version will have about five different minigames, as well as several others nested into the story. The minigame we saw involved line dancing at a nearby saloon, which required our sim to use the PSP's controls to step left, right, backward, or forward in time with the other assembled dancers. The minigames currently don't use any kind of onscreen cues (there are no glowing arrows or any other signs indicating what you should do next) to encourage players to get into them and play them intuitively.

The Sims 2 for the PSP looks like it should be a solid addition to the growing library of Sims games on consoles. The game will even make use of the PSP's wireless networking capabilities, so you can trade items and swap your own sims into other players' games, as well as participate in a multiplayer "social battle." The game is scheduled for release this fall.

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