For those looking for a change of pace, the Sims is a great way to enjoy casual fun with plenty of depth.
(-) the amount of depth makes the game look rather complicated at first; using the PS2 analog sticks for camera control doesn't work particularly well
I'm going to have to begin this review by saying I have never played a Sims game until now, unless you count the Sims City game for the PC, which was merely decent but nothing I would come back to again and again. I found this game, along with many other PS2 titles, bundled at a yard sale all for 20 dollars. Most of them either didn't work or were throw aways, but this turned out to be the only title that was particularly worth playing. And it surprises me that I like this game because I have a desire for action right away, hence all the racers I've reviewed, and a slow-paced game just doesn't score well based on my personal preferences.
Anyway, most of us already know what Sims is about, but in case you're devoid of any possible means to basic media, Sims is a real life simulator game where you give orders to people to go out through their daily life activities. This sounds pretty broad, and in fact it is, because there is a large chunk of depth to work around with. You'll be unlikely to soak in every detail with the gameplay unless you play for about 100 hours or more. Because each person has needs like comfort, bladder, social, hunger, energy, fun, room, and hygiene and you need to make sure they regularly tend to these needs and keep a balance. Otherwise, there is a variety of bad things that could happen. For example, let your character run low on energy then they will pass out and fall asleep wherever they are. I have a friend who had his character pass out in the middle of the road. Well, for a game striving for realism it must draw the line somewhere.
And the depth doesn't stop there, either. I'm just getting started. You know each Sim has their own personal needs they need met. They live in a house, and it's up to you to get them a job and make money to pay for a large vicinity of material possessions in order to keep them satisfied. You must buy things like a refridgerator, toilet, showe, sink, beds, smoke detector, burglar alarm, kitchen tables and chairs, and other things. Later you can also save up and buy things like television sets, radios, computers, basketball hoops, and hot tubs.
Getting started with the game you're first time, you pick a name for an individual character, and choose their personal characteristics, body build, clothes, and face with a surprising number of options for either gender. Then you live with your mother doing various things like fixing the TV, getting a job, paying the bills, and moving out. Not to be racist or anything, but I found myself wondering why a black woman is always the mother by default, and you didn't have the option to customize her as well. Yeah, I had some fun with my first experience living in the house with her. For some reason she never walked to the bathroom when her bladder gauge was empty, and wet herself on the floor! It happened four times! The AI for the Sims, that woman especially, isn't perfect, and although they do carry out some of their duties on their own discretion, you must have some level of control over them if you want to succeed.
And after you complete a bit of the first mode, you'll unlock another mode where you can choose and customize up to four characters that live in a house together. I found this mode to be the most fun of all. If you're really careful and creative with who you choose to be in a family, then this mode will be a lot of fun. Because each of the characters have specific interactions with each other, which this is heavily influenced on several factors in your Sim's characteristics, like whether their shy or outgoing, or nice or mean. What I mean, is it's fun to create myself and a girl I've come to love and make them chatter and flirt in the household, while the other two guys slap or scare each other in the other room. But I do recommend that you make an attempt to balance all the relationships with one another, because if not the social level for some of your Sims will take a hit.
However I would be lying if I said I knew what to do as soon as I picked up the controller the first time. For anyone unfamiliar with any regular Sims games, like myself, this amount of depth can very easily be overwhelming. There are so many things to search for in the buy menu, and it can be difficult to choose what you need. Or maybe you don't know what that symbol means in the thought bubble of your ugly little boy. Luckily the learning curve for the Sims is still a modest amount, which means before too long you'll have an idea on how to play and you'll be willing to learn more as you go.
The controls also seem to add to the frustration at the start of the game. Moving the camera with the analog sticks on the PS2 controller pad is just plain aggravating the first time, and even after plentiful experience it still feels kinda floaty. Especially when in buy mode, and you need to place a piece of furniture at a specific spot, it can be difficult to do because you still need to adjust the camera as you go. Because not only do you control the camera with the analog stick, you also control the pointer, which is just plain weird. I've heard that Sims 3 is coming out for the PS3, Xbox360 and Wii, which is good news because the Wii Remote will work much better for selecting things. But back to Sims 1. The only thing the direction pad is used for is checking the stats of your Sims, which works because there are four different columns, but still, you guessed it, it's just weird.
Graphically, the game isn't much to marvel at. But that's okay, because with a game about carrying other people through everyday tasks, you don't need everything to look polished and decorated until it's a visual feast. The graphics serve their purpose, you have the option to see through or see the walls, the Sim models look alright, as do the house and everything in it. The sound probably isn't much better, because there's hardly any at all. You can hear the radio and other appliances when they turn them on. You can hear them talk to one another, in some kind of foreign language like "gua blu bla treka sqa" which no words in the Webster dictionary could be made out of it. And you can also hear them express their moods, like whimpering when they really need to use the bathroom, or stomping and screaming when someone turns the TV on as they were sleeping.
Sims does something that very few games are able to. Even though it seems shallow, like you're doing basic every day tasks with your characters, over and over again, it doesn't seem to get boring or even slightly repetitive. The huge amount of depth keeps the game interesting for a long time. To further shake things up there is a pretty random nature of things that could occur, some are good, some are plain weird, and some are bad. For example, appliances sometimes break and you need someone with good mechanics to fix them. To get good mechanics skills, hit the books and study it, that is unless your Sim is too depressed to. Also, watch out for burglars. They will steal anything, and I do mean ANYTHING! Your computer, your radio, your sink? Yes, they will. And make sure everybody knows how to cook well, if not a fire might start. And if you don't get the fire extinguisher or fire department out in time, your Sims will actually pent the the grim reaper and die! For such a simple game, there is so much depth!
The Sims is a great game. Tons of customization options with your house and characters, plenty of depth throughout the entire game, a passable audio-visual presentation and hours of gameplay that doesn't get old, all for a really low price point! A lack of strong first impression and some pretty clunky camera and cursor controls on the PS2 aren't enough of an annoyance to fluster the fun that this game offers. It's a very unique game that offers a great twist from the majority of other titles out there. I'm really surprised by how much I liked this game, and EXTREMELY surprised how much time I've put into it thus far. But of course this is coming from someone who has never played a Sims game, and for others it may have aged by now.