The Sims is a life-building simulation with emphasis on intimate details of individual characters.
Management in The Sims revolves around decision-making. From physical environmental layouts (homes, rooms, paint, tiles, floors, walls, window placement), to mental outlook (personalities, motives, needs), emotional makeup (jealousy, marriage, having kids) and skills (cooking and mechanical abilities, charisma, mental and physical levels of development) of your Sims, you'll be immersed in their daily lives. Activities include buying and placing up to 150 unique items for households and offices, selling and replacing worn out furnishings, and otherwise building and maintaining the world in which your Sims live.
The interface is mouse-driven, with points-and-clicks that works in conjunction with a myriad of development tools offered for use in establishing your Sims' environments. Placement of walls, windows and doors, floor layouts in homes, terrain adjustments, water and pool tools, fencing options, balustrades, columns, wallpaper, stairs, fireplaces, plants, roofing, furnishings, and second-story dwellings are just some of the hands-on development options that will need your attention.
You'll guide your Sims in life-development phases such as having children, feeding hungers, basic survival needs, hygiene, comfort, energy levels, fun, social interaction (e.g., dancing, affairs, marriage), body-building, cooking, skill development, and even bladder control. Chemistry between your Sims is a product of your manipulations as well -- slippery, smooth, introverted, extroverted, positive, and negative thinkers -- all form the level and style of interaction through conversations with other Sims.
The Sims has a range of ten career tracks for your breadwinners to follow and each career advancement requires specific skills for success. For example, a minimum-wage mailroom clerk must have Body, Charisma, and Repair Skills while a person in the medical field must have Logic to go along with Repair skills. There are ten levels of positions within each of the ten career tracks -- your Sims can work their way up in career fields such as entertainment, law enforcement, crime, medical, military, politics, athletics, science, or extreme (daredevil).
As in many Maxis simulations, the natural disaster has not been overlooked -- your Sims can experience floods, fires, and robberies. Neglect, starvation, loss of energy, failure to perform basic bathroom visits (they'll have to clean up the mess) -- all can affect your Sims and even stop them in their tracks. Death is an option and entire families could be wiped out by complete neglect and starvation.
Ever wanted to play a "god game" with complete control over individual characters? Now you can, with designer Will Wright's The Sims. Although not multiplayer per se, you can share your Sims and their houses with other fans, get skin design tools, tutorials, new wall colorings and textures, and more at www.thesims.com. You can also automatically save JPEG snapshots of your Sims and their statistics in the Web Pages folder of The Sims directory by using the "Export HTML" option in the game.
Time to get busy -- the Sims in your head are waiting to get out and now's your chance to put some faces behind those little voices!
The Sims follows in the footsteps of the long-running series of "Sim" games developed by Maxis in the last decade of the 1990s. It takes the idea and concept to the next evolutionary phase -- controlling actual Sim characters down to the lowest level of detail, and their interaction with others and their surroundings.
Absence of a multiplayer feature and other gripes aside, this game provides superb gaming entertainment.
It could be said that The Sims, from "aspect-of-life" simulation developer Maxis, rewards you in the same way that doing housework does -- with a sense of achievement. Add to your list of chores making friends, landing and keeping a job, buying things for your house (including additions and upkeep services), and falling in love, and you'll get a sense of how that sense of achievement can quickly become addictive.
The game starts with a quick tutorial. Even those who have never played any of Maxis' games before will find that the interface is easy to learn and that the game manages to pack a tremendous amount of detail into a relatively small space. Your neighborhood, for instance, is where the entire game takes place. It takes up one screen, and there are only ten lots on which to build a house (or occupy a house that's already there). After you've chosen your lot and house, most of the rest of the game takes place there.
If you want to play the game as a newly created Sim (instead of as the "bachelor" or one of the two other pre-designed families you can choose from in the beginning), you'll have to create that Sim (or family of up to eight Sims) from scratch. This involves giving your Sim a first and last name, choosing his or her skin color, clothing, hairstyle, gender, and size (adult or child). You'll also to distribute twenty-five personality points, in five categories: Neat, Outgoing, Active, Playful, and Nice.
Your Sim's personality-point distribution makes up a large part of the AI that goes into determining how the character will interact with the game world and with the other Sims in it. For fun (with no impact your Sim's personality), you can also type up a short biography for your Sim, which will pop up whenever you click on his or her icon in the interface.
Your Sim, like any normal person, can never have a big enough house or enough things to go in that house. The options for building onto your house outnumber the things you can buy for the inside. You can add additional floors to your house (and staircases to get to those floors), choose your interior and exterior wall coverings, place a number of different windows and doors, lay down just about any pattern of carpet or tile that you can think of, and landscape to your heart's content.
Not that there aren't also plenty of furnishings on which to spend your hard-earned simoleons: choose any number of lighting styles, appliances, furniture, decorations, electronics, and miscellaneous entertainment items, such as a basketball hoop, a chess set, or a pool table. Speaking of pool, if you have the money, you can build one of those too (the kind you swim in). Even though there is a lot to choose from, some may want even more. Thankfully, the game's website (www.thesims.com) regularly adds new features for you to download. As if this weren't enough, the game also lets you upload your families and download the families of other players to incorporate in your game.
There are ten different career tracks for your characters to choose from, each with multiple levels of advancement and pay. All the jobs available to you at the beginning are entry level. Beginning Sims can join the military as new recruits, become waiters (Entertainment career track), human lab rats (Science career track), security guards (Law Enforcement), campaign workers (Politics), or take entry-level jobs in one of the five other available career tracks (Medicine, Business, Pro Athlete, Life of Crime or X-treme Sports.
In order for your Sims to be happy enough to continue to develop, they need help micromanaging their lives. Left to their own devices, they'll quickly get into trouble, missing work, leaving trash all over the place, being lazy, and getting depressed. As in real life, achieving a healthy balance of sociability, nourishment, rest, play, and cleanliness is not easy, and it becomes harder as your Sims achieve higher levels of success and complexity. The "mood" categories that serve as the scale for your Sims' overall happiness are Hunger, Comfort, Hygiene, Bladder, Energy, Fun, Social, and Room.
You satisfy the requirements of these mood categories by having your Sims manipulate the different objects in the game, such as a refrigerator for hunger, a couch for comfort, a shower for hygiene, a toilet for bladder, a bed for energy, a television for fun, or a telephone (to invite other Sims over for socializing). The telephone can also be used to order pizza, or request a serviceman, maid or gardener to pay you a visit. Also, the phone will occasionally ring on its own, with a variety of seemingly random calls that range from cryptic cranks to practical boons such as winning a contest or earning a reward.
You'll also want your Sims to work with certain objects in their house in order to improve themselves for the sake of advancing at work. They can work out on the weight bench, use their bookshelf to read up on cooking or mechanics, improve their logic skills with a game of chess, or practice speaking in front of one of the mirrors to improve their charisma. Higher levels of these skills and attributes become necessary as the characters advance in their chosen career paths.
The game mixes so many features with such good ease-of-use that nearly anyone can play nearly any sort of character, with nearly any sort of lifestyle. Like most real people, though, what makes most Sims the happiest is having an active social life. This means you have to invite other Sims over frequently and engage them in long conversations. Sims don't exactly talk; they have speech bubbles with icons that represent what they're talking about. Also, instead of words, you hear a bunch of different recorded nonsense sounds that, surprisingly, convey each Sim's current attitude quite well
Despite the fact that there is no real game-ending objective, the challenge never fades. The game remains fun after many, many hours of play. It becomes harder as you get better, and it instills in you a sense of responsibility for making your Sims' lives good ones. You begin to care about the character you've developed. Hearing the flies buzz around the dirty dishes they left on the table, or having your Sims start crying because they're not getting enough sleep (or because they wet themselves on the carpet) may instill genuine feelings of guilt, and you'll want to do what you can to make their situations better as quickly as possible.
Any game that can instill such a sense of compassion for its characters is something special, especially when those characters are not great heroes in Earth-shattering situations, but ordinary people leading ordinary lives. The Sims is sure to appeal to all kinds of gamers, hardcore and casual -- the "heroes" and the "ordinary" alike.
While the colors are bright and the animations are fun to watch, the level of detail is not all that it could be. Also, the zoom and rotate features aren't quite enough to give you adequate visual access to everything in your house that you'd like to have access to. The variety and customizability available for Sims and their houses are nice, however, with more items and skins being added on the Web weekly, both by other players and by Maxis.
If you're running a largely unsuccessful game, you might end up with an annoying amount of whining and crying from your Sims. Also, the buzz of flies around your Sims' unemptied trash can and dirty dishes can become unsettling if left unchecked. The sound effects, like footsteps, the honk of your carpool car's horn telling you it's time for work or the brassy "wah wah wah wahhh" telling you your Sim just wet him- or herself are more practical than interesting. Otherwise, the Sims' nonsense language is both fun to listen to and impressive in its ability to express the emotion and subject matter of what they're discussing. For instance, if you direct your Sim to entertain a friend or neighbor, he or she will start juggling some hackeysack-looking things and "doot doot dootling" in a mock Barnum and Bailey circus-act song. If you listen closely, you might even familiarize yourself with some of your Sim's favorite expressions, such as "Bettah-nu" and "Blah bloo bluh blah." The sounds do get repetitive after a while; it would've been nice if Maxis worked in a little more variety. The music is pleasant to listen to and always appropriate. It's even funny at times, recalling some of the wide-eyed romance flicks of the 40s and 50s, with a nice mix of Leave It To Beaver-esque background tracks.
There's no specific endgame condition to be met; you just expand, build, and develop as many Sims and Sim houses as you can. Maybe after playing for a few years you'll get bored or exhausted, but even then you'll still probably find yourself going back to The Sims every now and then, once you've grown weary of your other games. The Sims rivals Sid Meier's Civilization II in replayability.
The manual and reference card are extremely well written, and smart and funny too. Both include plenty of visual aids, whether pie charts or pictures, to help you along, and the manual even includes a nice appendix with references to actual books that people who enjoy The Sims might find an interest in reading. The manual is quite thorough, but the game also provides online help, which includes pop-up tips, an active help-suggestion system, and an index.