Somehow, I went from Sim City on the Amiga to SimEverything on pre-Intel chips to well ... missing The Sims entirely. It's not that I never tried it. I did. I even introduced my son to it about two years ago; all he did was set his Sims on fire outside on the lawn — better than his little brother, I suppose. On Sept. 18, EA is launching My Sims — the day after my birthday. I think said little brother and I are going to get our Sims fix.
As much as this game has in common with its big brother, it's still a different game. The most glaring difference is the Wii exclusivity. Everything is point and click. The art style is decidedly younger, more blocky. In fact, most of the parts in the game are made of blocks. Not only does this make for very easy, swift building, but it allows for very immediate and unique customization with very little interaction — for the younger crowd, who have little patience with small changes.
Making changes to your avatar is just as big and immediate. Entire outfits change, not colors of shirts. Hair styles don't run up and down a scale of lengths but vary wildly from one to the next. Colors are rich and deep. And you don't create an avatar for life; you can change at your whim!
If there's one thing a parent knows, it's that the "sandbox" style of play doesn't really work with kids. It looks as if there is no purpose in the sandbox, but the child creates it. My Sims starts with a rundown town of broken buildings, shattered dreams, lost memories ... sorry, was getting a bit melancholy. The town needs an urban renewal program to bring in new commercial interests and to eventually increase the population. I'm just going to tell my son to make it look good so people will want to live there.
When I arrived for my demonstration, I interrupted a karaoke machine being built. Apparently, a Sim had requested it. This is part of your responsibility, building all items of interest for your Sims to make them happy and prosper.
To begin, you have to get the Commercials to come back to town. They're the lifeblood of your economy and unlock other areas as your town prospers. You simply hang out at the Hotel and, each morning, check out who comes downstairs and shows an interest in moving into town. I chanced upon a rather flamboyant actor who wanted a playhouse. That being said, I ran off to build him his playhouse.
Each time someone wants to move in, new building blocks become available. These were specific to a playhouse, but I could use others to enhance it. Using only point and click, I could design the exterior of the playhouse to be wide and flat, long and narrow or any combination thereof. In addition, I had to build it in the style requested by the actor — cute, geeky, spooky or any number of unique styles. Once I did, he came home to roost. Then he asked for more!
Apparently, it was important to this actor that people actually show up for his performances, so he asked for a printing press to make broadsheets. This is when I learned about "Essence." Essence is the materials (other than blocks) that are required to make things. It gives an item its function and style. Essence can be hearts, smilies, stars ... there were more than I could view. To earn Essence, you need to play! Play with the other Sims: socialize, mine, fish, garden ... just be busy.
While you're playing, you'll be given new tasks, new people come to town ... this is a busy place. You have a Task Book to keep track of the myriad of items to build, but if should you (amazingly) complete everything there is to do and get all of the Commercials to come to town and encourage all 60 Townies (the Sims that just live there) and build everything they want, there's still more you can do.
Remember those styles I mentioned? Spooky, creepy, et al? Your townies just may decide they want you to work on building things to fit their preference, and off you'll go. Oy.
Three profiles. Three saves. I asked. Thank you. Otherwise, my older son WILL destroy my younger son's town. And mom (when she gets the chance to play) would just disrupt all. This may be for kids, but I suspect a lot of adults will enjoy it for both its simplicity and depth. Me, I'll be thankful my son can't set his Sims on fire on the lawn.
My children both play games so I often play them first, getting to know exactly how something may effect my sensitive and easily stimulated older child vs. my stoic and imperturbable younger.
I like games for games; for the pure enjoyment of them and believe that no game is wholly bad, though some are real stinkers.
I also have the dexterity of a camel in mittens so find playing FPSs difficult (and I also don't like the gore) and RTSs at times can stump me. I just can't seem to move quickly enough to keep up with them. Some of my favorite games are arcade games and I'll spend 3-5 years on the same 5-6 levels because I just never get any better. But, I have fun.