PreviewThe Sims 2 Castaway

The Sims 2 Castaway DS

Developer: EA Games
Publisher: EA Games


Genre: life simul
Setting: fantasy

I find it difficult to attend an EA function when not a Sims fan. I understand the appeal of the games. I encourage my children to play them. But, they just don't do it for me. When I look back at the titles I have been playing since owning a DS, I realize I have played a number of life simulations. So, when the producer for Sims 2 Castaway DS asked that I give him the chance to show me the title, I gave in. I'm glad I did.

Sims 2 Castaway DS begins very much as Sims cum Gilligan's Island. You create a very basic Sim then head off on a "3-hour tour". Shipwrecked, you must determine how to survive, find three other random castaways, visit a few other islands then get home. There are elements of classic point and click adventure game interspersed in the game along with standard Sims management.

For the uninitiated, a robust tutorial is provided. For the impatient - *thinks of her son* - a very intuitive tap (click) and point design provides nearly all the information you need. There is a scripted tutorial for nearly every failure as well. If you rushed and missed the importance of shelter, you'll find most items in the world "clickable". Tapping on the pile of sticks in front of you "reminds" you of their necessity in building your lean-to. You can then place them into your inventory - an impressive backpack-of-infinite-holding!

To move, you simply tap. To explore? Tap. Pick something up? Tap. Opening and exploring your inventory uses the same simplicity. Ready to build that lean-to? Check your recipes and it tells you what resources are necessary and exactly the number you're lacking. Create it and you've determined home. Home is important! It's where you save the game.

If I've not beaten in the point that the interface is very intuitive and simple, I'll get a bigger hammer. *grins* Learning to play requires a few minutes. Then the fun starts.

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The world is big. You need to explore and find areas with different resources. Fear not, once you've explored an area you can magically return to it on the map. Personally, I think you just swing from vine to vine but they've forgotten to put in the animated sequence. While exploring, you can see the islands you need to visit in the distance. This gives you the first hints you'll need to build a raft.

Collecting, as with any Sims game (or any game targeted at a US audience) is a big part of your experience. There are 1000's of objects. I was working on finding bugs (are they ugly!). I needed them for two reasons: first, I suck at pole fishing and I needed bait; second, my clothes were becoming rather tattered and I wanted to dye my new duds. There are more uses but those were my immediate needs.

Fishing . That was an experience. I tried spear fishing and you'd think I couldn't get worse on a DS than in real life. Yes, I've tried in real life. First, the fish won't just lie in wait for me to spear them. Silly fish. Then the designers had to go and give each species different traits. They swim in different patterns, are found in different, during different times of day…I was waiting for Mr. Limpet to speak to me. (If you get that very poor joke, hah! you're old, too!)

Like any good Sims game your Sim has its personal needs. This is the part of the simulation I enjoy least but it has been made less painful in this game than in past titles I've played. Needing to bathe is simply a dip in the water and voila! you come out fresh and clean. I didn't notice if they needed to relieve themselves. Cooking food will provide better sustenance than raw meats. Don't get me wrong, I love sashimi but…

For this, I needed a fire. I gathered sticks, rubbed them together (with the stylus), blew into the microphone and poof! Nothing. A few tries later, some singed eyebrows, a bit of spittle on the screen and I had myself a fire and fish on a stick. Yeah!

Last but not least I was introduced to instruments. I could make reed instruments! I could write music for them! And, if I got off my lazy Sim behind and did some exploring I could find other Sims and start a jam session. There wasn't enough time left for me to explore but this part had me excited. Then again, I was a band geek in high school. You know, sometimes I reveal too much of myself in my previews…

Thankfully, the game has three save slots. In my home, this is important. Otherwise, only one person gets to play or we buy a lot fewer games. I'm the explorer type, I'll take my time. My oldest boy is the achiever; he's going to finish this as fast as possible. My youngest? He's a socializer…he'll come and go over months and hardly get anywhere in the game but woe to the person who deletes his save!

Sims 2 Castaway is due to release on the Wii. But honestly? I can't see myself spending an hour or two a day playing it from my couch. Nor can I see myself sitting at my desk doing the same. Yet it strikes me as something I'd visit each night in bed for a time, working to advance my mini-civilization. I could work towards a goal each night or visit a new region, taking my time in quiet privacy. This just may be the Sims title that makes me into a Sims player.

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About the Author, Kelly Heckman (A.K.A Ophelea)

I'm a mother of two boys, ages 11 and 13 and live in the chaos that ensues. I've a permanent disability that keeps me homebound, so books, kids, games and books are my constant companions. Oh, and books, too. *grins*

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.