December 16, 2005 - It's all about control. Not only is it easier to exert control over your virtual life in The Sims 2 but the sad part is that your virtual life is probably a lot more exciting than your real life will ever be.
Unlike the freewheeling gameplay of the PC and console version, the PSP version is more structured due to the limited processing power of the handheld machine. The experience is different but it's still a Sims game. It's more linear as there is a storyline to follow. This is good new for those that may have been turned off by all the personal micromanagement. That load has been lighted and the gameplay is more streamlined without all the tedium of the console and PC version. I would even recommend this game if you've already played the other versions of it. Just be mindful of the interruptions caused by constant loading.
You will still have to look after your character and make sure his or her basic needs are tended to. The characters have to be happy but fortunately these guys are less manic and don't require a lot of babysitting. There are all kinds of hilarious situations and conversations to take parts in. There are homes to furnish, mysteries to solve and mini-games to play including killing zombies with a shovel. What? Zombies? Yes zombies, as while we're at it how about serial killers, aliens and wonton women. Deal with it.
During a drive through the desert, your character's car breaks down. After locating a service station everything fades away and you're left stranded in a weird town aptly named Strangetown. Any similarities to Sean Penn in U Turn are purely coincidental - or are they?
Upon your arrival you are given an opportunity to purchase a mansion with just the change in your pocket. You don't get to build your own houses but you can decorate them with PSP-specific accessories. Eventually you find that your home is haunted. Not only that but there is a secret military lab down the street that conducts experiments in alien intelligence. One of your neighbors appears to be murdering her husbands, and she's gone through a lot of them. As if that weren't enough the town is built on an ancient burial ground and the undead aren't too happy about it. Strangetown indeed.
The basic premise of The Sims 2 is to escape from Strangetown, but before you do you're going to have to experience life in this weird little burgh. First you're going to need to survive. To do this you're going to have to find some work. Eventually you will want to do more than survive, you'll want to thrive. So you'll outfit your crib with outlandish furnishings, socialize and get down with various members of the opposite sex. Of course this is a Sims game and you're not forced to do anything, however if you want to get the hell out of Strangetown, you're going to have to follow some kind of path to earn money and skill points to help you escape. But in the meantime, enjoy your stay.
"You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave."
Relationships with people are a little more shallow in this version but they are a lot more fun in that they're meant to be quirky and eccentric. Conversations can reveal various secrets about the town. You have to flirt with some people to pick up regular gossip but if you want some deep, dark secrets you'll have to intimidate people. The secrets can then be sold to nosey Sims that want such information. You risk making other Sims mad at you when you sell secrets so you better decide if it's worth the money.
You can intimidate people or make friends by having a full sanity meter. The saner you are the better you will do in the game. It will be easier to manipulate other Sims when you're sane but that requires that you complete various objectives and aspirations. This can be done through playing the various mini-games. A conversation game will help you earn more sanity. There's a symbol in the other character's thought bubble that you have to match with one at the bottom of the screen. It gets more difficult as you go but if you don't do it right you will forfeit some of your sanity. Likewise if you become scared of ghosts or zombies you'll lose some sanity.
Mini-games include hitting zombies over the head with shovel like a whack-a-mole game as they rise out of their graves. Another mini-games lets you gain some logic skill points by having your character have read a book. You'll have to button mash the circle button to keep up their reading interest.
The biggest problem with the game is the loading. It interrupt every aspect of the game every few moments. The game chugs, sputters, stalls and crawls as it continuously loads. During timed mini-games this can be especially frustrating as you will certainly lose some games at some point. It's a serious headache and one that almost makes the game unplayable.
RPG elements are a staple of The Sims that let you exercise freedom of choice. The inclusion of skill points lets you customize your character in a variety of ways including charisma, body and mind. If you want to make him or her totally loony, just run the sanity meter dry. You'll get lots of replay value experimenting with the different attributes, personalities and interactions. There is an online multi-player mode but it's nothing more than an exchange link where you can exchange secrets. You don't actually play with another human online so there's no replay value attributed to the misleading multi-player mode. Still, the mode is better than nothing and if you're not into hibernating with the game for the next few months this mode might prove invaluable as it can hasten your progress.
I can't get over the load times and freeze-ups. Even as good as the graphics are I would take a blue screen background if the damn game would just play for fifteen minutes without a hiccup. Virtually every move you make will cause you pain as you're forced to wait out another load. It's enough to make you not want to play the game or at least limit your moves so as to keep some flow going.
If you can deal with the constant interruptions there is a find game buried here. It's an overall streamlined and fast-paced version of The Sims series but it's not any less challenging. Similar to a summer in Canada, if it weren't for the bugs it would be paradise.
Features:Create, customize, and control different neighbourhoods Mind your Sim's Sanity Meter Connect with other players to trade secrets and play head-to-head mini-games 20 unique locations
By DaemiaCCC Staff Writer