Written by  :  Rick Jones (111)
Written on  :  Feb 13, 2001
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars

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An innovative but ultimately unsatisfying game

The Good

The thing to like about "The Sims" is that it's completely unlike any other PC game ever made; in fact, it's not even really classifiable.

There's a tremendous amount of fun in building and furnishing a little house and moving your little people around the house, watching them interact and carry on with their lives. "The Sims" is really just a huge interactive dollhouse with a goofy sense of humor.

The Bad

Unfortunately, dollhouses get very dull after awhile. The Sims has three major problems one hopes will be worked out someday:

1. Many of the game's success factors and feedback systems are just completely arbitrary. For a Sim to advance in her/his career, they need to make a set amount of friends. There's no rhyme or reason to this, it's just something slapped on to make it harder to advance.

Other game idiosynchracies are similarly arbitrary and inexplicable. Days come and go and are all identical; there's no weekly routine, no difference between Sunday and Tuesday. Sims with jobs are expected to show up every day or not get paid. This might not seem like a big deal, but in a game where a Sim with a job has trouble finding time to do anything else, two days off in seven would be a huge help. There are no seasons. Sims never leave the house except to go to unseen workplaces. Some aspects of life are precisely detailed (e.g. going to the bathroom) while others are forgotten (e.g. wahsing your clothes.)

2. Much of the game is spent moving the Sims around doing the most rudimentary things, like peeing or showering. While this is fun for the first few hours, it gets tiresome. There's virtually NO higher-level planning at all; you don't get to decide to go to school or join a cult or go on a diet.

Indeed, when you've played the game for awhile, you start to realize that the game is just an efficiency puzzle. Since it can take a Sim ten or fifteen minutes just to stand up and half an hour to answer the phone, the game simply becomes a "How can I do eight different things with the minimum possible amount of walking?" exercise. Deviation from the most efficient pattern is unrewarded; when it can take an entire hour for your Sim to get off the couch, pick up a plate of food and sit down, you soon learn that impluse activities - the sort of thing real people do - just aren't in the cards.

3. Following 2, the truth is that the Sims themselves are boring as hell. A simple five-point personality trait vairable system has NO impact on gameplay. All Sims are the same, and they're basically robotic. They're remarkably shallow in many respects and demonstrate very little AI. You can increase a Sim's "fun" level by having the Sim do the same thing in and out, over and over again; it wasn't long before I realized that my Sims had absolutely no use for a stereo or a TV, since they could get fun playing with the computer. Sims don't react to one another very much, sometimes even bumping into each other helplessly.

In the end, in other words, it's really just a dollhouse.

The Bottom Line

Well, it's original.