The Sims games must surely be in the record books for the most number of expansions ever. As The Sims 2 has aged, it has witnessed bigger content boosts that have added pets, businesses and holidays and a myriad of minor add-ons that provide the player with some new accessories for the kitchen or Ikea-themed furniture.
The latest spoke in EA’s big Sims wheel falls into the major expansion category, bolting on a whole alternative lifestyle choice: living in an apartment. In theory, this entails a whole raft of tweaks to the social side of The Sims 2, but when you scrape beneath the veneer of the apartment windows, it’s clear that the changes introduced are rather more subtle than you might expect.
Apartment Life contains one new neighbourhood called Belladonna Cove, a rather trendy looking place with some blocks of flats scattered around alongside the usual house plots. Moving into an apartment means you pay rent rather than having to outlay a large sum of money on a home, so it isn’t a bad option for hard-up characters who can then save for that mansion.
So what happens in an apartment? Well, you can take on a computer controlled room-mate to help pay the rent, making sure to pick someone with a temperament compatible with that of your character, otherwise sparks will fly. The fact that the CPU runs this room-mate cuts down on micromanagement, which could be a boon for the more casual Simmer.
Socialising with the neighbours becomes more feasible, as you can nip directly round to their apartments or perhaps meet them in the communal area. Sims now have a reputation meter and the further you can boost this, the easier it is to get on in life. If their glowing reputation precedes them, strangers will be much more favourably disposed upon initially meeting them.
This freshens the game up somewhat, but none of it made quite as much difference as we had anticipated. Living in close proximity to your neighbours might mean that you have to bang on the walls occasionally when they’re playing music too loudly, but really apartment life is only superficially different to the normal scheme of things.
Naturally there are plenty of minor tweaks including the obligatory new outfits and furniture, some additional greeting animations (high five anyone?), plus some new places to hang out, like the coffee shop (did Friends inspire the developer by any chance)?
The only other major change is the introduction of witches. Yes, if you’re bored with vampires now’s your chance to put on a pointy hat, fly on a broomstick and hang around in the woods with your sisters prophesising doom to any passers-by.
Witches have a secret castle area that can be visited and many spells to learn which are suitably friendly or malevolent, depending upon whether you’re a light or dark witch. A bit of black magic’s always fun, and there’s nothing like punishing your pesky room-mate for leaving his dinner plate on the floor by sending forth a plague of stinging bees to chastise him. It’s easy to see how God got carried away with the locusts and all that.