Well it had to happen eventually. We’ve had Sim City (three instalments thereof, in fact), and everything from Sim Copter to Sim Ant. The gamut has been well and truly run. There was only one thing left to do, aside from Sim Software Developer, and that was probably a little too close to the bone. So here it is – Sim Real Life. Or as EA has called it, The Sims.
If you like soap operas, then you’re going to love this, because that’s pretty much what it is – your own interactive Neighbours. To begin the game you pick a family, either a pre-generated one, or one you make up yourself. Whether you want to start with the full family unit including two point four kids, or just a bachelor on his ‘Jack Jones’, that’s up to you. Generating your own family has the advantage of being able to personalise them by distributing their ‘character points’, which can be put in different areas. Is your guy going to be a neat, career-minded achiever, or a likeable dole slob?
Once that has been decided, a modest house can be picked to move into, as you don’t have much money to begin with. Then the game is afoot, you have to get your character a job, and start monitoring his progress through daily life. Various menus allow adjustments to be made to the environment, and can be used to monitor the happiness of your Sim(s). Money can be used to buy furniture, electrical goods and the like, and even extensions to the house or garden. All this goes towards making your virtual people more happy.
It’s pretty involving really. Once you get going, keeping everybody sweet isn’t an easy task. You’ll want your family to be popular and make friends (neighbours will call and come over), and you can even throw parties. All the while (hopefully) your career is a booming success, bringing the money in and allowing you to develop your dream house. Throw in the unexpected – burglars, house fires, getting the sack because you couldn’t get your bloke out of bed in the morning after a long night of Tequila slammers… and you really do have a slice of virtual life.
Graphically, The Sims is pretty polished, and building up your beautiful mansion full of beautiful people is quite rewarding in that respect. One downside is the scrolling, which on a PII 450 was somewhat jerky, and the animation doesn’t quite match the quality of the visuals. Some excellent sound effects do go to make up for these niggles somewhat.
If you’ve read this review without thinking ‘Get a Life!’, and are instead intrigued by the prospect of managing your own virtual family, then The Sims is a must-buy. It does what it does very well.