As a whole, I have never really cared much for the Sims series, whether it is on the computer, home console or whatever. If I had to narrow it down to a single reason why, I would have to say that the micromanagement aspect of the Sims has just been too constantly needy for my taste. And yet, I still find myself coming back to play the latest and greatest version. I say "latest and greatest" because, slowly but surely, the Sims series has been improving over the years with each new game. In fact, the DS version of the Urbz: Sims in the City (review forthcoming) was really the first Sims game I truly enjoyed (to the point of actually recommending it to other people that is), even if it was almost a straight port of the Game Boy Advance version. However, with The Sims 2 for the DS, the game was designed specifically for the Nintendo DS, with the system's unique hardware and capabilities in mind. That said, you should know that there are some big changes to the Sims formula, though The Sims 2 still keeps many of the key elements that have made the series so popular over the years including all the humor, pop culture throwbacks and, of course, bugs that you have come to expect from the series.
Now, I'm not saying that the series is the only one famous for having glitches (read: Glitch Theft Auto), but most every Sims game I have played has had a variety of flaws, some minor and some major. The Sims 2 for the Nintendo DS continues that long-standing tradition, and it also brings it to new heights. In my opinion, nothing mars a game quite like freezing, which The Sims 2 does. EVERY. FIVE. MINUTES. Depending on how much you game, finding a game that freezes is usually quite rare. And, often times, the problem can be attributed to something other than the game and rarely experienced or mentioned again. Sadly, such is not the case with The Sims 2. I experienced this problem when I left rooms, changed music, tried to interact with people or items and when people tried to interact with me while I was interacting with items (like another character waving to me while I am, say, vacuuming). This happens so much so that half the time spent playing the game will actually be spent replaying things you have already done. I would say you could probably struggle through and salvage your game simply by saving often, but I have even had the game freeze during that! Not to mention the fact that there are no clear warning signs, no red herrings to tell you when your game might freeze, since almost everything you do seems to result in the game locking up. Of course, I can clearly understand why the developers didn't take the time to clear up the problem, since it would be the equivalent of installing a plasma TV into a coffin.
A lot of the problems with the gameplay of The Sims 2 really stems from the DS-styled controls, though it pains me to say it. Perhaps the biggest flaw out of all of it comes from the game forcing you to use the second screen, even when traditional controls would do just fine and, in some instances, better. This is another common problem with DS games. A few other comments you might see elsewhere are "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" and "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions," both of which the makers of The Sims 2 could have taken to heart. Furniture placement, for instance, was certainly intended to be improved with the convenience of the touch screen, but you will instead find your items flopping all over the screen like a fish out of water, trading places with other items and often times facing the wrong direction once you finally finish.
In another fine example of a good idea gone bad, the game has provided a new way to interact with the characters. While Urbz: Sims in the City had you chatting it up with your neighbors to improve your relationships, The Sims 2 has you performing the right action at the right time via a series of choices on the touch screen. Unfortunately, while it seemed hard at times to remember who liked what topics in the first DS Sims game, it is even harder to interpret the vague and very similar cues the other characters are giving you in The Sims 2. This is not made any easier by the ability of everyone else to stand in front of or in between the two of you and block everything. Failing to comfort, restrain, romance or whatever will cause your Sanity Meter to drop, though every other need has been condensed into one now, so it is easier to maintain and replenish. Making use of the game's internal clock, The Sims 2 now runs in real time, which is a really unfortunate and confusing change to the series. You now have more time to complete missions, usually an hour or so, though most can be completed within minutes, and it also takes hour for an addition to be added to your house but only a few seconds of sleep to be completely replenished. In the meantime, you will probably spend the rest of your uninterrupted time trying to keep your hotel clean. At first glance, it seems as if the developers were on to something, making chores into small mini-games of sorts, but they didn't follow through, so it all seems rather half-assed and rushed. Through it all, the only thing that shines through this smoldering wreckage is the story.
When The Sims 2 for the DS starts out, you find yourself stranded in Strangetown and running their one and only hotel. Calling your new home a one-horse town would be a bit of a stretch, since they don't even have that...though they do have a few cows. Aside from that, all they have is miles of desert (crawling with stranded, invasion-bent aliens and studded with lost furniture), a single store, a saloon, the Strangetown City Hall, a jail and, of course, the hotel you have found yourself the sudden proprietor of. It's the hotel where you will be spending most of your time - and considerably more time as you expand and improve upon it - since it is the flame that draws in the moths of Strangetown...the moths, of course, being your certifiably insane guests like Bigfoot, the Mummy, the subterranean Mole King and a great variety of gangsters, cultists and evil robots all looking to make Strangetown the staging point for their plans of world domination. Naturally, as the new hotel manager (and maybe something a little more, um, heroic...I think), it is your job to get rid of the assorted ruffians and take back your penthouse suite.
Despite the fact that you may not be able to play long enough to enjoy it, The Sims 2 actually has a really great presentation. Many of the characters are returning favorites from previous Sims games, and some are even classic iconography from the Sims series. All of it, however, is brought to new life on the Nintendo DS. The graphics are actually pretty decent, considering it is a full-on 3D game, especially the characters. The fact the town is so small really doesn't leave to much to comment on in the way of scenery, but your more likely to be looking for scenery inside of your hotel, since every new room has its own look and feel. The sound in The Sims 2 isn't half bad either. Each character has their own, distinct voice and you can tell exactly what kind of a mood they are in, even though they only speak the garbled language that is Similish. There is also a great variety of music in the game, which you can set to each room in your hotel to help compliment its feel or your own personality. And, if that isn't enough, you can also create your own music and ring tones (for the in-game cell phone, that is).
There is very limited replay value to this game, though I am not sure you would want to still play even if there were. But, if you do, every Sims character in the game has a story to tell, though you have to really build up you relationship before they will let you in on it. There is also some multiplayer action to be had, too! You can trade your handcrafted music and art with one another and even take part in a rousing hand of Keelhaulin', which is actually a very fun little card game, or Moogoo Monkey, though that can only be unlocked if you own a copy of The Sims 2 for the Game Boy Advance. Of course, even the multiplayer aspect of The Sims 2 is flawed, since you and a friend both have to have a copy of the game in order to play any of the card games, when DS download play would have been perfect for the two considering their simplicity.
It has been a long and arduous journey to bring the Sims series up to this point and it is a real shame to see a single game tear it all down again. There are a lot of really good ideas behind this game, but very few were actually brought to fruition...or perhaps the rest were just taken too far, since the core of this game is rotten. This game has a variety of flaws, which I have outlined above, but none of them can compare to the fact that this game trips over its own feet every few minutes. Despite it all, it is still worth mentioning that this game offers graphics, sound, even some mini-games and, above all, a great story, all of which the DS is in serious need of in a single package. Pity you won't be able to play long enough to enjoy them.
Posted: 2005-12-31 11:01:51PST