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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Simulation
Min OS X: Not Supported    CPU: G3 @ 233 MHz    RAM: 64 MB    Hard Disk: 350 MB    8x CD-ROM    Graphics: 800x600 @ 16-bit


The Sims
October 2, 2000 | Michael Eilers
Pages:123Gallery


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Interface
All these myriad goals are accomplished with a smooth, elegant interface that is the obvious result of years of refinement from early Maxis titles until now. With a mostly mouse-driven interface, the controls are intuitive. The only flaws are in the building environment, when placing objects and rotating them into position seems very awkward, requiring you to use a combination of mouse clicks and modifier keys. Even a new computer user will be able to grasp the controls after going through the included tutorial level.

Aesthetics
Overall, the Sims is pretty nifty in the eye candy department. Although some might bemoan the lack of support for hardware acceleration, you must realize that the Sims was conceived and began development long before 3dfx became a household word. The animations and textures are crude, but serviceable, and often quite funny. The different objects you can add to the house are anti-aliased to prevent jaggies, and have a nice, polished look that is perhaps too clean. The weakest area visually are the outside graphics of grass and hedges.

Overall the pseudo-3D top/down look is useful and attractive. Those with a lust for interior design will quickly get bored with the dιcor choices, however, and few sets of objects 'harmonize' well enough to allow you to 'do' an entire house in a certain look without lots of repetition.

Audio
The Sims sounds as polished as it looks. While I found the background music cloying and repetitive, not all are as harsh critics as I. Sound effects and ambient sounds are spot-on, although things are a bit too quiet with the music turned off. The most unique and perhaps most maddening aspect of audio in the game is the 'speech' used by your characters. Maxis' solution to an obvious problem was brilliant, but still tends to drive one up a wall.

Basically Wright realized that if the Sims spoke actual English, their sayings would get repetitive really quickly; imagine how fast you would get tired of hearing your bachelor character say "Hey baby, what's your sign?" So they filled in the Sims vocal audio with a nonsense language invented by one of the voice actors, which basically sounds like someone with a kazoo up their nose reading something backwards. While the solution is elegant, it nevertheless drove me batty after awhile.

It's a Sims, Sims World
After two weeks playing this game and maintaining four of the five houses in the neighborhood, I am convinced that the Sims is perhaps one of the most innovative, enjoyable and flexible gaming experiences I have ever had, with a real opportunity for personal creativity not found in more rigid titles. I am also convinced that the game can be random, boring, repetitive and even pointless at times. That is its richness -- it is indeed exactly what you make of it. But after serious play it does become all too obvious that the forces of entropy and chaos are indeed balanced against you, and the game can deteriorate into a simple struggle for existence if you aren't diligent. And money just trickles in too slowly to allow those with a desire to build to really go nuts.

The number of times I thought to myself 'wow, this is truly amazing' were balanced out by the number of times I thought 'why the hell can't this idiot go to the bathroom on his own and brush his teeth before bed without a reminder.' That, coupled with the every-other-day trick, and the various other strategies I learned to employ just to keep my Sims sane, is enough to convince me that this game is most of the way there, but didn't quite become what it could have been.

What the game needs is different modes of play -- perhaps a 'fish tank' mode in which you don't interact with the people at all, just their environment, so budding architects and interior designers can try out their skills; or a 'god mode' in which the behavior of the Sims was controlled by punishment and reward. Wright tried to make the Sims as flexible as possible, but this results in the same trap that the Sim City titles fell into: after a certain amount of time, you always look around and ask, "Is this all there is? Where do I go now?" Sometimes having a concrete goal and closure is a good thing.

And ultimately, the game is involving, but it is also an ironic reminder of how much time is spent in front of a computer screen which could be spent reading a book, finding a better job or interacting with your friends and/or spouse. This is the only game I have ever played that made me want to go outside and take a walk, or drop in on a friend, or made me feel guilty for not talking to my wife often enough.

Another down note for this game has to do with its performance. While the game appears to be 3D, it is indeed an isometric (2D) title, and overall performance was less than inspiring. Scrolling around even small houses was surprisingly jerky on my G4/500 with 384 MB of RAM (128 given to The Sims.) Add six people and a mansion full of animated objects, and things really get nasty. Rotating your perspective from one view to another also resulted in a 2 to 5 second pause. You'll need a midrange G3 to enjoy this title, and as much RAM and drive space as you can spare for large houses and the full install of the game.

The other big bummer is a common source of complaint for Mac gamers -- the editing tools for this title did not make the jump with the game, and so we are shut out of a whole area of gaming experience that the PC users get to enjoy. These Maxis-made tools give you ability to build and import custom objects, skins and even entire houses. As of press time there are one or two tools available, but they don't have the power or flexibility of the PC tools.

The Sims is an amazing title, but it is also an acquired taste. If your idea of good gaming fun is a quick deathmatch or an all-out armor assault in some RTS, then this game is unlikely to thrill you. But if you are the kind of person who made your own dollhouse out of shoeboxes or had one of those hamster cages with the tubes the little critters can run through, this may indeed be the best game you've ever played.

Pros
• Flexible, unique gaming experience
• Crisp graphics and animation
• Excellent sound effects and voices
• An almost endless variety of unique Sims and their relationships
• Budding architects and interior designers can have a bonanza, provided your Sims earn lots of money
• Intuitive, clean interface and internal tools
• Good cop/bad cop? Why not be both?
• Make a version of your workplace and wreak havoc on your boss!

Cons
• Endless existence leads to ennui
• Lack of variety in dιcor choices
• Simply not enough hours in the day, forcing you to adopt strange strategies to get ahead
• Requires a surprising amount of system resources and hardware power
• Bland music
• With no clear way to 'win' or 'lose,' goal-oriented gamers may miss the point
• No Mac equivalent for powerful PC editing tools



The Sims
Publisher: Aspyr Media
Developer: Maxis
Mac Version: Westlake Interactive
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Buy The Sims now at MacGameStore.com


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