OS X and Maxis (a wholly owned EA subsidiary), sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G? Not this time. No, this time, it will be your favourite Sim Citizens hanging out in a number of downtown locations, kissing, as it were. That's right; The Sims: Hot Date for Mac is in late beta status, and this lucky columnist had the opportunity to give the game a thorough going over.
Now, firstly, because of the fact that there were two different add-on packs for The Sims before this one, some of you not in the know will ask a question similar to this: "Josh, if I have Livin' Large or House Party, will I have to uninstall that in order to play this?" Of course not, comrade. If you have both, you already know that EA requires you to install the additions in the order in which they were released. If you have The Sims and/ or Livin' Large, but want to eventually get Hot Date and House Party, do yourself a favor and go out and buy House Party and/ or Livin' Large before Hot Date is released.
So, why is Hot Date so special? Is it the new purchasable things? Is it the new activities that your Sims can participate in? Is it all the cool new jazz and Muzakô they added? Oh, they're a part of it, but more importantly, as many of you cross-platformers already know, the real appeal is the ability to go into town.
Yup, those maniacs at EA have heard you asking such things as 'Where do my Sims go when they're not in the house or at work, when they want to have some fun?' and up and created a whole new series of places for your Sims to exist in together and shell out their Simoleans for personal use. Each neighborhood, the multiplication of which first seen in Livin' Large, has it's own downtown location, where you the player can send your Sim via the Sim Town's new on-demand Taxi service.
Downtown is composed of a total of ten lots, similar in most respects to the lots in the Neighborhoods. The difference lies in what you can and cannot place in the Town's land, and the fact that money is not a factor. Confusing? I assure you, it's only my explanation of the process, so let me break it down.
The opening 'hood screen appears as normal, with the houses built and families shown in mouseover, with the neighborhood number and movement icon displayed in the top, all as natural. However, sitting in between the bulldoze and quit buttons is a new icon that looks like it has tall buildings scrawled on it. Click on it, and you're sent downtown. The town is, like I said, mostly the same as the 'hood, but with several distinct differences.
First, each place must have two of a new item, the Phone Booth, which is necessary to hail a cab, the next best thing to a cellular phone. These can be located virtually anywhere not in the street.
Secondly, when building in a vacant lot or 'enhancing' the provided places of business, there is no cost for anything- in fact, the build and live modes for the town are completely separate from one another. Build a castle restaurant, build a small strip mall, it's all the same cost- zero.
Third, some of the items, like registers, magazine racks, and other such business-specific items, can only be placed in lots in the town. Similarly, some of those business-specific items come with NPCs (non-player characters for those casual gamers in the audience) that become visible only when the lot comes into live mode. These items include cash registers and food vendor (think: 'hot dog' carts) with their accompanying vendors, of course, but also the bar's 'non-alcoholic drink stations' with bartenders, and several items that can be used in the 'hood, such as the pianos that come with pianists, and the cooking appliances which come with chefs.