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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Simulation
Min OS X: 10.3    CPU: G4 @ 1200 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    DVD-ROM    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

The Sims 2
July 8, 2005 | Michael Phillips

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Some say that the ultimate fun is supreme control: control over a dog and its ability to fetch beer from the refrigerator, or maybe control over an opponent in a game of chess. Some like the thrill of piloting a jet and soaring through the clouds at Mach 3. If Shakespeare has taught us anything it's that the purest and most gratifying form of control is that which we exert over our fellow beings, through both words and deeds. With a few well-placed lies and a murder or five, Lord MacBeth became King, albeit briefly. Romeo and Juliet taught us the power of angst-filled wooing and the lengths to which such words can drive a pair of star-crossed lovers. However, most people aren't really keen on engaging in the enterprises of lying and murder just to see what happens. Heck, some people are afraid to say hi to the hot girl who doles out precious caffeine at their local Starbucks. Some people want to own a four story house and work as a mad scientist, but maybe lack the time and means to do so. Yet what if there were a game that could allow one to manipulate the lives of digital people, thus experiencing the highs, lows, and otherwise bizarre aspects of real life, without all the pesky real life side effects?

As it turns out, there is such a game! Thanks to the folks at Aspyr Media, The Sims 2 (TS2) has made its way to Mac OS X. The Sims 2 is the sequel to The Sims, a game that broke all sales records and spawned an extensive seven expansion packs. Quite often a sequel fails to capture the greatness of its predecessor. It's difficult to evoke the magic of the original game, while making enough changes to keep things interesting. It's possible, but it is indeed a tricksy endeavor. So how does The Sims 2 live up to the game which was an industry leading bestseller? The best way to find out is to read on as I detail this hotly anticipated sequel.

Gameplay: What's in a Sim?
Okay, anybody who absolutely loved The Sims can probably stop reading right now and slam down $44.99 for their copy of The Sims 2. Conversely, those who ardently hated The Sims and found its core gameplay to be the utter height of tedium probably won't want shell out their hard earned dough on The Sims 2. Lastly, folks who never played The Sims, or only sort of enjoyed it should continue reading.

In The Sims 2, players act as an omnipotent force, helping to guide their Sims toward bliss or ruin (Sims, of course, being digital people). Unlike most sim games, such as SimCity, in which players have only indirect influence over their sim citizens, TS2 offers players absolute and direct control over their Sims. Of course, when left to their own devices, Sims are capable of meeting their own basic needs. A Sim won't starve to death if the player doesn't specifically tell them to eat, but instead will seek out food from the trusty fridge. However, one could certainly issue various tasks, thus preventing their Sim from getting food. Sims will follow just about any command, even to their own peril. The Sims 2 boasts the intuitive point-and-click interface introduced in the original Sims title. Basically, the player clicks on an object and is presented with a radial menu featuring the ways in which their selected Sim can interact with said object. Ergo, clicking on a stereo will give Sims the option to, say, dance or work out to the music. The same is true for interaction between Sims, but usually with more choices. For example, telling a Sim to kiss another Sim will branch out into a choice of kisses, like Romantic or Smooch.

Sims have basic needs, such as Hunger and Fun. If those needs aren't met, the Sim's mood and even health will suffer, therefore players must strive to keep their Sims pleased. Unlike in the original Sims game, Sims in TS2 eventually grow old and die. A happy Sim will live longer than his unhappy counterparts. Sims who lack fulfilling social interactions with their friends and relatives can even develop complexes and mental illness. Just for kicks, I decided to deprive my Sim of all social contact until, eventually, he sat on the floor, babbling and giggling to himself. It's the classic "let's pour salt on a slug just to see what happens" kind of fun. This game is so full of unexpected twists that one could easily play for hours on end without even noticing it.

Now, we'll cover a Sim's beginnings. The Sims 2 features three built-in neighborhoods, each populated with established Sim households, as well as a plethora of vacant homes just waiting for new tenants. Each neighborhood also has its own back-story. For instance, Strangetown is home to mad scientists and aliens who have found love and professions right here on Earth. That's right, TS2 plays host to aliens. Once a neighborhood is selected, the player can either jump right in with one of the existing Sim families, or choose to create their own. For example, in the town of Veronaville there resides two large families, the Caps and the Montys. Like their Shakespearian counterparts, these two families ardently mislike one another, save for two members of the younger generation, who are hopelessly in love. Thus players already begin with Sims that possess established relationships, careers, and bitter rivalries.


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