The Sims: Bustin’ Out Xbox Review

There’s a bit of the voyeur in all of us, you only need to ask the couple across the road from my house for confirmation of this. I’ve tried to tell them I was just looking at the weather, but they wouldn’t have it. Now I’m landed with an injunction that pretty much forbids me from leaving my own house. If you want a safer way to indulge this ‘hobby’, how about a game that not only lets you watch what other people are doing, it lets you tell them what it is you will be watching.

The Sims, the biggest selling game in the history of gaming, must be doing something right. The PC version and subsequent expansion packs have sold countless millions across the world and the craze shows no signs of dying out with the approach of The Sims 2 on PC. It’s no surprise, then, that Maxis and EA wanted a slice of the console market. Their first release on the 3 major consoles was The Sims, which continued the trend by shooting to Number One in all of the video game charts.

For those few rainforest tribes’ people who have no idea what this game is about, here’s a quick rundown. You take control of your Sim, who is a little person that you can create in whatever likeness you wish. In the PC games, the idea is to live this Sim’s life for him/her, directing their friendships and work opportunities. For these console versions, things have got a little deeper. Now you have specific goals to complete with your Sim and you can actually finish the game by completing all the goals.

The beauty of The Sims is that it appears to appeal to all manner of gamers, even people who don’t usually play a lot of games. Indeed, my wife played the first console version through to completion several times, and she likes very few games and completes even less. With this new version, the developers have tried to increase and enhance every part of the package in a bid to repeat this success. I’ll try and explain whether they have succeeded in this. I might as well write a review, I can’t get near the TV as my better half is engrossed in a (so far) 4-hour session of this very game. Please bear in mind, then, that this review is written primarily on countless hours of watching this game be played!

Graphics

For the new version, the graphics have been tightened up considerably. They are very bright and colourful and portray the game world very well. Little details are easy to make out and the animation on the Sims themselves is now far more comprehensive. The variety of moves you can choose for your Sim is now quite staggering, with everything from sign language to a towel snap to choose from. There are many more little touches of detail now too. For instance, the transition from day to night is now a gradual one, with the sky slowly darkening. This is a nice change from the sudden change from day to night at 7.00pm in the previous version.

There are also far more items to choose from when building a home or buying goods for your existing home. These are all represented very well and have some great animation to them as well. Just try the hot springs spa that shoots your Sim 50 feet into the air before they land back in the water with a splash. The ‘item bar’, which dictates how much stuff you can buy for your home, remains in the game. I am a little disappointed at this. I can see why there must be a limit on the PS2 and GameCube due to memory limitations, but surely this could have been taken out of the Xbox version as the hard drive means there are no such memory problems here. Saying that, the amount of things you can buy has been increased significantly and I have yet to see the bar full on this version, which was a common sight in the original game.

All in all, the graphics are great and suit the game perfectly.

Gameplay

Gameplay wise, things remain pretty much the same from the last game. You still need to take charge of every part of your Sim’s life and make sure they are satisfied in one of seven areas. These are hunger, hygiene, energy, social, comfort, bladder, fun and room. These are pretty self-explanatory. If your hunger is low, eat. If your bladder is low, go to the toilet. If the room is low, tidy up the mess and so on. Alongside this, you must nurture your Sim’s friendships with others. If you ignore your fellow Sims, your friendship rating with them will go down so make sure you call them or invite them over for a drink and a swim. To further complicate matters, you must also help your Sim advance in his/her chosen career. This usually involves getting their skills built up in certain areas e.g. cooking, logic, and sending them off to work in a good mood. You are then far more likely to get that coveted promotion.

Promotions in careers form a central part of the many goals in the game. There are now 12 careers to choose from, including Gangster, Mad Scientist and Fashion Victim. In a nice touch, you can now switch between these careers without losing previous promotions. This becomes vital to complete all goals and also to unlock all hidden items, as some can only be gained through specific career paths.

By far the biggest addition in this game, as the title suggests, is your Sim’s newfound ability to leave the house and go to other areas. The 16 brand new locations are very imaginatively designed, from the nudist colony at Pixel Acres to the nightlife at Club Rubb. Moving between these locations will soon become second nature as each has specific goals that can only be accomplished whilst living at that property.

It’s a lot of fun making decisions about how your Sim interacts with other Sims and then watching the consequences of these actions. As stated earlier, there are now many more interaction options, which mean you can choose far more carefully how you want your relationship with a particular Sim to develop.

The controls in the game are very simple. The left thumbstick controls a cursor, which directs your Sim on what to do. For instance, put the cursor over a hi-fi, press A and you will have options to change the type of music, dance, or just turn the hi-fi off altogether. The B button cancels actions, X/Y change the active Sim and the right thumbstick rotates or zooms the screen. The triggers are used to either pause time or speed time up. Start will enter the pause menu, where you can build or buy, view your goals and save your game. You can save your game at any time.

Sound

The sound in the game is fantastically entertaining. Your Sims speak Simlish, which is basically rubbish, but is great to listen to. You can tell instantly whether they are happy or sad, angry or sympathetic. The music changes within the game to reflect the different radio stations or TV channels. Environmental sounds also add to the overall experience and are valuable in letting you know what is happening e.g. you can hear a light bulb break, or a smoke alarm go off if your Sim sets fire to the kitchen. It won’t test your Dolby Surround Sound, but it does the job well.

Lifespan

There’s plenty of value for your £40 here. The main game mode, Bust Out, is a lot bigger than the Get a Life mode of the previous version. It entails you living in 16 different locations and completing 12 different careers, as well as all the other goals in the game. Also present is the Free Play mode, which is just like the PC versions in that there are no goals, you just play for as long as you want. Theoretically, this mode is endless. A great addition too is the two player co-operative mode, which lets you and a friend play through the entire game together, completing all goals. One thing is for sure, you won’t feel short changed by the many hours of fun gameplay this title will give you.

Overall

The Sims has done it again, with an engrossing title that takes all that was good about the first game and builds on it comprehensively. The gameplay remains as addictive as ever and the game will last you a long while before you get bored. I can see it appealing to an equally wide spectrum of people as before and I have no doubt that this game will have a lengthy stay at the top of the charts in the next few weeks.

This is all very well for fans of the game who will lap this up and love every minute. What it doesn’t really do is take any risks with the series. It won’t convince non-fans to pick it up and it and it won’t win any awards for innovation. I personally suspect that Maxis are saving this for The Sims 2 on PC.

Now, can I get anywhere near that TV yet? Nope. Thank god for Gameboy Advance SP and two little fat Italian plumbers!

9 out of 10
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