Hopefully you already read my article from last week previewing the next Expansion Pack, Bon Voyage. Well, while at the same EA event I was lucky enough to have some play time with the other upcoming games to grace the Simming world. Please put your hands together for the Castaway franchise!
Now, don't be confusing these games with Bon Voyage. There are some similarities but they are very different games. A vacation on a beach island is a little different to being stranded on one you know!
The Castaway franchise is a range of games to be released for a mix of consoles, just like Pets was around a year earlier. In this case we are looking at console games for the Wii and PS2, and handheld games for the Nintendo DS and the PSP. Castaway Stories joins the laptop friendly variation of the Sims 2 game to complete the line-up.
So the story goes... Your Sim was heading off on vacation but has ended up on a remote island having been shipwrecked. After the basic survival stuff has kicked in, you are going to want to explore, expand and ultimately escape, returning home to civilization. But the journey will be long, rewarding and exciting (if all goes to plan).
You are not alone on these islands however. You will be able to meet up with fellow crew members, also castaways on the islands. Once you meet them you can invite them to join you, thus giving you control of these crew members to be able to increase your productivity. As you build up your team (to a maximum of 6) you could instruct some Sims to build, some to hunt, others to forage etc.
Your Sim has the same 8 basic needs (motives) as the Sims 2 game, but they are not all unlocked at the start of the game. Having been washed up on the beach, the least of your concerns would be your hygiene, so it makes no sense for it to be there until you meet up with more Sims and start to build relations, as an example.
As your Sim settles down to island life he is going to want to develop the area around him. To make things like shelters and campfires, a Sim first needs to figure out the resources required. He can then go out into the jungle and gather those items before building. There is no "buy mode" here!
There's lots to do on the islands (yep, there are actually 3, with many different locations on each) including learning about an ancient civilization to unlock content, learning to fish, hunt and cook in new ways. Sims start out recognising things they may have experienced at home, like coconuts and long beans, but there are many things on the island that are new to him, and he's going to have to learn about them to put them to good use. The more food types a Sim collects, the more they can experiment with cooking, with the result varying greatly as the game progresses.
Crafting will be a major thing for castaways too, starting out with a makeshift craft bench, a team of Sims can eventually build impressive structures with a bit of team effort and experience. You will almost certainly come across Chimps too! Chimpanzees are natives of the jungle and can make for useful friends and can even be helpful around the island, but they can also cause your Sim some distress! These cheeky characters can steal your Sims meagre possessions like their homemade Sand Buddy's head (coconut shell and grass) and taunt them with it!
Ultimately, there are several ways your Sim can leave the islands and get back home, but they will always be able to come back. They might like their new surroundings more once they get home and realize "real life" wasn't as much fun as they remembered it, leaving some nice open ended gamplay ability for you once you complete the basic tasks of the game.
I have a confession to make. Until the time I picked up the Wii controllers to play Castaway, I had never actually used one before. But now I have that off my chest I'm pleased to announce that I am no longer a Wii virgin! Better still, I was "broken in" (??) playing The Sims 2 Castaway! I found the controls to be fun, but importantly, intuitive. It seemed obvious to me what I should be doing with the controls very quickly after getting into the game, which is good for us die hard mouse clickers. The PS2 took a little more getting used to, but if you are a regular player of controller based Sims game you'll get to grips with it in no time.
Gamplay on the Nintendo DS is predictably very different and allows for short bursts of pick up and play game time. It uses the features of the hardware very well (split screen, microphone and controls). I got quite into this game as I'm a fan of the exploration and mini games that this product is built around (although I felt a bit of an idiot trying to light a fire.. rubbing the stylus across the sticks on the screen while franticly blowing on the microphone to boost the flames (don't try this in a public place)).
The story is pretty similar, you are thrust onto a desert island and have the desire to stay alive, and get back home. This is achieved by exploring your surrounding and meeting some odd characters that you come across on your travels. You can strike deals with these people (such as the chef that fell off a luxury cruise ship who has an obsession with cheese) who will give you items to help you, like upgraded spears for catching bigger and more satisfying fish.
There are many different "mini games" to play, but they all have some relevance to the game and can be an absolute must for progression, but are sometimes just for fun. Splatting bugs can generate different dye's for example, which can be used on the painting easel to create your own colorful pictures which can be used to decorate your island, or to change the color of your clothes.
Most of your time is spent beachcombing and exploring though, looking for hidden items that you can use on the crafting bench to make things like axes, shovels, watering cans and other fun stuff. Plant your own fruits and vegetables and use these to trade with others, or gather parts of a treasure map.. there's lots to do and you certainly have plenty of time to do it!
Alas, the PSP version of the game was in no fit state for us to get our hands on it a couple of weeks ago but expect a mixture of the detail and graphical quality of the Wii/PS2 game with some of the more "pick up and play" accessibility of the DS version.
Image from the PSP Version
Last up for this franchise is Castaway Stories. Like 'Life Stories' and 'Pet Stories', this is a cut down version of The Sims 2 designed to be played on a laptop. It has mobile friendly features like running in window mode, hot keys and the ability to "pick up and play" for short bursts of game time, but very much unlike Sims 2, there is plenty of objective based and story driven gamplay to keep you moving. Open ended "classic mode" is always available too, if that's your thing.
Again, we didn't get our hands on Castaway Stories for our own game play time but we did see an impressive demo of the game running by game producers Bim M. and George P. Being a much later release, we were viewing a production version of the game, so content may change!
Being stranded on an island, many of the home comforts a Sim is used to will not be available in Castway Stories. Get used to washing in the ocean, peeing in the bushes and having to catch or hunt your own food, rather than using the refrigerator!
Castaway Sims become industrious and gather resources, build their own shelters and transportation (you wont be on the island for the entire story) and even make their own clothes.
Chopping through bamboo canes will open up new areas of the islands and therefor expand opportunities and adventures! New items will regularly wash up on the beaches to make your Sims lives a little more interesting.
Expect more info to spread out about Castaway Stories nearer to its release date.
The Wii, PS2, DS and PSP versions of Castaway are due in stores October 22nd.
Castaway Stories is due next year in February.
My thanks to the teams at EA for the opportunity and information. I hope you find this new information useful and/or informative :-)
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