On Friday August 12th 2005, I was invited along to EA in Redwood Shores to have some hands on time with the upcoming Sims 2 games for Consoles, Handhelds and Mobiles. I went along with a sense of wondering, given that TSR's focus is on custom content and file sharing, and that I'm a PC gamer at heart (not a big fan of console gaming), but I came away with mixed feelings and some of those were very positive!
Please note that the version of the games we were playing were 'Pre Alpha', meaning that final decisions have not yet been made regarding gameplay and content. Features which I talk about here may not make the cut into the final release of the game. Likewise, other changes might make this info contradict the final shipped version of the games.
There are already lots of previews scattered around the net, especially on the major gaming sites, written by professional journalists who would do a much better job that me, so I won't try to replicate it all. But I guess what I do have to say comes from a slightly different perspective.
The first thing that us existing PC players of Sims 2 notice with the console versions of the game are the distinct lack of custom content and sharing abilities. I played Bustin' Out on my PS2 and have to admit that I probably didn't play it more than 3 hours total before I lost interest. I just didn't warm to it.
But after Scott Amos plonked me in a chair and put a PS2 controller in my hand before scooting off to fetch coffee and cookies, I found myself being drawn into Sims 2 Console. I found it so much more welcoming to existing Sims players than the previous console Sims. I was also drawn into exploring all the possibilities of the game and lapping up all the humor that been added by the bucket load (seeing Death run in from the rain holding a rotting newspaper over his head to keep dry was a classic moment). There are many things about Sims 2 Console that PC Sims players have been crying out for and it was these that I was rushing off to find first.
Things like Enhanced Cooking were great. Being able to buy and harvest raw ingredients before inventing your own dish for Sims to create and serve (I cooked up a dish using Llama and felt I had personally betrayed Will Wright and all he stands for). Hopefully this will make it to a future Expansion Pack for PC (take note Tim).
The handheld games were quite a new experience for me, as I was (quite openly) a handheld virgin, having not had my sticky mits on either a GBA, DS or PSP before. I found these games to be quite different from The Sims 2 and saw them more as adventure games than open ended and expandable storytelling environments. Puzzles have to be solved and certain things have to be done in order to allow you to progress through the scripted storyline that defines the game. There is a Sims 2 feel to the games but they are clearly headed for a different genre.
My favorite of the handhelds was the PSP version, but I guess it was inevitable given the lush graphics and better game play allowed by its superior hardware. This is one version I will actually look forward to playing, especially if I can find another PSP player who I can share my Sims with!
Surprisingly for me, the newest version of the game which caught my attention the most was The Sims 2 Mobile, designed for Mobile (Cell) Phones. I personally don't play games on my phone and was wondering just what could be done with The Sims 2 to be able to play something created from a few lines of basic code to run on such basic hardware. I was surprised at the results.
OK, so we aren't talking anything like the power of Sims 2, I found it to be more like "retro gaming" for Simmers. It's like having a cut down version of Sims 1 in your hand, crossed with the multi user game play of The Sims Online! Designed for short, sharp bursts of play rather than digging in for a 3 hour long thumb workout, there is more than enough going on to keep you busy. You will be able to unlock rare items and then sell/trade them with your real life friends, or you can upload your progress to your Sims Exchange profile to show off to the world.
Given that The Sims 2 Mobile will work on around 180 existing handsets of varying power and quality, and that the retail price will be in the pocket money bracket for the game (around $8 to $10), I think this could be something that could take off as the latest mobile craze when it hits the networks in both the playground and the office. I know I'll be there!
If you own a console, handheld or mobile device you might like to start looking into these new avenues of pleasure to feed your Sims addiction, but expect an onslaught of new information and reviews to flood all kinds of media outlets on the buildup to their release anyway.
Although Custom Content will not really play any part, TSR will be there to support these games with a new section for Console, Handheld and Mobiles with strategy guides, tips, cheats and forums. Expect to see more from us soon.
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