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Game Over Online ~ The Sims: Vacation

GameOver Game Reviews - The Sims: Vacation (c) Electronic Arts, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher The Sims: Vacation (c) Electronic Arts
System Requirements Windows, Pentium II 300MHz, 64MB RAM, 600MB HDD, 4X CD-ROM, A copy of The Sims
Overall Rating 81%
Date Published Thursday, May 23rd, 2002 at 12:37 PM


Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Shortly after the release of The Sims, people began to take whatever empty house lots were available and transformed them into gigantic pool areas or wooded enclaves. This really represented a latent intent by fans of The Sims to incorporate extra-home locales. The Hot Date expansion pack took your Sims to an urban setting known as 'Downtown' and now, with the Vacation expansion pack, you can take your Sims to vacation resorts on snowy slopes, in a wooded forest and of course, warm sandy beaches. Vacation marks the fourth expansion pack to The Sims, which by now, is over two years old; almost an eternity in terms of PC games.

In spite of its age, the artistic whizzes at Maxis and EA continue to dazzle with new ideas using the original The Sims engine. You have over one hundred new items to buy and consume, as well as newly costumed characters including some camp counsellor types, as well as a yeti and a beach shark. Some like the yeti are merely dressed up versions of the original Sims models but the introduction of them is still interesting nonetheless. Like Hot Date, items available at your vacation spot can also be taken home and transplanted in your own backyard. And should you not like the vacation spot altogether, you have free reign in changing the original layouts to whatever you desire.

Vacation really represents a fait accompli between the first two expansion packs and the watershed Hot Date expansion. You get an extra area as well as extra amenities to dress up your existing homes. Gameplay in Hot Date was clearly geared more towards the adult. You tried to court a long lasting relationship or score with a cheap floozy there. Those activities left very little room for your children characters and obviously, the developers have taken this to heart as Vacation offers a plethora of child-friendly activities, as well as some adult ones too. It is, on the whole, more of an expansion pack that you'd like to take a bunch of friends (i.e. not girlfriends or boyfriends) along to or a whole family. Generally speaking, Vacation is more inclusive to all Sims in this expansion pack, which represents evolution in the game's pedigree. Vacation manages to get a lot of things right within the confines of the whole corpus.

Each vacation trip starts off with a quick phone call to (what is never described but is assumed) the travel agent who arranges you to be picked up, just like a Hot Date's taxi cab, to the island resort. One of the problems with the original The Sims was the lack of time when juggling careers and social circles. We all know how tough that is in real life so Maxis lifted the realism drapes a little bit with House Party, letting you create relationships with a lot more people than before. Then Hot Date suspended time while you began your Sim characters' next love story. Vacation works on the same principle in that time is frozen completely while you're at leisure. Curiously, your relationships with existing Sims that you left behind will deteriorate as time goes on. Time will advance because while you won't lose your job for being on vacation, you can actually sleep on the vacation island itself and pass your days in sunny bliss until you go broke. You're allowed to bring one Sim along with a non-family Sim. This lets the one Sim cater to the non-family Sim's every whim, making it a lot like an extension of the Hot Date principle. Otherwise, you'll be vacationing with the whole family and if you have a large one, that can be quite a chore sometimes, although with so many things to do, you'll never really run out of ideas.

Another anomaly that managed to surface was the fact that the snowy resort had snowboarding and almost everything you could ever dream of doing in the snow but no skiing. If you look at it outside of the social context, there's very little in the way of a goal in the Vacation expansion pack. True, you get to collect souvenirs by hunting for them or winning prizes by playing the various mini-games involved. But outside of fostering relationships with other people, there isn't very much in the way of an absolute, clearly defined goal you can aspire to. You're not going to suddenly turn into Dr. Moreau on this island. But then I began to ask the question whether this is what the developers even had in mind? And in the final analysis, it probably isn't. Vacation embodies the fluid and freestyle principles of the original game. There isn't a goal, just like there isn't a goal in some of the most enjoyable real life vacations.

Adding to The Sims, Vacation brings a number of new things, in terms of quantity. You get more Simlish lines, some new soundtracks and more characters you can interact with. Of course, you also get the requisite new objects to buy, own, trade and embellish. This is capitalism, par excellence. If you've already owned most or all the previous expansion packs, you're not going to skip out on this one. If you were holding out on Hot Date, you might want to pick this one up since it is about on par with Hot Date but does not represent another watershed piece, as Hot Date did, for the corpus as a whole. Some things are still poignantly missing in Vacation and indeed, in The Sims as a whole. The graphic engine is dated; though still probably the best at portraying domestic situations. Maxis has this game genre conquered so unilaterally, I can't imagine it will ever get challenged as the 'Tycoon' genre has experienced in the last few years. With that said, the scrolling is still choppy on slower machines and not necessarily swifter on quicker ones either. Even while Maxis is tinkering the balance between realism and fantasy, we are under the impression there is a closed-box, laboratory rat feeling with The Sims. Despite Maxis' efforts to increase the geographical locales and flesh out the universe, the characters still seem too confined. In Vacation, for example, many of the people don't sleep for some reason and this idiosyncrasy pricks the realism bubble we've come to take The Sims for. Weather effects are still non-existent. Tracking your Sims at work, one of the most requested features, is still absent. Why do we want this-especially if you work at a cubicle or in an assembly line? Probably because The Sims continues to be so good in depicting the comedies of real life; like a Friends episode, devoid of any network television censorship, which never ends.

In the end though, critics of the series will persist to savagely assault Vacation for introducing nothing solidly new. It has been two years, like I mentioned before. While there's no new technical advancement and no significantly new discoveries with The Sims, the social aspect of this game remains, de facto, at the top of all gaming genres. I'm tempted to paraphrase one of my literary mentors. He said, in regards to the study of English literature, what does x-2/lim f(x) * cos0, really signify about real life? We've already ascertained conditions at a few seconds after the primordial birth of the universe. Along the same lines, what do faster frame rates or lifelike images of people as shown in the Final Fantasy film really say about games? It doesn't say much and reinforces the idea that the social motives, interactions, idiosyncrasies, chemistry and personalities of people themselves will timelessly remain a realm, always universally interesting, to people and gamers for the foreseeable future.

 

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Rating
81%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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