Perhaps you didnít know, but The Sims has become the biggest selling franchise in video game history, which means youíre going to see a lot more titles in the future. And while the series first began on the PC, EA simply couldnít restrict its growth to other platforms (and why would they?) We soon started to see Sims games on the PS2, and now, theyíve moved on once again; this time to handhelds- The Sims 2: Castaway for the PSP is looking pretty damn good, and itís just around the corner, scheduled for an October 22 release. If you really need your ďsimulatedĒ fix on the go and you like the idea of this exotic location, than perhaps you should pay close attention. More information and details are hitting the ĎNet, and weíve gathered them all together to show you what to expect next month.
First of all, donít expect this installment to be the same olí same olí. In this new generation, more than a few traditional franchises are straying from their tried and true formula and venturing into new territory. Maxis is doing that with Castaway, because this one is significantly more adventure and exploration-oriented. This change of pace is just fine by us; after all, what good is a beautiful tropical location if we canít have some freedom to wander around a bit? Your group of Sim guys and gals set off on vacation, but they get stranded on a deserted island, and itíll be up to you to keep them alive. You have a lot of freedom in this respect, as you will instruct them to explore their new environment, gather valuable items, and ultimately cook food and erect shelter. Perhaps because itís only a handheld entry, EA has knocked the micromanagement down a notch, but youíll still have to keep an eye on each characterís general health and well-being.
Itís going to be the growth of your little island community that will eventually create that signature depth weíre so used to seeing from The Sims. At first, itís all about survival, which isnít all that complicated: you need to find a way to eat and sleep, which may prove challenging at the start. But once you get into a nice routine Ė youíve located a reliable fresh water spring, youíre bringing in an agreeable amount of food, etc. Ė the desire for other activities beyond survival comes to the forefront. In our estimation, this is a great way to ease novice gamers into the series. Letís face it, most PSP owners probably havenít played a Sims game and Maxis has clearly recognized that fact, so they embedded a mini-tutorial at the start of Castaway. The game allows you to get a handle on the basics, and by the time youíre comfortable, the gameplay ramps up and forces you to learn even more. You may not start out micromanaging your butt off, but when youíve successfully spawned a sizable little village on the island, itíll be time to pay closer attention to more variables.
We have more good news, too. There wonít be just one island to populate and conquer; there will be three different ones, each with 26 total lots Ė or areas Ė to explore, take over, and settle. Hereís where the strategy portion of the game comes into play, because certain locations will be better for certain things: not surprisingly, the jungle is the best place to search for food and other resources. On the other hand, perhaps the beachfront is ideal for your home(s), and several other locales (like at the base of a volcano) are both unique and picturesque. Yes, thatís right, a volcano. Obviously, survival in the wilderness, even if it is a gorgeous tropical island, can be a very trying experience. Youíll have to weather tropical storms, earthquakes, and perhaps even deadly lava flows...maybe itís not a good idea to build your base camp near that volcano, after all. But in the end, this proves that variety is the spice of life, even when all youíre trying to do is survive.
The last set of details will excite you even further- first of all, your characters will change over time. Their skin will change if out in the sun for a while, their facial hair will grow (even on women?!), and the quality of their clothing will degrade if you canít find a way to fashion some new duds. Secondly, the game utilizes an Xbox 360-like achievement system that rewards you for completing certain tasks. If you can accomplish some basic survival chores, you will receive cool new unlockables, like recipes and building plans for your budding civilization. In other words, youíll have more motivation than ever to succeed in your quest because you could put together a real snowball effect; the more you undertake and finish, the more opportunities you will have. Of course, you donít have to rely on those unlocked secrets, but it will certainly help you in the long run. Everything seems to come together in a very appealing package, because the developers have created a game that will ease you in and entertain you from start to finish.
The Sims 2: Castaway should be a very big title for the PSP, and if this sounds like your bag, donít miss your chance to pick it up come October. Remember, God of War: Chains of Olympus wonít arrive until March, so youíll need a few solid titles to pass the time until then. Depending on your game preferences, perhaps Castaway is just the ticket.
9/10/2007 Ben Dutka