The Sims 2: Castaway review
Quite possibly the best installment of The Sims console games yet.
The Sims series is and always has been one of the most successful PC series of all time. The console spin-offs have never quite reached the popularity level of their PC/Mac origins, but many of them have been quite excellent, and The Sims 2 Castaway for Wii is definitely one of them.
The Sims 2 Castaway deviates from the usual Sims formula in such a way that it does follow a vaguely set-up storyline, but it still manages to keep that Sims charm by letting you decide entirely how you go about accomplishing that storyline, or whether you even want to (you could always just go off and do your own thing). The game is centered around a group of Sims that you create going on a luxury cruise, ending badly, and resulting in your crew of Sims being stranded on a deserted island chain. You must find your way around the islands, exploring, discovering and gathering various resources and food to thrive and survive and find your missing crew. It starts like most The Sims games, where you create a family, or in this case a crew of Sims you want to control in the game. The customization options are pretty bog-standard for the console series, and while there aren't many clothing/makeup options available at the start, the abundance of clothes available for you to craft and island-like face paints compensate for that later on in the game. Personality (no Aspirations in this installment) can be customized in the usual way for The Sims 2, a points system that works based on the different Zodiac signs. There is a new feature, though. Occupation. When you first create your Sims, you can choose the occupation they had in their old life, back on the mainland, which will in turn give your Sims bonus Skill points to start them off on the islands depending on what occupation you chose. For example, teachers get 3 starting skill points in Logic, and Musicians get 3 starting skill points in Creativity. You will have to build up your skills throughout the game to accomplish certain things and get to certain places, but the occupation you chose can help set you on your way. The maximum number of Sims that can be in a crew is six, and you won't meet any others, just some unhelpful chimps that you can befriend and almost enslave from time to time. You can also create Sand Buddies and Scarecrows to talk to, but if you're resorting to that, you either started out with only one Sim or your Sim has absolutely horrendous social skills.
When it comes to actually playing the game, after you've taken that plunge into the ocean and towards the mystical islands you will soon start to explore, you'll find everything a bit overwhelming at first, but it'll only take a short while to get used to everything and to realize how the game works. While sometimes frustrating, the interface is relatively simple and user-friendly, yet at the same time allows for the player to control, view, and play around with a huge variety of different factors. Living on a deserted island is by no means easy (not that anyone ever has or probably ever will say it is), and there are many factors that go into it. Can you balance motives and needs with quests and goals? More specifically, can you figure out how long it takes you to pee for maximum time-use efficiency whilst also figuring out where that last Treasure Map piece could possibly be hiding? If you can, that's great, but it'll take a while to get there if you can't. Sims are, like in all The Sims games, complex creatures with a variety of needs (expressed as "motives" in the games) that you're going to have to work hard to fulfill. You're going to have to figure out how to use your time the most efficiently, for example, using the toilet paper next to a radio to raise both the Bladder and Fun motives, and eating next to a warm fire to increase both the Hunger and Comfort motives. Some are more important than others, but the only one that can actually kill you is Hunger, and you'll have plenty of warning before you die of starvation. However, the motives aren't what makes this game special. The islands upon which you get shipwrecked after that awfully ill-fated cruise disaster are absolutely riddled with mysteries and puzzles for you to explore. And in this island chain, it really is a chain. One thing leads to another. For example, find all of the Hieroglyphic pieces and open the Ancient Door to unlock the Temple Interior, allowing you to repair the Ancient Forge, therefore bringing a possible fourth miniature island into existence which may hold the final Treasure Map piece... or not. I won't give away too much, in fact I've probably said too much already, but don't ever worry about not having anything to try to conquer and investigate. There's also the Statue Quest on the side. And don't forget collecting, gathering, hunting, and fishing! Your four island jobs. In order to keep everything in order, you'll really need to crack down on getting a hold of your food to feed you and your tribe and getting all the resources you'll need for your next crafting project to improve quality of life on the islands. And all the goals that have accumulated from those books you've been collecting. It's tough to keep up with a lot of the time, but you've got all the time in the world considering in this rendition, Sims don't age, so you're in no hurry to reach the shores of the final location.
There may be some features of the game that will be missed from other versions, such as aging and ghosts, but nothing takes away too much. Death is actually a pleasant surprise as it has been brutally pushed out of most console games to keep them family-friendly, but really, what would be the point of going to all that trouble if you couldn't die? There is, however, a way of bringing Sims back to life, but I won't say any more. Sims cannot have WooHoo or have children, but that's not going to be your aim in life on the island. Whether or not you choose to escape in one of the two ways or live there forever, no one ever said you were trying to start your own civilization. Chimps are a splendid new feature to this game and act as your funny little BFFs who don't judge you, bring you resources, and just want love and bananas. Lots of bananas.
No matter what anyone says, I simply have to dedicate a paragraph to detail. The Sims 2 Castaway manages to harbor probably hundreds of different kinds of food and resources to gather from trees, bushes, and patches, fish to catch, objects and shelters to craft, things to find and make, goals to accomplish, clothes to craft and wear, meals to concoct, actions to perform, social interactions to try out, and so many nice, scenic, fresh and purely detailed areas each packed full of interesting and unique stuff to explore. Trust me, this is a game where it is truly difficult to get bored.
There are many aspect of the game which are good, and not many which are bad, though I will say the game mainly suffers from a few glitches. Nothing major or noticeable really, though sometimes Sims get stuck on things or may be picky about where they're standing when you try to get them to do something, and sometimes the cursor may disappear from the screen, which can be a little frustrating at times, but nothing really worth putting emphasis on.
Now for controls. The game uses an almost equal balance of the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk, resulting in an interface that just feels natural and right. I like how the creators mixed the Classic and Direct control modes from previous Sims games by allowing you to always directly control where Sims go with the Nunchuk but also features an on-screen cursor for selecting the icons. Though the cursor can sometimes get laggy and be a bit frustrating and there are glitches, as mentioned earlier, where the cursor sometimes becomes invisible, it's mostly a nicely working control system.
For a Wii game, and for a Sims console game, the visuals really are quite stunning, not necessarily because of their quality, which can seem very 2D at times, but because of, once again, how purely detailed they are. Everything from the big old palm trees to the snowberry bushes to the watermelon patches have their own detail and honestly, nothing is missing. The scenery is absolutely beautiful with some great views, horizons, and effects sprinkled around such as leaves, vines, and many different textures.
The game comes with a pretty complete soundtrack, with catchy, island-themed tunes, that'll usually have you craving a marimba, a drink in a pineapple and a hula skirt, and the majority of the audio doesn't get annoying. The quality is clear and there are some great Simlish songs to be found playing on that Airplane Radio of yours.
The Sims 2 Castaway for Wii is possibly one of the best The Sims console game out to this date and will always be a great portal game from the hardcore gaming world to the beautiful simulation world. You can't do it without some creativity, but you'll also need a sense of organization and a want to always be doing something. For me, it's a great title, definitely worth a buy bringing a whole new attitude to try on with a touch of good ol' Sims.
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