‘Sims 2’ improves on an addicting original

Derek Lanphier, University of Houston

(U-WIRE) HOUSTON – Sick of your own life? Too boring, too hectic? Not enough pizzazz? Well, you can always live vicariously through autonomous computer people in “The Sims 2.” The sequel to “The Sims,” which holds the sales record for computer games, “The Sims 2” is everything the original was and then some.

Of course the game’s developer, Maxis, didn’t touch the winning formula of creating a computerized family; it merely added to it. Players choose who is living in their house, choose spouses, siblings, roommates and such, then live the computer-animated characters’ lives. The game play is virtually the same as the original, but with new additions – not like pets or vacations, as those were covered in expansion packs – but in-depth elements that make the game more involved.

Memories, genetics, aging, aspirations, fears – all are now part of your Sims’ lives. Memories are generated through significant events like marriage or having a baby. The Sims’ children look like the parents as they grow older. Age and death can affect your Sims, complete with the grim reaper, and personality and physical traits can be transferred to offspring through the genetics system.

The memory system controls many parts of the Sims. If the character has a big fight with his or her neighbor, the two Sims might never talk again, or go at it all the time. A Sim might date another, and if things don’t work out and they meet up later, things get a little awkward. Also, because of the memory feature, family ties are remembered and after playing the game for so long, gamers could have a rather large family tree.

The genetics system is pretty advanced. Players might find themselves playing God a little more than they should. If a child comes out ugly, the game allows alteration in order to produce a more appealing offspring. The best part is the ability to create aliens from outer space and have them breed with your human Sims.

The aspirations and fears system takes care of the biggest complaint of the original: The first game was so open-ended there were no clearly defined goals. Now the overall objective of the game is to keep a healthy Sim while keeping their aspiration meter high and their fear meter low, (unless you’re sadistic, and then it’s the opposite.) This is done in different ways, depending on a Sim’s personality. Some Sims’ meters will go up when they are the life of the party; another’s might be triggered when they meet the love of their life, while still another would be satisfied getting that big job promotion.

The sequel looks good, too. Everything is 3-D and not sprite-based. The artificial intelligence has been improved dramatically. Players can create Sims with completely conflicting personalities, not intervene in their lives at all, and watch all hell break lose.

The only real complaint about the game is that it leaves players wanting for variety, but this is probably intentional so EA Games and Maxis can flood the market with expansions as they did with the original. And despite the deeper game play, it is essentially the same game as the original with a new coat of paint. But the game is still incredibly addictive and might keep players from being just as active in their own lives.