The Sims 2
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-01-16 PSP Virtual Life T (Teen) EA / Maxis

I suppose my husband and I were on Santa's "nice" list, since we got a PSP for Christmas. Knowing I'm a huge Sims fan, my husband also rented me the PSP version of The Sims 2, which I was very curious to try.

Basically, this handheld version of The Sims 2 is a much simpler version of the PC game. There is no family tree, no DNA to be passed down through generations, no memories, no fears, and best of all, no aging.

You can create a Sim to your own image and then in-game you can answer a little quiz that will set your aspirations and sign (in other words, your "wants" and personality). The fears have been replaced with a sanity meter that you can fill up by completing goals (fulfilling your Sim's "wants"). If the sanity meter is fully depleted, you end up in the loony bin and pay a nice sum for your recovery. You could also end up dying, but you can always barter with the Grim Reaper and try to return to life.

Socializing is a lot different in the PSP version. Instead of just picking the commands to tell your sim what to do, social interaction are now mini-games of their own. Chatting, flirting and intimidating require you to match the chat balloon icons within a time limit. Sometimes the icons are different and you will have to match the theme of the conversation instead of the icon itself. For example, the Sim you are talking to says "makeup", and all you have in your options is a mannequin, a sumo wrestler and a sun. You have to pick the mannequin, since the topic is fashion.

A successful chat or flirt (filling the green meter) will give you a level either in friendship or love with that Sim.

You will notice sometimes that whatever gestures the Sims are doing while chatting won't match the intonation of their speech. Do enough of these interactions and you will eventually notice that the "simmish" talk repeats itself pretty quick.

The game plays a little like an RPG, since you are given quests to do. Find a ride to town, find a place to live, figure out a way to get rid of the ghosts in your house. Yes, ghosts. Seeing as the game takes place in Strangetown, don't be too surprised to find ghosts, aliens, zombies, weird scientists, werewolves, vampires, a cow-worshipping cult and robot-people.

Aside from the social mini-games, you have a few more to discover. One of the mini-games consists of discovering secrets. You can find secrets laying around people's houses or outside (in not so obvious places, of course) or you can talk to people to learn what they're hiding. Finding secrets is a great way to make money, since you can sell them to certain Sims, and some will pay especially well for a certain type of secrets. You can also exchange them with friends who own a PSP and The Sims 2, but that's pretty much the only multiplayer action available, so don't get too excited.

The whack-a-zombie is an especially fun game. It raises your body skill and even pays you in the end. All you do is stand in the middle of a circle composed of 5 graves and whack the zombies with a shovel as they appear. It's hilarious!

The Kine Society and the Nightowl Saloon have mini-games as well where you need to match the moves of the other participants by using the D-pad. One is a cow-worshipping ritual, the other is a hoedown, and both are very fun to play and watch.

The skill mini-games aren't as fun. In fact, they're not fun at all. All you do is mash a button repeatedly (or alternate between two buttons) as fast as you can to gain a skill level.

The major downfall of this title is the loading. Everything you do involves constant loading. Initiating a social mini-game, talking to someone, ending a conversation, entering or leaving a house, going to a different part of town, using the phone, opening the menu to check your needs, furnishing and decorating your house? Gameplay becomes tediously slow because of the disrupting loading. There isn't even a fast forward option to help speed up time.

Overall, The Sims 2 for the PSP looks great, sounds really good and offers quite a few interesting gameplay ideas, but it's the atrocious loading process that really takes away from what would have been an otherwise very enjoyable Sims on-the-go experience.