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donderdag, maart 3, 2005 - 22:20

"More than anything else, The Sims 2 University adds a lot of bang for your buck."

Lees de review

The Sims 2 University

Is staying in school really as cool as all those after school specials tell us?

I loved The Sims 2. It was a much improved successor that inspired me to hours of gameplay and design. It allowed the creation of complex environments and the chance to watch simulated personalities interact with both it and each other. And as we all guessed, the avalanche of expansion packs dedicated to continuing the game's lifespan began to bury us soon afterwards. The difference between the expansion packs for the original The Sims and The Sims 2, if they continue in this vein, looks to be size and content. The Sims 2 University adds a lot of gameplay, cool new items, challenges, and experiences for players to mess around with. There are some definite differences between the core game and this expansion that some will appreciate and others won't depending on their style of play, but overall, this expansion holds plenty of new fun for anybody that owns the original.

For most players that become attached to sims that they've seen born and then grow up through the years, it's hard to see them die so soon. Now, sims that haven't moved past their teenage years have a way to extend their lives without the help of the Elixir of Life or cheats. The university years can extend the life of a sim for quite a while, especially if school is... well, not the priority most of the time. A semester of college (two semesters per school year) lasts around three sim days or so. So you figure six sim days per year. So twenty four sim days to get through college. But that's only if the sim manages to pass all of the years. They could easily fail one of them and have to take the semester over again, adding another three days. It's an easy way to build skills up over a long period of time if you alternate good and bad semesters without having to worry about aging as sims don't age while at university.

When a sim first moves to a university (either from creating a young adult or moving a teenager from a neighborhood) they'll have a couple of choices of residence if they've got the money from scholarships (one of the new gameplay additions that gives players a reward for keeping a teenage sim's grades high) but chances are, your sims will be moving into the dorms. This is both a blessing and a curse and an interesting new bit of gameplay. Dorms are homes to your sims, but also are home to NPC sims that fill up the empty room in the dorms that aren't occupied by player created sims. This means you'll have to contend with others for the bathroom, showers, and food (though this will rarely be an issue) but will more importantly give your sims a quick way to get to know several sims and make some friends. Other NPCs will feel free to drop by and say hi, giving you a plethora of people to meet and greet, which is great, as you'll want a large number of friends to choose from.

The Sims 2 University

The problem with the dorms is that it's pretty confining. I spent a lot of time in the dorms (mainly because I'm an idiot) and while there are a good amount of sims to hang out with, you can't make any adjustments to the dorms, aside from buying new furniture or items to decorate it. Build options are turned off here so if you do manage to make a little scratch, you'll be fairly limited in what you can do.

But that's where moving out comes in. There are even more options for moving out once you've had the fill of the dorms, which is nice. Using a computer will bring up the option that will allow a sim to move out on his or her own. Several types of houses will be available for sims to rent and adjust to their liking. On the other hand, sims can also choose to join either a fraternity or a sorority. Fortunately it doesn't matter whether you're a girl or a guy, so it'll be easy to move into whichever house has people that like you more. These houses are generally nicer and full of nicer things. But on top of that, these houses can be built and expanded upon, which, over time, can make them into some pretty nice houses in their own right. If there are seven or eight guys living in a fraternity house with constant turnover and grants for passing a semester rolling in, a lot of improvements can be made and soon your fraternity house will be a palace that every sim wants to be a part of.

The only catch is that you do have to be accepted. It doesn't seem very difficult, and from a logistics standpoint, it isn't. But if one of the brothers or sisters of the house has it out for whichever sim is trying to get in, things can be near impossible. In order to be accepted into the house, the pledge has to get the daily relationship number up to a certain number for each existing member of the house. Once the relationships have been raised enough, that sim will be initiated and can then move into that house.

This type of challenge is just one of the many that has been introduced into the university setting. They provide more of a direct goal than most players of The Sims will be used to and in most cases is much appreciated. It's a simple goal, but it's something noticeable to strive for. It's different than the parent title which had much looser goals. Completing or not completing university goals have a direct and near immediate impact on play.

For example, young adults will all have four years of school to move through. In order to pass through each year, sims will have to meet certain skill requirements and grow their education rating up past a certain point to pass. While sims don't actively seek to increase their skills in all areas, they will go to school on their own if they're in a good enough mood. You'll have to help out by telling them to train in cooking or mechanics, but other skills such as creativity are much easier to come by, especially with the new less expensive music equipment (more on that in a minute). Overall, I like the addition. Once you get past the need to have your sims get straight A's, you'll have more fun letting them interact and build themselves up while going to school for two hours a day. It gives you something to strive towards while focusing mostly on the relationships and interactions of the various sims.

The problem with these types of gameplay additions is that it can leave you feeling very flustered. It's certainly a step back into micromanaging your sims. The core game really allows you to relax and watch the food fly, but here, if you want your sims to do well, have a good time (and therefore help you have a good time), you'll need to take a very active role in moving them from here to there, making them interact with other sims, and so on. Because you're constantly under time limits, there's a lot of clicking that can suddenly feel a bit monotonous because you're concentrating on one sim instead of the whole picture, which is usually very interesting. I definitely recommend bringing multiple sims into the dorms to add a bit of life and fun, but even that can be a bit intimidating. It's certainly easier to bring sims that have had the chance to gain some skill points in life so that you don't have to constantly worry about failing as well as having a foundation of friendships and relationships already built. It's much more challenging to build a college student from scratch.

The Sims 2 University

Building relationships mean a lot thanks to another new addition called influence. This is a lifesaver when it comes to surviving school. Influence is a bargaining chip that comes along with completing aspirations. How much influence you have is directly related to how many friends you have. So Jimmy Jr., by the end of his college life had a lot of influence because he had a lot of friends. And seeing that Jimmy was more into playing guitar and freestyling than he was studying, it was easy for him to use some of this influence to have another sim do his homework and write his term-papers. These are powerful tools that allow your sim to maximize his or her social life. There's a huge list of influence actions that sims will do and the best part is, they'll do it regardless of whether they want to or not (at least that I could tell). So if you want to see what would happen if Sally went up and kissed Bobby while his girlfriend Betty is in the room, go for it! It allows even more opportunity to see funny situations created while giving players even more incentive to reach to complete those aspiration goals.

One of the nice improvements concerning aspirations is the chance for sims to change their aspirations halfway through school. If things are turning a certain way and a sim's personality seems to fit a different aspiration a bit more, it can be changed once. But once it's changed, there's no going back. It's a nice representation of the massive changes that go on to a person in college (such as my turn towards video games....wait a minute) and the life altering choices that are made.

Aside from that, watching things happen is just plain fun. Those that played The Sims 2 will already know the quality of animation that goes into every action a sim takes in the game, and University just adds more and more. New objects are interacted with (such as the bubble blower, juice barrel (keg), and new instruments) and new actions can be taken such as kicky sack and various pranks. All of them are stuffed full of personality! These guys doing the animations are very talented dudes that need a pat on the back. They're human movements caricaturized.

When a sim finally makes his or her way all the way through school and manages to graduate, they'll be blessed in a few ways that will help them out in life in a large fashion. Firstly, they can take a bit of time to build relationships and skills before leaving for town (72 sim hours to be precise). Upon arriving back at town, they'll have the addition of a large group of friends that can be kept in touch with, a much larger set of skills than the average adult (especially larger if the student was raising skills from birth and not newly created at a university), and the chance to raise up in their job much faster than a regular sim. Four new job types will also be available to sims that graduate from school. Perhaps the best part of these new jobs are the terrific new career rewards that really have to be played with to appreciate. Man eating cow plants, plastic surgery kits, resurrectanomitrons to bring sims back from the dead, and a camera that can take posed pictures of your sims. Each has very cool effects to go with.

The Sims 2 University

Closing Comments
This is definitely a good expansion pack. There are a lot of really great additions to the core game. What's especially nice is that many of these translate pretty directly into the regular game. New elements like influence, the many new items, new jobs, and actions settle on top of an already stacked deck.

The game isn't without its problems. I've encountered a couple of graphical glitches as well as a bug that somehow caused a character to get stuck and never move again (she's been sitting in the front lawn for days). While these aren't game breaking bugs, they're certainly strange and a little bit unnerving.

More than anything else, The Sims 2 University adds a lot of bang for your buck. It isn't exactly an accurate representation of college, which isn't surprising considering what goes on there and the ESRB of the game, but it is charming reminder of some of the idiocies of life at that age, even if it does leave out the gruesome details of vomit, arrests, and elephant chains.

The Sims 2 core game was better, but this is pretty darn good and should add plenty of things that any Sims 2 owner will love, even if they stay away from the complete university experience.



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