Review: The Sims Bustin' Out

Before actually playing The Sims, it made me wonder why I play videogames. I wasn't questioning my hobby because of the prospect of having to play a disastrous game (which The Sims Bustin' Out is not), but it made me think about gaming in a more philosophical way. I figured that the reason I put so much time in games is because of the simple fact that they're fun, but also because they appeal to the imagination, like books or film. If escaping reality and experiencing things that are otherwise impossible are part of the answer, a game about everyday life seemed like a stupid idea. Sales figures and half a dozen add-ons proved me wrong, but still…

Person Tycoon?:

As the name suggests, The Sims is a simulation game like SimCity or Transport Tycoon, except it's on a micro-scale: instead of managing a city or a railroad company you manage the life of a person. You first get to create your Sim. Apart from choosing gender and some physical characteristics, there is a large selection of clothing and accessories. Facial details can't be modified as much as in Top Spin, but it doesn't matter much, as the camera can't zoom in very close while playing, so it wouldn't be visible anyway. After you've sculpted a Sim in your image, or anybody's image, or made him look like Super Mario (which is rather difficult), you can start a life.

Which is at the house of your mother, who keeps nagging that you should get a job. She's got a number of tasks for you to complete before you can move to another place, but I'll get to those in a while. First, you have to learn to keep your Sim alive. This means you have to do all the things you do in normal life, like eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom. A simple button press reveals eight indicators that show your needs. You have to prevent the meters from running empty, meaning you have to send your Sim to the bathroom, make it call for a pizza or let it have a bath.

Are you done in there?:

Keeping all indicators filled doesn't require great skill, but it also doesn't require great understanding of managing. You just have to perform these tasks to prevent your Sim from dieing while you try to complete the games real objectives. That makes them quite annoying, especially as most of them aren't any fun, not even things that are supposed to be amusing, such as watching TV or reading a book. In real life, eating is nice, sitting on the couch is relaxing even visiting the bathroom gives a sense of relief, but in the Sim world, you get no fun out of it at all. You just send Mr. Sim to the toilet or the kitchen and wait. In addition to this, the Sims are exasperatingly slow. A bathroom visit can take up to thirty minutes (simtime, but still), taking a bath easily twice as long.

So what do you think of the A-bomb, honey?:

One of the best parts of The Sims is socializing with other characters. It's a pity they can't speak English and utter some Banjo-Kazooie style sounds instead, but their gestures – some of which are quite funny – help interpreting their moods. You can't determine the subject of the conversation, but you can tell your Sim how to behave, like talking gossip or telling a joke. Symbols in a text balloon indicate what the Sims are talking about. At those times I regret The Sims doesn't allow you to select your reply yourself, for instance letting you choose from a couple of possible answers akin traditional adventure games like Monkey Island. When a beautiful lady in an evening gown came to his door, my Sim started to talk about nuclear physics; not exactly the subject that I would have chosen.

Once you accept the fact that this game is mostly about what your Sim wants, and not what you'd like to do, The Sims Bustin' Out turns out to be a quite enjoyable piece of software. My initial scepticism about boring real life activities appeared to be not entirely correct; Bustin' Out lets you become things you probably aren't in real life. In total, there are twelve careers available, such as movie star, mad professor and gangster. You don't have to do the work yourself, but you do have to make sure your Sim learns new abilities and happily goes to work in order to gain a promotion. You also have to perform various tasks before you can move on, like repairing a TV, inviting someone for dinner or decorating the house.

Episteme & Phronesis:

New skills can be obtained by the two ways described by Aristotle: by learning and by doing. Preparing a meal raises your cooking skills, as does reading a book about it. Did you see the film Phenomenon? Well, neither did I, but I saw a trailer in which John Travolta leafs through a book and then says: "I know Portuguese". The Sims is just like that. I didn't find Portuguese books, though. And John Travolta isn't in it, too. But you get the idea.

When you get ahead in your career, you get more money to spend so you can move to another house, get a bigger car and buy lots of stuff. The descriptions of the products available are amusing, so shopping is actually fun. It's also possible to build or renovate a house, but actual building possibilities are rather limited, so interior decorators will appreciate the option more than constructors.

Cheating your way out of the bathroom:

Veteran Sim players are already familiar with this and pretty much know what to expect. The graphics have been improved to the previous version of The Sims, but are still not stunning, mostly due to some aliasing. Though it's no graphical tour de force, the frame rate flags from time to time. It's not very annoying in this type of game. Quick responses are no requirement, so the game gets away with the somewhat sloppy controls also The latter are partly to blame on the inconveniently placed D-pad on the official controller. The sound is fine and the music – still only available in menus or via the in-game radio – does its job nicely, too.

Like the first game, Bustin' Out also features a free mode, in which you can start a family without being bound by objectives. The Sims still have basic needs, so you do have to keep those meters up – a 'problem' which can be helped with Action Replay. The new careers are the main reason to purchase this game if you already own the first GameCube Sims game, but if you want something more original, it might be a better idea to save your money for the upcoming first true sequel. According to an advertisement the manual, The Sims 2 is expected to become available for PC this quarter. New in this version is the possibility to link your Game Boy Advance copy of Bustin' Out to your GameCube. This will result in four minigames and exchanging of Sims, and has clearly been added because EA agreed to – not because they thought they could do great things with it.

That'll be 322 blocks, please:

Since The Sims is largely about social life, it's a good thing a two-player mode has been added to the package. Unfortunately Maxis hamper starting this mode by making Bustin' Out extremely memory consuming. The game takes up no less than 161 blocks (one hundred more than the previous game) and two memory cards are required for simultaneous play. Considering one black memory card costs around 30 euros, and The Sims takes up 64% of the 251 blocks, this game costs you another 19 euros (or 38 if you want to play together) for saving. Can we have a hard disk in the N5, please?

Final Say:

Overall, The Sims Bustin' Out is a humorous addition to the series and will provide an ample amount of hours of simulation fun. Despite some flaws and relatively few improvements (on the PC this would be just another expansion pack), it still may be worth a purchase. Managing everyday necessities may become dull rather quick to some, but Sims fans have few reasons to complain.

N-Europe Final Verdict

A matter of taste: great fun or pretty boring

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals4
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



Extraordinary careers


Memory consuming

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