Will your shipwrecked Sim successfully escape the deserted island? Or will you be content to build an island paradise ala Gilligan’s Island? Will you create other Sims to keep you company? Or will you rely on chimps and homemade sand buddies to keep you from going insane? Does Maxis effort make any of this worth your time? Read On…
My first experience with a Sims game was with the first, The Sims, and I can honestly say I played it for 30 minutes. I was unable to tolerate Sim Mom’s harping at my Sim every 10 seconds in “Sim-lish” to get a job, eat, take a crap, whatever….I found it annoying. Some of the later titles have intrigued me, but not enough to buy them. Being a fan of “Lost in Blue” on the DS, another shipwreck survival sim, I was immediately intrigued by Sims 2: Castaway. Lost in Blue took survival to the extreme, where tending to the protagonist’s needs such as hunger and thirst became a chore. My Lost in Blue character died, a lot. I was pleased that in Sims 2: Castaway, the stats need to be minded but aren’t such a chore as to make the game an exercise in frustration. I also picked up Sims: Bustin’ Out and played it a bit so that I could compare it to this latest version.
Castaway starts with the opportunity to create a sim. The characters look quite a bit better compared to the characters created in Bustin’ Out, more smooth and less blocky (ie: ugly). With what first looks to be a limited amount of customization, you can get a large variety of Sims. In addition to looks, you can choose their job and personality, which will affect your stats going into the game. I chose the Executive, whose main talent is communication (Schmoozing, sounds like most executives I know…) You can also choose to create an entire crew of fellow Sims to later interact with on the island, or you can go it alone and rely on chimp assistance. I created a total of 6 Sims. After you create the Sims, you’re then shown the shipwreck via cell phone pics. You then wake up on a deserted island, alone, and the fun begins!
Gameplay-wise, Sims 2 is fairly straightforward. Upon waking up, your Sim finds books left by previous landlocked island inhabitants. The books give certain goals to achieve, such as build a fire, build a shelter, etc. However to achieve certain goals, your character must have the stats to complete them, such as having a high enough level of mechanical skill to build a raft. Doing certain tasks increases individual skills, such as preparing meals increases cooking, building things increases mechanical, etc. You’ll need items to build tools, shelters, make clothes, etc. Luckily all that you need either washes up on the beach, grows, or can be found lying on the ground. You’ll be picking up a lot of things, often. You can also fish once you craft a stick. I found the controls for fishing wonky at first, however soon I was catching fish easily.
The menu system is also fairly straightforward as well; however one minor complaint is that all items for building/crafting should be accessed from the craft bench menu. They aren’t. To make some items necessary for your goal progression you have to access them from the Plans menu. Not a big deal really, however results in a bit of guess work on your part. You also may not be able to fit what you want to build or make in the area provided. And since you can’t clear land, this hampers a bit where you can build. It looked as if my shelter was perilously close to the water…and a little to close to my campfire. You can take apart what you build which lends a bit of convenience flexibility; however I found the “grab” system to do this a bit clunky. The music is pure Caribbean ease and a nice compliment to the game. The sounds are all represented well, from chimp screeches to crackly fires.
You’ll notice while hunting/gathering that you’re being followed by chimps. If you want, you can make friends with them. Eventually you’ll be able to tell the chimp(s) to gather items for you. And you can hug them…Hmmm….but I digress. And you can name them. Which brings up one pet peeve, I can name my chimp, but I can’t change the name of created Sims? All of this Chimp-fu simply means that if you’re alone on the island, the chimp can fulfill your Sims need for companionship. And that’s all I’ll say on that subject, because I would bet the farm that on a message board somewhere, someone is asking if you can marry the chimp…
When the necessary goals are met, you can leave the island you are shipwrecked on and hopefully find your shipmates (IF you created them.) I found a fellow crewmate, who I had named Tezuka Kunimitsu (me likey). However the game glitched somehow and he has the annoying name of Chris Newbie (me no likey). Not gamekilling, however certainly annoying. Maxis? I know it’s not too difficult, so could you please allow a name change function for the higher functioning primates in future Sim games? Rant Over. You eventually be able to control the other Sims which is fun, however you’ll soon realize the other Sims are a bit, special needs. You see, they suffer from “Lost In Blue” syndrome. Which is the curious malady of not being able to take care of basic needs, such as eating, unless micromanaged. With a few fellow mates, I think this could be manageable, however with many Sims, too much babysitting. I didn’t do this; however you can fall in love and marry a fellow Sim.
Some things I found a very cool in the Castaway that really don’t fall into any category; The Sim’s clothes degrade from simple wear and tearing through brambles, etc. You can craft new clothes from items you find.
The Sim’s hair grows so they don’t remain perfectly coiffed as from the initial character creation. They start to look as if they are stranded without hotel amenities. If you’re tired of watching the animations, you can speed things up with the press of a button. The fact that the normal things which make us happy make a Sim happy, such as physical comfort, good food, music, and companionship. There are many things to do, secrets to uncover, and places to discover.
The only caveat I have regarding the PS2 version is load times. Yes friends, they are brutal and at times game freezing. I never experienced game freeze, however I talked to a few who did, so save and save often.
I really enjoy Sims 2 Castaway. It took the stressful stat management that made Lost in Blue ulcer inducing and turned it into a funky, fun, “Lost” kind of experience. Would I recommend this game? Sure, if you like the Sims or if you liked Lost in Blue, this would be right up your alley. Besides, how many titles in your gaming library allow Chimp-Hugging? Hmmm?