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This game, complete with engaging characters and easy- to-play storylines, is the kind that is sure to thrill both the novice and the experienced player. The Sims: Life Stories is a new, standalone game and brand. It introduces an all-new story mode with two stories that follow the lives of two people.

The idea here is that Life Stories can be played on laptops and under-the-gaming-curve PCs, which ordinarily would be unable to handle the game. Largely, this is true. Even with full graphics options enabled, the game ran well, with only a few glitches here and there when many simulations were on the screen at once.

Every object and character in the game is three-dimensional. Mirrors can reflect what’s actually in the room, and shadows are more than serviceable. Free Will, the option that turns on artificial intelligence for your own simulation, actually seems to have improved.

You’ll control every action, from washing dishes, watching TV to going to work. There is an array of objects and decorations to buy, and you can build your simulation houses with a variety of wallpaper and carpet options.

Once you get into the game itself, you’ll notice the price paid for the performance boost. The one default neighbourhood “Four Corners” is smaller than anything in The Sims 2, and so are the house lots. You have a maximum of four family members. Options in Buy Mode and Build Mode are also limited.

There is a selection of beds, tables, chairs, etc, that you can buy, but you’ll run through them pretty quickly.

Life Stories derives its name from the fact that it features a mode similar to the console versions of The Sims. Both the stories have their share of plot twists and humour. These stories function as extended tutorials, teaching you how to play by giving you simple goals.

The free-form play is definitely the main draw, but again, with the limited family and house sizes, it appears to be lacking in some aspects.

The sounds of the game, from the trademark “Simlish” voices of the characters to the music on the radio, is the same as you’ve heard all along.

Life Stories is made for a very select group of people: those with PCs or laptops who want to play The Sims, but are unable to do so due to minimum requirements. Hopefully, Electronic Arts will eventually put the story mode in an expansion pack to The Sims 2, giving PC users with powerful machines the best of both worlds.

Minimum system requirements: Operating System: Windows XP, processor: 1.4 GHz, RAM: 256 MB (512 MB for laptop), free hard disk space: 2.7 GB, video card: 32 MB

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