|System: Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Maxis||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 23, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Branden Barrett
Back in 2000, when the original Sims game was released, very few people probably knew the effect that these types of games would have on the gaming world. Life simulators have since become a popular genre, with games such as Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing being primary staples. Though people tend to want to get away from reality when they play games, some find it both interesting and humorous to take on challenges that revolve around repetitive, everyday life.
Someone once told me, "repetition is sometimes good," and from looking at the above mentioned simulations, I can certainly agree. The Sims 2: Castaway is the third console installment in the Sims series, with the plot revolving around being stranded on a deserted island. It may not be the most original concept in the world, but the idea was bound to come up eventually. And while this may just seem like another useless expansion, a few new gameplay elements really help Castaway stand out.
Just like in previous Sims installments, you will begin by creating your individual character. From appearance and clothes to unique attributes (like what profession you excel in), Castaway offers several interesting customization options. After making anywhere from one to six Sims, you will begin your proverbial "three hour tour" on the ocean waters. Little are the newly created vacationers aware of the hazardous storm on the way though, and within a few minutes are virtually swept away by the tide. When your Sim comes to, it will find itself stranded on a large tropical island, covered in debris. Your job will be to survive on this island, all the while making friends with the other islanders, acquiring food, exploring the land, and honing your crafting skills. Though the plot may seem a tad overdone, the above mentioned tasks are truly where the game shines.
Performing jobs in the game feel very much like previous Sims titles, with a lot of the options being centered around quick selection menus. Unlike many other titles on the Wii, the Wii-mote is not used nearly as much in Castaway as the other control option, the Nunchuk. Using the Nunchuk analog stick, you can move your virtual avatar from point to point, collecting objects and useful data along the way with the Z button. Tilting the Nunchuk up and down will allow you to shuffle through the option and item selection screens. And as said earlier, the Wii-mote, though limited in use, does have moments where it is needed. There are times where you will be forced to pick up certain items with the A button, which is something that really could've been done with the Nunchuk. Despite this, the game controls very well and feels as if it was built from the ground up on the Wii, which is something that a lot of other third party titles can't brag about.
From the acquisition of wood and grass for clothes and shelter to locating fruit and water for eating and bathing, the title centers itself around the regular completion of everyday tasks. Other examples include: fishing with a personally made spear, extracting materials in the environment for building purposes, and scouring the area for lost items or treasures. Every day on the island will usually present a new obstacle that needs to be taken care of and must be balanced with necessary chores like cleaning, decorating, and maintenance. Knowing when and where to travel on the island is also important to factor in, since on certain days, it will be vital to get a lot done quickly. Though that doesn't mean you can't occasionally go for a midnight stroll along the shore with a friend. The combination of exploration and multi-tasking makes for an interesting change to the series, which usually revolved around living in an average, suburban neighborhood.
Another primary purpose of the title revolves around interaction with other Sims. As you wander the island you will eventually come across other abandoned individuals who, like you, just want someone to talk with. Speaking of which, a lot of the discussions in this game are traditional Sims fare, with little pictures and funny noises being the highlights of communication throughout. By raising the personality of another Sim, you can then have them join your little "tribe." From there, you can give your newly found friends tasks such as hunting, fishing, or building. Even the local monkeys can be befriended into giving you a hand, which is one of the humorous highlights in Castaway. Even though everything sounds well and good so far, the game does have some communication quirks. It seems that when these Sims gave you their loyalty, they all forgot how to do common things such as eating and bathing. This will result in you having to micromanage each Sim and ensure that they stay up to good health. It is not really a problem early in the title, but as time goes on, you may eventually get burnt out on the tedium.