The Sims 2
Publisher: EA Games
Play It On: PC
Sometimes you drag your tired ass home from work, stare at your sink full of dishes and your hyperactive corgi and think: screw it. I’m going to pour myself a mug of suds, sit down at my computer and play a game where I tell a tired little man sitting in a house to ignore the dishes and the dog and play a computer game. If the space-time continuum doesn’t implode at that moment from the sheer redundancy of it all, you’re probably playing The Sims.
When The Sims was released four years ago, no one had a clue if gamers (read: dorky teenage boys) would play a game that’s about going to work and making your bed. I mean, who’d want a game that centers around decorating your house and voyeuristically watching your little Sim shuffle the obligations of life around?
Uh, apparently everyone. Especially female gamers, a hitherto under-appreciated (and under-wooed) demographic. They bought the 10 or so expansion packs - offering additional house furnishings and other weird stuff to play with - in hordes. Then there was The Sims Online. (But we won’t flog that dead horse here.)
The current dilemma: should version 1 addicts buy The Sims 2? Yes. And so should you.
While The Sims 2 is more complex than the original game, it’s not beyond the grasp (literally) of the casual gamer. In this version, you can super-customize your li’l Sims, tweaking everything from their faces to their hairstyles (rock that mullet!) to their clothes and personalities. In the previous version, your Sims were sort of simplistic personality sketches. Now they’ve got dreams and aspirations (paging Paula, Simon and the chubby guy). Plotting their lives to achieve these goals is now your central challenge - that and making sure the sheets are clean.
Another advancement for this series is the ability of your Sims to grow up, have kids, age and die, thus continuing their lineage for untold generations (no trust fund necessary). Previously Sims remained ageless, living in a Groundhog Day world. Now they’ve got one life to live, so DON’T @#!* IT UP FOR THEM.
Graphically, The Sims 2 is eons ahead of its predecessor, trading in the quirky isometric views for a full 3-D look. The old look was unique, but the new engine somehow retains the iconoclastic style, only all prettied up. The detail’s amazing - the Sims’ facial expressions can convey even the subtlest of emotion (until a 40-something mama Sim discovers Botox).
If The Sims was a gaming petri dish, then The Sims 2 is a full-scale biodome. Be warned though, The Sims 2 can be highly addictive (especially if you enjoy redecorating on a virtual dollar). Prepare yourself for an emotional roller coaster, too, once the big events of your Sims’ lives come to pass.
My Sim just died. Sniff. I think I’ll have that beer now.
|Karaoke Revolution Vol. 3
Play It On: PlayStation 2
When it comes to Karaoke, people fall into one of two categories: those too shy, and those who bring 8x10 head shots in hopes of getting discovered. (I’ve seen the latter, I swear!) I know, you’re thinking there should be a third category for people who only sing Karaoke when drunk. Yo, homie, everyone sings Karaoke when they’re drunk.
Your living room is clearly the best place for you and your friends to make asses of yourselves, and that’s exactly what Konami’s Karaoke Revolution series for PlayStation 2 lets you do. It even lets you know just how good - or how really really bad - you are by using a clever, but extremely simple, interface that displays your pitch and what it should be for each lyric.
The latest edition, Karaoke Revolution Vol. 3, delivers the requisite new lineup of songs. From the latest Alanis to snot-rock to old standards from Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. No one will be able to beg off claiming a lack of appealing songs. And c’mon, everyone wants to cover Brit covering Bobby. It’s your prerogative!
But the big new deal this time ‘round, one that almost justifies the $60 price tag (hey, it comes with a microphone forchristsake!), are the duets. Yes, now two people can make asses of themselves at once! I imagine there’ll be a lot of fighting over who gets to be David Bowie and who gets to be Freddie Mercury on “Under Pressure.” Ah... maybe not.
And not to sound like a shill, but Karaoke Revolution Vol. 3 provides perfect entertainment for small parties. (No, really.) In fact, collecting all three games that’ve been released for the PS2 (Vol. 1 was recently released for Xbox with a bunch of Motown classics) will provide an unending collection of songs for you and your friends to butcher relentlessly while getting pissed on a box of Chablis. Let’s start: feeeeeelings, oh wo wo feelings...
I don’t care who you are, you’ve got a Game Boy somewhere. In your closet. At your parents’ house. Somewhere. It’s there. It may be the size of a brick, it may have Tetris permanently fused into the case, it may have your sister’s My Little Pony stickers on it. When you find it, and you feel tempted to turn it on for old times’ sake, STOP.
You’re a frickin’ grown-up! Jeez! You need a big boy’s toy. (Talking to you too, ladies.) You need a brand-spanking new handheld gaming device. You need: the Nintendo DS.
Why? Because it’s got two screens. Is that good? I don’t know, but two is better than one, and every other handheld on the market, including the upcoming and very appealing Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) only has one. So there. What’s the second screen for? I don’t know... but there’re two of ‘em! And they’re touch screens! Touch. Screens.
Now, if you’re thinking that this is just a Game Boy Advance with two touch screens, you’re wrong. Sure, it’s backwards compatible, so it’ll run GBA games (but not Game Boy Color, unfortunately). But it’s also got a lot of other tricks, like wireless connectivity, and a cool program called PictoChat, which lets you draw and write messages to other DS users. Kind of like instant messenger crossed with Pictionary. Your mind’s reeling already, isn’t it?
Playing multiplayer games on handhelds is nothing new. But playing wirelessly is. No more tethering yourself to a friend with some link cable (unless that’s what you’re into). Even more enticing is the fact that some games will support up to 16 players.
At launch, Nintendo DS will offer a decent lineup of games, with more soon to follow. The unit will actually come with a demo for Metroid Prime: Hunters, but you’ll also be able to pick up such titles as Madden NFL 2005, Spider-Man 2, Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Ridge Racer. Special DS versions of other favorites, like Super Mario Bros., Animal Crossing and Wario Ware Inc., will also become available.
The Nintendo DS is expecting some stiff competition from Sony’s PSP handheld. But with the library of games Nintendo has to draw from, and the $150 price tag, it’s a pretty attractive little piece of plastic. It’s not My Little Pony or anything, but you’re a big kid now.
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