Just make sure you don't become so habituated to these best-selling games that you neglect your dull-by-comparison actual life.
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICHThe Sims 2, a set of four CD-ROMs in English by Maxis for EA games, distributed with a 50-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows 98 and up and a 600 Mhz Pentium PC or better, for age 13 through adult, NIS 219.
The Sims 2: University Expansion Pack, a set of two CD-ROMs in English, NIS 149 (rating *****) and The Sims 2: Nightlife Expansion Pack, a set of two CD-ROMs in English, NIS 149 (rating HHHH).
You have only one life to live, we are constantly told, so make the best of it! On second thought, you can enjoy an unlimited number of virtual lives and vicarious existences if you install The Sims 2 and its two expansion packs on your hard disk. Just make sure that you don't become so habituated to these best-selling games that you neglect your dull-by-comparison actual life and real family and friends.
Although only two-dimensional, the original Sims captivated millions of fans who were able to create and micromanage the lives of people; it then continued to make piles of money for Maxis by spinning off eight expansion packs. The current second version, with its powerful 3-D graphics engine and user-friendly interface, begets people of all ages and their environments, all highly lifelike, authentic and demanding of attention. And these first two expansion packs allow you to send the relatively intellectual Sims off to college and the more fun-seeking ones off to nightclubs, bowling alleys, pubs and other places of entertainment.
You keep busy dating, finding and marrying a mate, delivering (or adopting) babies, raising children, buying and furnishing homes, choosing wardrobes, keeping fit, shopping for food and clothing (in person, online or by phone), studying, partying, finding employment and succeeding at your job. You have to take your Sims to the shower and the toilet, and couples make whoopie ("whoohoo" in Sims language), but there is no nudity or x-rated scenes because these are covered up by large pixels. Sims do all these things while speaking a gibberish language, but you can easily decide what actions to take by clicking on options printed on the screen in English.
You select any of three neighborhoods - Pleasantville, Strangeland and Veronaville. If you're new to Sims, learn the ropes via the tutorial and then jump right in by establishing your own family and constructing a house within the limits of your budget of "simoleons" or by taking over an existing family. If you can afford them, there are split-level villas, decorator appliances, jacuzzis, swimming pools and ponds stocked with water lilies and goldfish. Everything inside and outdoors is presented in incredible detail, with a cornucopia of background music and sound effects. If you start from scratch, be careful to generate good-looking combinations of facial and body features, as your virtual children will resemble the parents who can pose with you for family photos or animated video movies.
The new version offers human-like psyches by adding goals, fears and desires; as you accumulate "aspiration points," your Sims become more fulfilled, popular and optimistic. Each Sim has a specific lifespan, ages over time and eventually dies - but there is a "cheat" in the manual that tells you how to keep your Sims young forever if you find it emotionally difficult to become white haired and wrinkled. If all this seems too conventional and middle class, the University add-on offers, among other things, the option of encountering ghosts and aliens, while Nightlife provides vampires who rampage through parts of the community after sunset and are all-round troublemakers. You can try to avoid these fanged but humanoid anemic-looking creatures, but if you're bitten, you can sleep off temporary vampirism or get a potion to cure you. To tell you the truth, I found these options quite looney and out of place, especially as everything else in The Sims 2 is so authentic.
To attend college at 18, you leave home and choose among 11 major subjects and various career tracks, but you don't have to listen to a single lecture. Instead, while waiting to graduate within about a month (in Sims' time), you date, join a fraternity or sorority, play an instrument, take a part-time job if you need the money, attend sports events, dance and have a ball on or off campus. This is genuine fun and worth the extra NIS 149. But Nightlife, in which Sims pursue frenetic social lives and romance, does not add much - unless constant partying, dates and relevant animations excite you.
To play this humongous simulation game, you require not only a powerful computer and large hard disk, but also infinite patience. For people with a spouse, children, pets, a house to run, a full-time job and meals to cook, keeping your Sims going as well is likely to make them feel as if they were responsible for a thousand of those darned electronic pets called Tamagotchis.