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Retro Game Review: Sims 2 Castaway for Nintendo Wii
Like most people, I've always love the Sims franchise. It's been hailed as the best selling PC game of all time through 4 generations, but it seems that the port to console has just never been solid enough to carry the franchise. This could be because one of the best things about the Sims series is how well it lends itself to customization; it's never really been story driven in the way that much of the console market expects. However, there have been a few “spin-off” games, like MySims that have done fairly well. I've had a copy of The Sims 2: Castaway for Nintendo Wii sitting around for years now, so I figured I would give it a try.
Unlike most Sims game with no story to speak of, this one spells out goals pretty clearly. Not only are you presented with an overarching goal (You're stuck on a deserted island and must return to civilization), you also have a series of smaller goals in the form of journals from the various explorers who came before you. The goals in the journals must be completed to unlock new crafting abilities; and I got stuck for a really long time peeing on myself because I didn't know that you needed to complete the goals to unlock the toilet and shower blueprints. Most Sims games give you the option to outfit your homested with basic necessities from the onset, but not so with this one. So unless you complete the goals, you can't fill your need meters, which is annoying.
This isn't your average Sims game. Right off the bat, I noticed that character customization was severely lacking. It wasn't a tenth of what you could have expected from any PC Sims game. You got maybe 2 pages of hairstyles and very basic outfits. You could create an entire crew, but I chose to try the game with a single Sim, since console versions of the Sims very rarely have a decent gameplay style when playing a large family. So I made myself.
The personality system was... odd. I chose Leo, because that's my sign, and adjusted the stats to more closely match my irl personality. You had an Oregon Trail-esque ability to select a civilian career path, and the career would let you start with certain skills. I suppose that, like Oregon Trail, this served as a type of difficulty meter. If you were a medical professional before the shipwreck, you're going to have more skills, and thus an easier time, than if you had been a Teacher.
Once you arrive on the island, it plays similarly to any of the other console Sims games. Some of the controls are counter-intuitive, like using the nun-chuck buttons rather than the A button to perform tasks- especially since the Wii version of the Sims3 uses the wiimote buttons, but nothing that you can't adapt to.
It's ridiculously difficult to keep your Sims needs filled, especially their social meter. I suspect that it might be eaiser if you had an entire crew rather than a single sim like I did, but as I played it, the only creatures that I had to interact with were chimps. And I never really got the social meter all the way full. You just couldn't get it all the way up no matter what you did. You could be best friends with a chimp, with a relationship all the way up to 100, and you still couldn't get the meter full.
This game was absolutely riddled with negatives. It had some solid sim gameplay, and a great crafting system, but I'm not sure that the positives outweigh the intense difficulty, the limited build/buy mode, or the strict adherence to the straightforward storyline. You had a few islands to explore, but the world still felt tiny compared to the towns in the PC version. Your social interactions were so limited that they became repetitive. And if you did manage to build a dwelling, I couldn't figure out how to lower the walls, so you couldn't see ANYTHING on the inside, and it was difficult to place furniture. There were multiple endings, at least two ways to get off the island (building a ship to escape or sending a distress signal) but overall, I'd rather just get on the PC and play Sims 3.
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