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Thursday, August 31, 2000 - 23:20

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The Sims Livin' Large Review

It's more of the same, and that ain't such a bad thing.

While the appeal of the new expansion pack for The Sims supposedly lies in its crazy new items and tile sets, Livin' Large is, at its heart, just more of the same. There are five new career tracks and tons of new tiles and items, as well as the chance to have more neighborhoods than before. None of these, however, really change the game dynamic. The new careers are just like the old ones; there are just different requirements for them. Similarly, although most of the new items are of a more whimsical nature than those from the original game, the majority of them don't actually do anything that couldn't be done before. That's not to say that none of the new items are exciting, because that certainly wouldn't be fair, but most are less innovative than the average new download from The Sims homepage.

The half-dozen or so items worth playing with are a strange assortment of everyday objects that do a little more and completely fantastical creations that allow for just plain silly behavior. In the realm of everyday objects now infused with 30% more fun are a telescope, a workbench and a vibrating bed. The telescope teaches logic and isn't really necessary since the chess table does the same thing, plus allows for multiple people to sit and participate at once. What the chess table does not do, however, is let Sims be abducted by aliens, who scramble the Sim brains are release them with completely different personalities. Advantage: telescope. The workbench similarly fills a spot already taken by teaching mechanical skills but, like the telescope, offers something more -- namely, lawn gnomes! That's right, Sims with the mechanical wherewithal can now create beautiful lawn gnomes to make the whole neighborhood jealous. Third on the list is the vibrating bed, a heart-shaped monstrosity that actually has a "play in bed" command for couples. Use the ol' imagination for that one.

On the fantastic side of things are a mad scientist lab set, a magic lamp and, best of all, a robot. The lab set goes perfectly with the turn of the century (19th century, that is) decor now available and allows insane Sims to mix potions in the safety of their own dungeons. What do the potions do? Well, there's only one way to find out, and that's to use Sims as guinea pigs, altering their personalities, turning them invisible and worse. The magic lamp, when cleaned, releases a pretty pathetic genie that, when commanded, will attempt to make a Sim's life a little better. More often than not, it backfires, and the Sim who was supposed to be smitten with love becomes angry instead -- or the stove blows up for no particular reason. The granddaddy of all luxury items, however -- and the most expensive one at a wallet-smashing $15,000-- is the personal robot.

The personal robot cleans. It cleans toilets and sinks, floors and showers, all without complaint. The personal robot gardens. It makes sure the petunias are perky, the grass is green and the trees stand tall, all while the Sims are at work. The personal robot cooks. Breakfast is prepared while the Sim showers; lunch is served up while the Sim is chatting up the girl next door; or dinner is served on the patio -- and it all tastes better made with metallic hands. Best of all, the personal robot repairs. That's right. No more waiting for that shot of espresso or that long shower; just turn on the personal robot and watch it go to work. Now isn't that worth a measly $15K?

The five additional career paths, while not actually requiring any new approaches to gameplay, are generally more amusing than the old ones. The slacker path takes Sims through such great jobs as convenience store clerk and golf caddy. The musician class makes roadies of the less domestically inclined and encourages them to reach for the stars. Sims hoping to crack national security can become hackers, as long as they don't get caught. Want to play games all day? There's a journalist class that'll accomplish just that. Perhaps the funniest of all, though, and the class that most represents the feel of the expansion pack, is the paranormal path. After all, at the end of the day, what better accomplishment could a Sim have than to own a robot, have a vibrating bed full of cute neighbors and be the leader of their very own cult?

- Daniel Erickson

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