capsule review

The Sims Life Stories

At a Glance
  • Aspyr Media The Sims Life Stories

    Macworld Rating

The Sims and The Sims 2 are EA and Aspyr’s legendary series of simulated life games that put you in the role of an omniscient and somewhat omnipotent observer of the lives of people, called Sims, who go about their daily lives. You help them find jobs, decorate their homes, make friends, and eventually establish relationships that lead to families. Now Aspyr and EA have pushed the franchise in a new direction with The Sims Life Stories, which is sort of what happens when The Sims meet an afternoon soap opera. It’s an entirely new game, not an expansion pack.

Some can argue—successfully—that The Sims franchise is soap operatic enough, with endless dramas unfolding in the lives of your Sims as part of the open-ended gameplay. What they’ve done here is consolidated the gameplay to follow a more linear flow, orbiting around the lives and loves of two specific Sims—Riley Harlow and Vincent Moore. Riley’s looking for true love, some measure of financial success, and artistic fulfillment, while Vince, a successful entrepreneur, is suffering his own setbacks in his personal life. You spend half the game leading one character, half the game leading the other.

The Sims Life Stories—the first game in the franchise to be originally developed by Aspyr, rather than just ported to the Mac—is billed as being friendly to laptops and low-end machines that might not be able to run the full version of The Sims 2. Believe it or not, The Sims 2, despite its reputation as a “casual” game, has some of the most demanding system requirements of any title out there, and can easily bring even a high-end Mac to its knees, thanks to really advanced AI and sophisticated graphics features.

Spinning a Yarn Riley prepares dinner for her new friends as one of them weaves an intricate tale involving UFOs, ghosts and kitchen appliances.

Aspyr’s position as this game’s original developer is also the reason why the Mac version of The Sims Life Stories only trailed its PC counterpart by a few weeks, rather than the months that Sims 2 fans have come to expect. Hopefully Aspyr will be able to close the gap even further in future installments and release new games simultaneously with their PC counterparts.

So The Sims Life Stories tailors the game engine and some functionality a bit to run better on lower-end hardware. Still, the game offers an authentic Sims 2-style interface and really impressive graphics, even if you can’t have quite as many Sims on screen as before, or quite as huge a house, or, for that matter, as big a neighborhood. You’ll hear the same styles of music and the same nonsense “Simlish” language that you’ve heard in other games.

I mentioned earlier that The Sims Life Stories employs a more linear gameplay mode than The Sims 2 does. That’s not to say that you can’t play The Sims Life Stories in the same “classic” open-ended fashion you’re already accustomed to: You can create your own Sims from scratch, build a home for them, and lead them through the trials and tribulations of Sim life. But you’ll find that The Sims Life Stories is considerably more limited in terms of what you can do, what you can build, and where you can go—it’s all got to do with the game being designed to be friendlier to lower-end hardware than its gargantuan predecessor.

By the way, this is only the first in what EA and Aspyr plan as an entirely new franchise for The Sims. Already they’re hard at work on The Sims Pet Stories and The Sims Castaway Stories, coming later this year.

The bottom line

More limited than The Sims 2, The Sims Life Stories helps condense and consolidate the Sims 2 play experience for users who might have been left out thus far because of slower Macs.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Better on lower-end hardware than The Sims 2
    • Offers both linear and “classic” open ended gameplay

    Cons

    • More limited than The Sims 2 is, so the appeal isn’t as lasting
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