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The Sims 2: Apartment Life (PC) artwork

The Sims 2: Apartment Life (PC) review

"Once you're happily—or unhappily, if art imitates life—dwelling within your humble abode, the differences don't necessarily stop. If you've moved into someone's apartment, they're not going to look kindly on you knocking down walls or making major renovations, so put such thoughts out of your head. Instead, you can focus on the usual things that have for so long been a staple of the series: interior decorating."

Several years back, my wife and I were standing in the electronics aisle of our local Wal-Mart when she turned to me and said “I want to buy The Sims.

I looked at her for just a moment, then said “You mean SimCity?”

“I mean The Sims,” she said, and it wasn't long before she was holding up a box with cartoony characters spread across it. “This is The Sims.”

She bought it and we both wound up playing it. That was my introduction to The Sims, a franchise that I hadn't even known existed. I'm not even sure how she knew about it, really. Maybe she saw some commercials for it on television? Either way, she introduced me to a series that has gone on to make Electronic Arts a bunch of money. If being the first in our little household to find something new and exciting were a competition--and sometimes it is, because we're just that bored--then she would have won that particular round.

Over the years, she has continued to know about The Sims before I even thought to think about it. Sometimes I'll get word of an expansion before she sniffs it out--I do, after all, field press releases from hundreds of contacts--but usually she's only minutes or days behind... buying every expansion, checking the aisle to see what 'stuff' is available for her Sims. Throughout the years, she has been the one who eagerly followed the EA cash cow to the watering each time it felt thirsty.

So it is that when The Sims 2: Apartment Life showed up at our door--the latest in a long line of expansions for the second 'main' installment in the beloved series--I was ready to send it out to someone else to review.

“I don't have the time to play it properly,” I told my wife, “and anyway, I haven't been following things closely enough to appreciate the finer points.”

Explanations came quickly that day. I'd only just offered up mine when she told me about the things she could do if that precious DVD case and game left our own little apartment. She might not be a writer, but sometimes she has a way with words. Sensing that I was fighting a losing battle, I made a deal: we could keep the game, but she had to help with the review. Perhaps it was me being a wimp, but anyone who has been married will understand. Some sacrifices must be made.

So over the following weeks, my wife spent the hours with The Sims 2: Apartment Life that I could not. I had to offer my expertise when it came time to install the thing (since you have to place it in a separate directory from other content to avoid complications that I'm not sure I quite understand), but after that I only checked in occasionally. What I saw was my wife playing The Sims 2 in much the same way she always had. She assures me that it's different.

As the title suggests, the focus in The Sims 2: Apartment Life is on the apartments. To facilitate this, Maxis has added in a whole new town. My wife gave that a big thumbs down, since you have to load the village separately from your other bustling districts. For the most part it's a fairly barren sort of place, with two main apartment complexes (and room enough to add plenty of your own, if you feel up to it). Each of those pre-built properties is then divided into several suites, and each of those in turn has its own characteristics. You can easily investigate each one and see which one feels right for you, then move in and enjoy life as a tenant of the seldom-seen landlord.

Once you're happily--or unhappily, if art imitates life--dwelling within your humble abode, the differences don't necessarily stop. If you've moved into someone's apartment, they're not going to look kindly on you knocking down walls or making major renovations, so put such thoughts out of your head. Instead, you can focus on the usual things that have for so long been a staple of the series: interior decorating and personal interactions with other Sims.

Now, I wouldn't know new content from a hole in the ground. There have been so many expansions over the years (this makes something like the 7th, if my count is correct) that it's difficult to say whether that flower print wallpaper has been hanging around since the days of University or if it's a more recent addition or even a component from one of the many Stuff packs that don't even count as proper expansions... but still set you back around $20.

What does The Sims 2: Apartment Life add to the mix besides the new dwelling type, then? Not a whole lot. Many of the changes are minor and of the sort that you might only try once or twice. For example, you can now spruce yourself up a bit more for reasons that are left entirely up to you. It's possible to practice giving speeches in front of a mirror, or... other things. You can also make use of the telephone, whether that be to ring up your neighbors looking for a hot date or just looking for a little bit of fun. Prank calls are permitted. Then there's magic. You can become a witch or wizard and cast kindly or malicious spells. You know... standard apartment stuff.

If some of the stuff in The Sims 2: Apartment Life seems a bit fantastic, though, other enhancements will surely keep you grounded. For example, you're responsible for a monthly rent payment (taken care of by clicking on the mailbox when the bills are due) and you can of course advertise in the newspaper for a special roommate. They'll hang around and interact with you, whether that means following you into the bathroom when you're trying to take a leak or pouring their heart out to you as the two of you sit around watching television. Sometimes, they'll even help with that irritating rent payment (something I've learned you can't always expect from real-life roommates).

Neighbors are more than just an opportunity for a quick date or prank call, too. You'll hear noise coming from the other apartments near yours, plus you can make social calls if you get bored with your roomie. It seems like there are mechanics in place to be a bad tenant and cause yourself grief, but my wife tends to play things pretty straight (unlike my brother-in-law, who views time with The Sims as an opportunity to plop people down in square rooms with no doors or windows, just an unreliable stove prone to catching on fire).

Ultimately, The Sims 2: Apartment Life is not as robust an expansion pack as fans could once count on from new entries in the franchise, but that's to be expected at this late stage in the game. If you're looking to squeeze a last bit of enjoyment out of the aging title in anticipation of The Sims 3, then there's really no reason not to give this game a shot and try experimenting with the new environment. Most people have played one installment in the series or another and either hated it, thought it was okay (me) or threatened spouses if they sent it out to other people when it showed up one day for review (my wife). But we won't talk about that last thing.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (November 05, 2008)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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