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Platform

GameCube

 

Genre

Simulation

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

EA Games

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2004

 

 

- Sims finally get a taste of the city lifestyle

- Graphics, especially the city itself, improved from previous Sims console titles

- Mini-games a welcome relief from usual resource management responsibilities

- No online play, but again a two-player mode

 

 

- Console-oriented controls still not as good as PC keyboard-and-mouse control setup

- May not appeal to the Sims crowd who like playing the PC variations of the game

- Loading times when you go visit other areas of the big city are annoyingly long

 

 

Review: The Sims (GC)

Review: The Sims 2 (PC)

Review: The Sims Bustin' Out (XB)

Review: The Sims Bustin' Out (GC)

 

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The Urbz: Sims in the City

Score: 8.9 / 10

 

Up until now, the Sims games have had the Sims populace living their happy little Sims lives in a perfect Sims Suburbia. Yeah, you could go out of your nice Sims house into the local tranquil towns for shopping outings or romantic interludes, but the bright lights of the big city were beyond the boundaries of the Sims travel itinerary. That is, until now, with the release of the console-only The Urbz. Now, you and your Sims can head for the urban jungle. The glitter and allure of the metropolis is now a reality for your Sims, and while not a radical departure from both previous Sims console titles (The Sims and The Sims: Bustin’ Out) there’s new features including mini-game activities that should appeal to the younger, more console-savvy Sims fans.

 

urbz sims in the city review          urbz sims in the city review

 

Gameplay has a new wrinkle in The Urbz. While the main resource management tasks from every other Sims title (eating, sleeping, learning new skills, and everything else that are necessary to keep your Urbz in a state of well-being) still are the main gameplay element, there’s a more important main objective: becoming popular. So most of your activities will be focused on trying to win friends and build up your reputation and popularity. Your XAM (“eXchange.access.message.”) apparatus that serves as an Urbz PDA, cell phone, and pager wrapped in one package. It tracks your relationships, lets you call other Urbz to find the night’s “hot spot”, and keeps tabs on your goals for the particular urban area of the game you’re playing in.

 

There are also new mini-games that break up that monotony of managing resources typical to the “god” game genre. And they require console gaming skills that you wouldn’t need in the PC renditions of the Sims, because you’ll be doing some button-pushing-on-cue to complete mini-games (that function as your Urbz jobs), sort of just as you would in a rhythm game like PaRappa the Rappa or a party game such as Mario Party.

 

Some of the mini-games will have you serving drinks at a maniac pace as a bartender, or working as a sushi chef. There are different mini-games in different areas of the large city, but getting there takes some time, because there’s an annoyingly long loading time to move from one area of the city to the next. Ironically, the loading screen is a subway tunnel; you probably could get to the next level by a real subway quicker than the time it takes to load.

Right off, you’ll notice that The Urbz shares its great looks with the Sims 2 as opposed to the original Sims PC games and even upgrades the two previous console looks. The GameCube version isn’t quite as sharp as the Xbox in its graphics, however.

 

With a shiny, plastic aspect to their persona, the Urbz look like they could star as the cast from another Electronic Arts franchise, Need for Speed Underground (NFSU). Even the cityscape areas such as the Diamond Heights, Gasoline Row, or Cozmo Street that serve as the world of the Urbz appear to be inspired by NFSU. That’s a high compliment for the Urbz certainly, because NFSU is one spiffy-looking city-based game.

 

urbz sims in the city review          urbz sims in the city review

 

Developer Maxis took the same great character modeling from its impressive Sims 2 and created a visually appealing game in respect to its inhabitants. Just like in Sims 2, your Urbz have a more defined physical appearance, although there’s a more cartoonish (with caricature-inspired body parts) flavor to them. Reaching out to the younger console-playing demographic, you’ll be able to deck out the Urbz in the latest fashion trends, and even be able to apply body piercings until there’s nothing left to pierce, if you so desire. Hairstyles and tattoos can also be selected. Any fly honey or big daddy with urban styling and flair will like what customizable appearance selections are readily available in the Urbz.

 

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As you might expect, the music, which lives up to the great heritage of the previous Sims soundtracks, is heavy on the urban flava, fitting perfectly with the city scene filled with nightclubs and bars. You’ll hear the typical Simlish language that’s a franchise trademark too.

One uneven aspect of the Urbz is the controls. The original Sims was designed for a PC keyboard-and-mouse setup, which worked well with the isometric camera view of the first Sims game and translated well to the 3D Sims 2. But 

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with the console controller schematics( especially the GameCube controller), you’ll experience some minor schizophrenia, particularly when it comes to the camera that gets a little too unmanageable at times during the game.

 

Again there’s no online play, but returning is a two-player option that can be a lot of fun, and is a welcome game mode once more. While the PC Sims and Sims 2 are suited for single-player gaming, a console by its very nature lends the opportunity for multiplayer and The Urbz provides it. It’s a good change-of-pace from the standard one-person Sims gameplay and at times can be reminiscent of the better “party” games on the market, such as Mario Party.

 

Yes, the Sims are finally packing up in the ’burbs and moving on up to the big city, and the result is a good time for city-slicking Sims players. The controls still remain on the uneven side (and frankly, because the Sims franchise was designed foremost for the PC, they may never be better than mediocre). But a New York City-sized upgrade to the visual presentation along with the inclusion of mini-games and more focused, goal-oriented gameplay should appeal to the urban-centric Sims fans that prefer console action to the PC.

 

- Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(February 27, 2005)

 

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