Every time I tell people my favourite video game of all time is The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS, I get a very similar reaction. Laughter, a pat on the back, and then, “Wait, you’re serious?” Yes, yes I am. Very serious, in fact. So serious that my PSN ID, which I have for life, is named after a relatively obscure character from the handheld game series.
Now, I’d like to clarify that when I say it’s my favourite game, it doesn’t mean it’s the most technically sound or graphically capable- it’s the game that I love most, and the one I return to most often. In fact, I’ve played The Sims 2 DS and its companion titles at least five or six times each, with no signs of slowing down soon.
The handheld Sims games are wild and varied, and the series comprises quite a few different titles. The Sims 2 on Game Boy Advance, PSP and Nintendo DS are all part of the series (and strangely enough, are all unique games that were developed independently), as well as The Urbz: Sims in the City for Nintendo DS and The Sims: Bustin’ Out for Game Boy Advance.
The Sims 2 titles all take place in Strangetown – a location that features in the PC version of the game, and share common characters between them. In the opening scenes of The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS, the best of the series, your car veers wildly off the road and strands you in Strangetown, where there seems to be no way out. You’re handed the keys to a hotel by a mysterious stranger (no, not that one), and are soon embroiled in town life.
But like any desolate American town, nothing is ever as it seems, (or so I’m told) and you soon begin to notice strange happenings around the town. The desert surrounding the town holds ancient secrets, the hotel is run on nuclear fuel rods, and the local cashier at the convenience store appears to be a young alien teenager, who begs you to deliver him space ship parts in the hopes that they’ll take him home.
When local handyman and general ‘nice guy’ Tristan Legend vanishes from the town, you’re sent into the desert oasis to search for him. You find him near a lone cactus, and he looks up at you and the first thing out of his mouth is, “You ever caught a meteor with your bare hands? It takes time to get used to the heat and the pain, but it’s a good cure for loneliness.” To reiterate, this is a man that you’ve just met, and all you wanted was his help to build your hotel. After he’s told you his whole life story, he agrees to help out, and from there you start your life as a hotel entrepreneur.
Now, you’d think becoming a hotel entrepreneur would be a smart choice. You really would. But when your guests are the leader of a cow-worshipping cult, an alien emperor, a malfunctioning killer robot and a mafia boss quite taken with leg breaking, you might start thinking you’ve made some terrible life choices. Over the course of the game, you’re required to meet the requests of these varied guests, all while avoiding their threats, keeping the hotel running, dusting the thugs that patrol the streets of Strangetown, painting masterpieces, resurrecting a dead mummy- oh, and leading a double life as a superhero known as The Raticator. Why not? Also – Bigfoot lives in the hotel basement. Don’t ask questions, he just wants to be left alone.
The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS is wild and ridiculous, and more importantly, it’s self-aware. This humour is what characterises all of the handheld Sims games, and a dedication to being the most ridiculous, overblown and dramatic games of all time. The cow-worshipping cult, led by Ava Cadavra, makes further appearances in The Sims 2 on PSP, where players are tasked with destroying the cult from the inside, and several other characters appear across the game franchise.
Technically, this in-game universe began with 2003’s The Sims: Bustin’ Out for Game Boy Advance, which featured the story of a young farmer visiting SimValley for their summer holiday. Many of the characters in The Sims 2 and The Urbz are first introduced in Bustin’ Out, including biker Dusty Hogg, fitness enthusiast Misty Waters and series antagonist Daddy Bigbucks.
While the plot of Bustin’ Out is relatively simpler than The Sims 2, elements of weirdness still work their way through, with the streets of SimValley haunted by a murderous chicken known as the Veloci-Rooster that has a one-hit attack. Oh, and the final plot twist features an ancient race of aliens, but I won’t spoil the finer details – it’s something that has to be played to be believed.
The Urbz: Sims in the City, which serves as its sequel, sees players move to the city of Miniopolis and attempt to overthrow Daddy Bigbucks, who has become a despotic and money-hungry businessman with plans to travel back in time to crown himself king of the world. In order to defeat him, you must rally the four gangs of Miniopolis – The Streeties, Nerdies, Richies and Artsies and complete their many quests to earn ‘rep’. Along the way, you find the cure for vampirism, battle the devil in a fiddle contest, answer the riddles of a long-dead soldier and collect mutant three-eyed frogs to sell for money.
The series gets weirder still in the Game Boy Advance adaptation of The Sims 2, a completely different game that features your Sim going undercover within a Truman Show-esque town that exists as a popular television show. Your role is to create drama between the townsfolk and gain higher ratings, all while maintaining your cover as spy. Sending up all of the classic television tropes, this game sees you get shrunk down to the size of a bug, fend off the advances of an evil hoard of mole people, and deal with an unwanted neighbour in the form of slimy alien actor, Burple. Yes, his name is Burple. Also, the game begins with you bullying him so he’ll vacate your toilet.
If you aren’t convinced by now, I don’t know what else to tell you. There’s only one thing for certain in life, and that is that the Sims handheld games are the wildest, most enjoyable games I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing, and if you haven’t already, you should do yourself a favour and check them out.