A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this expansion to the popular life simulator The Sims 2 looks and feels very much like the original game, save that avatars now live in multi-unit dwellings. However, it also has a supernatural twist in that players can now morph their sims into witches and warlocks. Should players go this fantastical route, they'll have the option of selecting between two moral disciplines: The Ways of the Light and the Path of Darkness. The former provides access to helpful spells (healing fellow sims, patching up bad relationships), while the latter allows players to perform evil magic, causing other sims to become ill, start fires, and get into fights with one another. In short, you can be a meaner, nastier sim than ever before. That said, the game rewards civil behavior through a new Reputation Meter. Polite, respectful sims will find it easier to succeed in their careers and social life, while evildoers will inspire dislike and mistrust in their fellow sims.
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What's it about?
As the remarkably successful life simulator The Sims 2 heads into its final stretch (The Sims 3 is slated for release next year), Electronic Arts has rolled out one last expansion pack in the form of THE SIMS 2: APARTMENT LIFE. The primary new feature in this add-on, as suggested by its title, is that your sims now have the option of living in a variety of multi-unit dwellings, from sparse lofts to deluxe condominiums. That means paying rent, taking on roommates, dealing with loud neighbors, and growing accustomed to a social circle made tighter by virtue of the fact that many of your friends live just a few feet away.
But there's more to Apartment Life than just new urban abodes. For starters, players can now befriend witches and warlocks and eventually join the coven themselves, learning magical powers that give them the ability to make or break relationships, keep themselves fed and clean, and travel quickly by broomstick. It's a fairly steep departure from the franchise's devotion to authenticity, but casting a spell that causes a sim who you think might be making moves on your date to vomit is an undeniably satisfying -- if somewhat devilish -- bit of fun.
Is it any good?
If this element of fantasy is not to your liking, you can simply choose not to associate with any witches and instead focus on new features more in keeping with the series' realer-than-real vibe. Like the reputation meter, which bobs up and down based on how much respect you show other sims. It can have a marked impact on how both new and old acquaintances react to you. And, depending on your sim's affluence, butlers are now available -- a godsend for players who can't stand cleaning up after themselves.
Of course, apartment living also comes with some disadvantages. Improvements to your pad are limited to the decorative variety -- no structural changes allowed. And if your roommate is short on cash come the first of the month? You'll have to pony up to make up the difference, or face an angry landlord willing to take you to collections. This broad range of new features and content, both helpful and hindering, helps make Apartment Life one of the strongest expansions to any Sims game to date.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how realistically the game simulates human relationships. Are there enough options for interactions to make it feel as though you can say or do what you want when your sim is socializing with friends? Are the timelines and events involved in the game's romances authentic? You can also discuss the new reputation meter. Does it authentically simulate how a person's interactions with some people can affect their standing with others? Did you feel motivated to be better behaved out of concern that antisocial antics could damage your relationships with others?
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