The Sims: House Party Expansion
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the SimCity variety of Maxis games. The majority of these games involve building cities or other such things and attempting to keep the various inhabitants of these places happy. The Sims broke from the tradition of focusing on constructing places for Sims to live and instead assigned players the task of managing the Sims themselves. Players can build houses, create families, and buy a variety of objects and furnishings to make their Sims' lives more interesting. Players also must manage such every day activities as making sure their Sims eat, sleep, exercise, have fun, take care of their hygiene, remain comfortable, and go to the bathroom. I must admit that all of this seemed rather a weird idea for a game to me at first and I resisted trying it for a long time. However, once I did try it I was instantly hooked. Obviously, since the original Sims is still topping the PC games sales charts, I’m not the only one.
House Party is the second expansion pack for The Sims. While the first expansion pack, Livin’ Large, focused mainly on adding new items, career tracks, and NPCs, the main focus of the House Party expansion pack is to make it easier for Sims to socialize by, as you might have guessed, giving them the ability to throw parties.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The interface for House Party is the same as for the previous installments of The Sims. You begin by either selecting a pre-made family or creating your own. You can make this selection by clicking on various icons at the bottom of the neighborhood (opening) screen. If you choose to create your own Sims you can assign them various points in neat, outgoing, active, playful, and nice by clicking the plus or minus signs on the indicator bars for each Sim. The number of points you allocate to each attribute determines your Sim’s personality and astrological sign. You also select your Sim’s skin color, hair color and style, facial features, and clothing at this stage. Once you have your Sims created and named, you can then either move them into a pre-made house or buy an empty plot of land on which to build them a house of their own. Once again, this is accomplished by clicking on icons located at the bottom of your screen. Once your Sims are moved into their new home, you are ready to start controlling them directly and the real gameplay begins.
On the bottom left corner of the screen are a variety of icons for selecting various aspects of the game to control. The major icons allow the player to select between live mode (the mode where your Sims are going about their daily lives), build mode (the mode where you can build new houses or additions to your existing houses), and buy mode (the mode for buying new objects and furnishings for your Sims homes). Other icons are available for saving your game, setting game options, taking pictures of your Sims activities, adjusting the camera angle, switching stories for houses with multiple floors and changing the game speed. On the right side of the screen are displays which indicate the mood of your Sims. The display features various indicator bars for Hunger, Comfort, Hygiene, Bladder, Energy, Fun, Social and Room. Icons are also available for switching between your different Sims, viewing their job performance and checking their relationships with other Sims.
Players control Sims by selecting them with the mouse either directly or by using the icon. Once a Sim is selected they can be ordered to do various things, such as speaking to another Sim or using an object by clicking on objects or other Sims and selecting from a menu of available commands. Players can also rotate the camera around by using the icons or adjust which part of the house they are viewing by moving the mouse pointer in the direction they wish to view. Players may choose to make walls invisible or have them cut away when selected with the mouse, so that they may better view the interior of a home.
While there are a lot of controls to choose from, they are very intuitive to learn and easy to access. Everything you need to do can be accomplished with a mouse click or two and if you do need help with a control, there’s a good in game help system and tutorial house available.
Basic gameplay revolves around making sure that your Sims are happy by trying to keep their various indicator bars as full as possible. For example if your Sim’s hunger bar is getting empty, you can order your Sim to go eat something by clicking on the refrigerator and selecting the appropriate command from the menu. Your Sims begin their game with $20,000, with which they may purchase home improvements and objects. In order to obtain more money they must obtain jobs and advance up the career ladder. To do this you not only need to keep your Sims happy, but you need to develop their skill in charisma, cooking, body, mechanical, creativity and/or logic and make sure your Sim has enough family friends to move up both the social and corporate ladder.
It is the secondary goal of career and social advancement that the House Party expansion is most focused on. Many players of the original and Livin Large installments were finding that once they hit a certain point it was difficult to advance any further, because of the need to acquire large numbers of family friends. The ability to throw "house parties" makes it much easier to socially interact with large numbers of other Sims and thus advance one’s career.
However, what hasn’t changed from the original installments is that the true fun of The Sims game is not so much in advancing your Sims as it is watching all of the silly things that they do. House Party adds to this aspect by including a variety of new objects and activities for your Sims to interact with. Some of the most popular additions include the ability to hire a male or female entertainer for your guests, the ability to play charades, dance on a dance floor or in a gogo cage, sing or tell ghost stories around a camp fire, shoot off fireworks, ride a mechanical bull, dress up in costumes or use a giant "bubble blowing" machine, which makes your Sims suspiciously giggly and stupid.
The expansion also allows you to hire a caterer for your parties, which greatly relieves the trouble of trying to feed large numbers of guests and then clean up after them. You can also be a DJ or a bartender for your guests. If your party is really boring a Mime may show up, but rumor has it that if your party really rocks a certain famous TV star will stop by and party with you.
The hilarious animations for the campfire singing, storytelling, and charades games alone make this pack worth the price of admission. For those of you that have a bit of an evil streak, setting objects (or people) on fire with the rocket launcher or watching your guests get ticked at their "heart’s desire" flirting with the entertainers are also interesting diversions.
House Party has no true multiplayer support. You can import families that other players have created into your game, but that’s about as close as it gets. You can also share your enthusiasm for the game with other Sims fanatics by creating or downloading custom objects, skins, and houses from a large variety of internet sites such as The Sims Resource.
While the House Party graphics aren’t cutting edge, they are very nice and get the job done. The animation is detailed enough that you can judge your Sims moods by their body movements, but there is some weirdness with the collision detection. You’ll find at times that your Sims will appear to walk right through each other or through objects, but these "problems" don’t interfere with gameplay at all. You also won’t need a top of the line graphics card to run this game. While some players find they experience some slowdown when there are large amounts of Sims in the same place at the same time, my roommate is comfortably able to run this game on an ancient video card with little problem.
The House Party audio tends to range from annoying to so cute that you can hardly stand it. All of the Sims seem to speak in some cross between Japanese, French, and German and are generally pretty hilarious to listen to. The noise from the television, while very realistic, will probably get on your nerves after awhile, as will the music from the stereos and such. The sound of a baby crying is so realistic that it really should be a requirement for people to play this game before they decide to have kids. The best audio segment from this installment is the campfire singing. Not only does the song sound different depending on how many people are singing and whether they are male or female, but the Sims will actually harmonize on their songs. I have run into occasional problems with the music causing the game to slow down or getting "stuck" at times, but these are generally infrequent and minor occurrences.
Originality / Cool Features
The Sims series in general has become such a sensation because there really is nothing else out there like it. You really have to play it to understand what its all about. The coolest House Party features are the ability to get massive amounts of Sims to visit at the same time and the various cool new objects such as the campfire and bubble blower that give your Sims more interesting (and funny) things to do. Overall gameplay doesn’t change much with this installment, but the pack does add over 100 new objects and characters, five new music styles, five new dance styles to match the new music, and three new "themes" -- Cowboy, Luau, and Rave as well as support for up to 65,000 wall and floor downloads, and five neighborhoods (the original game only includes one).
If you haven’t played The Sims yet, try that first and then buy the expansions later. If you’re already a stone cold Sims Freak, then by all means rush out and buy this pack now. You’ll love the new objects to play with and increased support for customized objects and Sims and if you’ve been struggling to move your Sims up the career ladder, this pack will help you acquire those friends your Sims have been missing. If you just liked The Sims, but aren’t a fanatic about it, you may want to pass on this installment or wait until it hits the bargain bin. While the additions are fun, they aren’t core to the basic gameplay and just occasional Sim players may not get as much out of the new additions as hardcore players. If you tried The Sims and hated it or thought the Livin Large expansion wasn’t worthwhile, then House Party is probably not for you. What the expansion does add to the game is very cool, but it doesn’t really add a ton of new things. House Party is a pack for Sims addicts who love the first two installments, but still want more.