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Sims Bustin' Out Package Art
Electronic Arts

Sims Bustin' Out

If you've been anywhere near a PC in the past couple years, you've heard of The Sims. It's become the best-selling computer game of all time, spawning countless expansion packs and even an online version. Not bad for an electronic doll house. And now, The Sims are making their long-awaited portable debut on the Game Boy Advance -- but it's probably not what you think.


Scenery is decent for the most part. Furniture looks a bit drab at times, but they did the best that they could with the Game Boy's resolution. The game characters, on the other hand, are often blurry and indistinct; I often had trouble telling the low-key characters apart on sight.


Music is decent enough. Expect remixes of all the old Sims tunes. Characters come fully-voiced with all of the usual Simlish gobbledygook.


Bustin' Out is a bit of a departure from the typical Sims line. Instead of directing the actions of an entire household through a point and click interface, you're given full and direct control over a single character, or Sim. Gone are the days of waiting for your Sims to move between tasks and wasting valuable time with their poor path-finding capabilities. Because of this subtle change, the game feels less like a simulation and more like a role-playing game along the lines of Harvest Moon.

The basic mechanics are a stripped-down version of the game's PC and console predecessors. All of the homes in the game come pre-built -- you don't get to create your own floorplans, but you can decorate them any way you like. Many actions have been simplified, rendering a lot of furniture obsolete; who needs a refridgerator, surface space, or a dining room setup when all you need is a stove to cook a full meal? And, although you can gain roommates to share your house with, you don't need to see to their needs or interact with them in any meaningful way -- they just hang around your house and occasionally use your stuff without your permission, just like in real life. Although it lacks depth, Bustin' Out still manages to capture some of the addictive tedium of helping an electronic person get through everyday life.

The point of the game is to improve your Sim's life as you see fit while making sure its needs are taken care of, including hunger, hygiene, fatigue, comfort, homesickness, loneliness, fun, and the ever-important bladder. As you wander around Sim Valley, you'll meet other Sims to befriend, land jobs to earn a few Simoleans, purchase new furniture to fill your home, and help your Sim learn new skills that will help it around the home and in the workplace. It's a dull concept, and yet it's easy to find yourself lost in it for hours at a time. Sometimes it's hard to resist the incremental rewards the game offers for staying with it just one more game day or for picking up just one more skill point.

But when the day-to-day grind becomes a drag, you can spend a little time completing missions available to you around town. You start off at your Uncle Hayseed's farm, where you're run through a brief tutorial chapter to get you to learn the basics of the game. After that, you can engage in the mini-plots around town at your leisure, involving everything from a run-down nightclub to a genetically engineered rooster. Your tasks are generally simple -- learn a certain skill, obtain a certain item, win the friendship of a certain person. There's no time limit, so you can play through at whatever pace you like. You can even disregard the missions altogether if you want to, but you might want to look into them. Completing missions will earn you Simoleans, open up new job opportunities, and even get you new homes.

Unfortunately, the game comes with quite a few annoyances. Your position on the game's map is often inaccurate or misleading, which makes it hard to get around and find things. The different sections of town are sometimes linked up poorly, so that you'll be heading in one direction as you leave a screen and find yourself in an entirely different direction when you enter the next -- or running into an obstacle you hadn't seen. The streets seem to be designed to make you take the longest way possible to get to any given location. One road in particular leads straight into the back of a building and ends; getting around it on scooter requires a detour that'll take you all the way across town. Finding other characters to complete your missions can be a little frustrating sometimes. You can call someone to see where they're going to be, but more likely than not, they'll have moved on somewhere else by the time you've found them. There are eight different mini-games that you play when your Sim goes to work, but I find that most of them suffer from sloppy control.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the game is the randomized inventory available at the stores in the game. It was all right for Tom Nook to have different items available every day in Animal Crossing because your character didn't actually need anything. But in The Sims, you can find yourself in a tight spot if a thief swipes your toilet and you have to spend a few days waiting for a new one to become available in the stores. Saving up to buy a piece of furniture that you particularly want becomes frustrating because there's no guarantee when it'll be available.

As a rather nice touch, you can link up this game to The Sims Bustin' Out for Gamecube, download a character, and play with it on the go. It's a nice novelty for people who own both versions, but not really a reason to buy both games in and of itself.


Two players can link up to trade items or, if they prefer, take advantage of the pointlessly gimmicky "Paradise Island" location. It's basically just a location in the game that becomes unlocked when you've linked up to another copy of The Sims. Why do we have to prove that we have another copy of the game sitting next to us to do this? Who knows.


Not a bad game, for The Sims' first handheld outing. Despite its many little flaws, Bustin' Out is still a hard game to put down. If you like The Sims, you'll probably like this bite-sized version.

final score 6.5/10

Staff Avatar Ed Griffiths
Staff Profile | Email
"Nothing can kill the Grimace!"

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