I haven’t played anything for a few days (which is why there were no Today’s Play entries). Nothing in my collection particularly excites me at the moment, mostly because I’m tempted to buy something new. Today, however, I did put some time into Mario Kart Wii, LittleBigPlanet and The Sims 2.
Mario Kart Wii
Being somebody who doesn’t generally like racing or enjoy driving, I’m fairly easy to please with the Mario Kart games. As long as there are the familiar characters (especially Wario, my personal default choice), a healthy selection of tracks and the ability to race in the cups with friends/family then I’m happy, so Mario Kart Wii is exactly what I wanted from it.
The steering wheel casing for the Wii remote does help it feel slightly more authentic, and obviously ties in well with Nintendo’s attempts to make gaming logical to people who don’t play games but understand things like how you use a steering wheel or swing a tennis racquet. I personally find the steering wheel a little vague at times, and tend to be ‘wild’ enough with my movements that using it for too long makes my arms ache. The game also works fine with a Gamecube controller though.
Today I simply played through the first three cups with my nephew, two in individual races and one in opposing teams (where all human and A.I. players are split into teams, whose points are added together at the end). He’s only seven years old but has played the game a lot, and as such is much better at the game than I am. In the first (easiest) cup he placed first overall while I came second, but after that I was much more prone to making mistakes on the unfamiliar levels, and didn’t make the top three at any time while he repeatedly came first.
I didn’t play this much today, but my nephew had been playing Super Mario Sunshine and decided to work on LBP levels themed around that, and whenever he completed one I played it with him, pointing out the bits that would be annoying for others if he ever published them.
He actually seems to interpret most games he plays now in terms of how they could be recreated in LittleBigPlanet, and spends a lot of time on the game making objects, characters or levels. In fact, he’s done so much in it that his profile has filled up four times (there’s a surprisingly small limit on profile sizes). Once you reach that point the game won’t save any new content created or items collected, and constantly brings up an annoying message informing you of that fact. He’s now on his fifth profile on the PS3, just because of this game.
The good news though is that MediaMolecule are apparently working on a solution to it, but it could be some time yet before they do so.
The Sims 2
I have a lot of fondness for the Sims series. I had no interest in the games at all until a friend brought a pirate copy of the original game around and installed it on my machine. I enjoyed it and quickly bought it for myself, followed by every expansion for the game. Sims 2 seemed to improve on the original in pretty much every way, and I’ve since gone on to buy every expansion and most of the stuff packs (which are just new items rather than anything that modifies gameplay).
One of the good things about the game is it’s very moddable, with a large community making new items, clothing, hair, Sims (custom or celebrity) and even things that modify gameplay and fix errors missed by the developers (which are quite common, no doubt thanks to their short development time). The flip side of that is that my Sims 2 takes a full ten minutes to start up a household (going from starting the game, starting the neighbourhood, then loading the actual household). Even without all the mods it’s still a game with a lot of loading if you want to jump between families or visit any of the places brought in by each expansion, which is why it’s a relief that for the Sims 3 EA are opting for a seamless neighbourhood.
My playstyle is one of heavy control and micromanagement, making sure my Sims are always doing something that either improves their mood or works towards a goal. They’re never left to do their own thing, though that’s in part because Sims are pretty stupid, and when left alone they’ll inevitably decide to spend all their time dancing or picking fights.
As such, my Sims’ lives are pretty much all mapped out for them. As soon as they’re born I look at all the other children and decide who they’ll have their first date with and end up married to, using a spreadsheet to help me keep track of who hasn’t been assigned a partner. In a sense Sims 3 will be a little scary, as the other Sims continue living their lives (marriage, jobs, children etc.) while you’re playing, but I’m looking forward to it all the same.
My current task in Sims 2 is making all 44 of the children in the town (Strangetown, one of the defaults) reach teen age, date their intended and then move to college (brought in with the University expansion), after which I’ll focus entirely on college and get them to graduate. Once they’re all ready to move home and become adults, I’ll jump back to Strangetown and begin ageing all the existing adults to elder age, because it wouldn’t do to have children the same age as their parents.
Consulting the spreadsheet, my specific task is making the five Landgraab children (the children of two of the game’s Sims, Malcolm Landgraab and Jodie Larson) meet and befriend their future partners, upon which all five will date them and complete the whole first romance thing. The only problem there was that one of the Landgraab teens, Isabella (a romance Sim), didn’t even know the person I’d assigned to be her first love, Ripp Grunt (another romance Sim), or even anybody in the family. To facilitate the meeting I had to switch to a family that knew both a Landgraab and a Grunt, so I took a guess at which family that might be, trying the Hollisters.
The Hollisters are a family of my own creation. They started as just Ted the mechanic and dog Washington (pets are from the Pets expansion), with Ted making his money from restoring the busted cars added in with the Free Time expansion and selling them from home in a business brought in with the Open For Business expansion. Ted’s a family Sim, but I couldn’t find a suitable partner for him and decided that his family would come wholly through adoption. He now has three girls, Jacqueline, Brittany and Esther.
My hunch was correct, Jacqueline knew both a Landgraab (the elder sister, Anastasia) and Ripp Grunt, and quickly invited them both round to meet. While doing that I was able to see from the spreadsheet that both Brittany and Esther still needed to befriend their intendeds, so had them working on that while Anastasia and Ripp met.
That done, I hopped back to the Landgraab home and had Anastasia invite Ripp round for Isabella to befriend. Soon all the Landgraab teens were at max friendship with their spouses-to-be, ready for their collective first date. That’s where I stopped playing for the day. Strange as it might seem, I consider that a productive session.
Wario Kart: Consolation Prize
Mario Sackboy: Flickr (Celteen)
Sims 2 Images: Personal screenshots.