Category Archives: Video Game Review

My critique on video games

Top 10 Video Games of 1988

Image result for super mario bros 2Number 10.  –  Super Mario Bros. 2 (US Version)

It should be no secret by now, so let’s get it out of the way first – Yes, the Super Mario Bros. 2 that most of us know, that is, this one, is technically not really a Mario game. Originally released in Japan as Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic (Dream Factory: Heart-Pounding Panic), it was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, and starred an Arabian-esque family of four instead of the cast you’re familiar with. The Super Mario Bros. 2 that Japan got was pretty much just a much harder version of the original Super Mario Bros., and, supposedly fearing that it would be too hard for the west, Nintendo instead decided to replace the protagonists in Doki Doki Panic with Mario characters (As well as some other small changes), and release it in the west as our Super Mario Bros. 2. Later, they then went and released the edited version in Japan as Super Mario Bros. USA! It’s a bit of an oddball to players familiar with other Mario games, sure, but the fact that it’s so different from the rest of the series is what makes Super Mario Bros. 2 such an entertaining game.

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Top 10 Video Games of 1987

Related imageNumber 10.  – Mega Man

The Mega Man series will need no introduction to most gamers; this game spawned five sequels on the NES, not to mention numerous games on other systems over the years. Mega Man has come a long way since his début way back in 1987. Yes, I’m saying that the original is the worst of them. It’s still a good game. If it never had any sequels, I’m sure we’d all easily call it one of the greatest NES games. However, it has a lot of flaws that its successors fix. Notably, controlling Mega Man is a lot more slippery than in later games. While future games have precise movement, Mega Man tends to slide an extra step or two when he stops running. This is especially annoying in a game with a lot of instant-death pits and spikes. Also, while Mega Man games are known for their difficulty, the original is too tough. It doesn’t have E Tanks, so you can’t refill your health in the middle of a level. In fact, without the help of a glitch (you can pause and unpause the game in rapid succession to make one of your attacks hit some bosses multiple times), I’m not sure I could finish it. It’s easy to forgive Mega Man. It was the first, so of course the sequels would be more refined. The original laid the groundwork for an incredible series. But today, it’s the least enjoyable one to play.

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Blackwell Convergence review

blackwell-convergence-cover

The third game of the Blackwell series takes place six months after Rosangela met Joey Malone from Black Legacy… Oh no it’s Rosanela’s winey voice, quick cover your ears!!… (Listens it)… Did they just change her voice? Holy Crap they did! And you know what, she sounds human in comparison. I also forgot to mention that when Widjet Eye games re-released Blackwell Legacy on steam, they removed the voice-actress to originally voiced Rosangela and replaced her with current voice actress of the series, Rebbecca Whittaker. And for that reason alone, I change the score for Blackwell Legacy’s updated version to a 5 fingers out of 5.

Well, here’s the actual review on Blackwell Convergence, Roseangela and Joey have made their own business in spiritual intestigating. In the very beginning of the game, they spoiled the player investigating a ghost whose trying to jump off from his window, but already has committed suicide. Though this was just an opening of the game that had nothing to do with the plot, it actually shows Rosangela on where here life’s been since she knows that she’s a medium.

When Rosangela and Joey successfully put that lost spirit to rest, they went back home to find that they have an invitation from her neighbor Nishanti to the art show in a museum. There, Rosa starts to investigate a possible lead from a director at a film company. She soon finds out that an actor from their recent film has been murdered. Rosa also finds out about an old murder of a researcher whose work was stolen to benefit a rivaling corporation. Finally, on the gallery’s opening night The Countess makes an appearance and kills the artist whose painting are on display. You might remember The Countess from Blackwell Unbound as the main villain, and now she is a ghost which makes her more dangerous that even the victims can’t see her.

While the Countess is on her search for murder, Rosangela starts to feel that spirit world that’s in her head is starting to loose control. There, she encounters the hostess of the spirit world that gave her the medium power. Blackwell Convergence is actually gave the players the first time to witness what the afterlife is like and see what is the afterlife like through portal to the spirit world. We witness where do these spirits end up and was well understand how this whole rule works. But back in the physical world, you have the same formula of saving lost spirits like in Blackwell Legacy and Blackwell Unbound. It’s Rosangela’s duty to put these souls to rest, but more importantly stop the Countess from murdering any more.

The way that it works is that you must interview the people who actually know of the person who’s dead, find the actual location of the ghost, and try to convince them that they are dead, but most likely they’ll deny it believing that they’re alive (and not remembering of the cause of their death). Now in order to do that you have to investigate the cause of death, look at the ghost’s private property, talk to the people who know of the dead one to find out their weakness in convincing that they are dead and so much more. Since you have a great variety of ghosts, and different causes of death, throughout the series, this gives us so many opportunities of puzzle solving, locations to explore, and even a great variety of characters to interact with like any other adventure game.

Just like on the last game, Blackwell Convergence gives the player the opportunity to change characters to either Rosangela or Joey Malone as you’ll face puzzle solving that involves both of them. For those who forgot, this was introduced in Blackwell Unbound where Rosangela’s physical where she can pick up objects and talk to any one, Joey on the other hand can go through lock doors, pick up spiritual objects, change temperatures, and go to locations that Rosangela can not yet reach. However, Joey can’t pick up physical objects or talk to living people who doesn’t believe in ghosts, so that made playing as Rosa to be more important.

You can really see that the game has a higher production where WidgetEye Games actually gave Blackwell Convergence a graphical upgrade. I do prefer the old school pixelated graphics instead of this one because the high level detail has less personality in comparison. However, when you look up at the character’s avatar whenever you engage in a conversation, it really is better to look at than seeing character’s faces from the two previous games. In all seriousness, this installment of the series told a much better ghost story which makes it my favorite out of the first three of the series. Another big improvement is that the soundtrack is perhaps the best we’ve ever heard in the whole series because the jazz score really explodes right in front of your face thanks to the wondrous saxophone playing time to time. Also the animation and sound quality is unbelievably a huge improvement where it really suspend the player in disbelief. I mean, when I first heard the rain drops falling, it really sounded clear as crystal. I’m really impressed that this indie game managed to offer so much with limited budget just to show so much heart and soul were put in this game. It’s really inspirational to see that they were able to tell the story that they want to tell and yet will very little resource they have, they managed to make something this special. It’s titles like this that makes me want to support any newer adventure game out there and for Blackwell, it delivers!

The Top Lister’s score for Blackwell Convergence  –  5 out of 5

Blackwell Unbound review

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Now on the next game of the series, Blackwell Unbound. Usually when a new series released a game and plans to make another one for the series, it’s expected it to be a sequel, but for some reason, Widjet Eye Games made the second game of the Blackwell series not a sequel, but instead a prequel. This is the story where we go back to when Lauren Blackwell was doing the medium duty with Joey Malone. This was before Rosangela was born and before Lauren went in a mental collapse. Unbound was originally supposed to be a flashback sequence in the sequel for Blacckwell Legacy, but it grew so large that it became a game in its own right. It’s a risky move considering that not that many people know of this game series and for it to be a prequel right after the first game is quite something that hasn’t been done this early before. Usually prequels (regardless if it’s a movie, book, or video game), needs a lot of popularity or more sequels to even have a prequel. But since we’re talking about a game in the independent scene, anything can happen.

The time period of where this game takes place is back in the 1970s. The object of Blackwell Unbound is similar to Blackwell Legacy where you have to locate these ghosts who thinks they’re alive, communicate with the people who know of that are dead person, and find out a way to help them by first convincing them that they are dead. Both Joey & Lauren investigate two ghosts – a murdered saxophone player and a murdered women haunting a construction site of her old apartment building. While investigating the two seemingly unrelated incidents, Lauren discovers that both ghosts have been murdered by the same woman that calls herself The Countess. I won’t spoil anything, but encountering this character is absolutely creepy and having the plot revolve around this character’s actions well compelling. Like the last game, you have plenty of characters to interact with, varied location to explore, and puzzle solving. Unbound doubles the experience of Legacy, by making Joey a playable character.

Our new main character Lauren was something out of expectation, because Roseangela was a nerdy lovable caring character. Lauren Blackwell, the aunt, on the other hand, was a stuck-up woman who has a big attitude and a flirtatious voice along with it. Talk about the total opposite character in the Blackwell family. Joey however is the same lovable, gag cracking character that we know from the last game. The relationship between Joey & Lauren is a hilarious one, where Joey gives her the hardest time that it drove Lauren nuts. But what’s new to the series is that you can switch characters with either Joey or Lauren at any time. And like other games that have the character switching single player feature, both Joey & Lauren have their own pros & cons. Since Lauren is physical where she can pick up objects and talk to any one, Joey on the other hand can go through lock doors, pick up spiritual objects, change temperatures, and go to locations that Lauren can not yet reach. However Joey can’t pick up physical objects or talk to living people who doesn’t believe in ghosts, so that made playing as Lauren to be more important.

The tone and atmosphere of this game is much more atmospheric. Just when you thought Grim Fandango offered the best jazz soundtrack, Widjet Eye games added jazz music for the soundtrack just simply made it so breath-taking. The design for the characters wasn’t quite as well made compared to the last game, but it still was suitable for a game driven by a jazzy soundtrack. However my only negitive with this game is that this game was easier than Blackwell Legacy which affect some replay value and the tone and story-telling wasn’t as compelling as to the last game. Regardless I only recommed this game to those who really loved Blackwell Legacy. If you do you would already find yourself right at home to know who Roseangela’s aunt was and it unfolds the mystery that happened before Roseangela was born and it’s important know what’s going to happen in the next game of the series.

The Top Lister’s rating on Blackwell Unbound  –  4 fingers out of 5

Blackwell Legacy review

Insight

You know, let me tell you one of my all time favorite movies that’s a psychological thriller that deals with ghosts and loose spirits that weren’t exactly evil, but instead lost souls that have no idea that they are dead. And that’s The Sixth Sense. That film took the concept of seeing dead people in a captivating level where it focus heavily on character development and knowing that ghosts aren’t all evil, we just fear the unknown. This film could have been a ghostbusters knock-off if they made it all action and made the ghosts typically evil. The illogic thing about ghosts is why would good people who died all of the sudden turned evil? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. As much as I love the Sixth Sense, I can’t really be demanding a sequel because M. Night Shyamalan’s movies today are terrible in both directing and writing screenplays. But what amazes me is that there’s a video game series that takes the similar concept & mythos of what the Sixth Sense started. So how can you make a game based on a movie that has no action, but instead has strong character development and a puzzling mystery? You sure as hell can’t do it in a FPS, you can’t do it on a Platformer, and you especially can’t do it in an action game. So it makes sense to make it an adventure game, and this point-and-click adventure game series is…

Blackwell Legacy

I love independent games, or indie games for short. This series went to a direction in games where there’s a lot of risk, but the independent developers who created this wonderful series has nothing to loose because for mainstream games to make an adventure game is a huge risk, due to the fact that the majority of gamers today just demands nothing in their games but action. Wadjet Eye Games & founder Dave Gilbert began the series back in December 26, 2006. I didn’t hear about this series until much later when I started to crave for adventure games and just hearing the concept of a person seeing ghosts and helping them that sound similar to the Sixth Sense and, most of all, actually goes above and beyond what the film left out all sounded fascinating to me.

Beginning this review on the series we go all the way back to the beginning of the series with Blackwell Legacy. Our main character of the series is Rosangela Blackwell. She’s a young freelance writer living a solitary life in New York City. Her one and only relative, Aunt Lauren Blackwell, have passed away. She was at the George Washington Bridge to fulfill her aunt’s wish in throwing her ashes to the river. Before her dying day, Rosangela had no knowledge or memory of her one and only relative, but the family secret will soon prevail.  The beginning of the game shows us the life of Rosangela, or Rosa for short, and how lonely and dark her world is. Rosa’s a hard-working freelance writer while a nice person at heart, she has a very dry personality at times, and she seems to have a hard time interacting with others. After her aunt’s pass, she only wished that she would know her more due to the fact that she’s been in a coma for 20 years. Fortunately she met her aunt’s doctor who tried to help her metal collapse before her pass. It turns out that her metal collapse was hereditary going on for two generations, beginning with her grandmother. As both of Rosa’s grandmother and aunt died from the same cause, it is of concern that it will soon happen to Rosa as well. What’s even more of a concern is that before both her grandmother and aunt died, both of them cried out “Joey.” The doctor said that they tried to find who Joey was for 25 years and there was no trace to any person name Joey who had any relation to the Blackwell family. But we will cover that in this review.

Rosangela would of try to solve this mystery but she has a job to do to write about a suicide in a college dorm. The suicide in college serves a huge part of the plot because as soon as Rosa knows what she’s made of, then she would solve this weird mystery of this student’s death that came out of nowhere, since the other students that known that person didn’t care about her. In the course of the game Rosangela develops from an independent person whose getting used to the social life in New York City into a brave and lovable character towards the end. You’ll be seeing a lot of new characters like Jim who’s overprotective of Rosa’s apartment, Nishanti the next door neighbor, to the ghosts who has no idea that they’re dead, to the witnesses and loved ones of the ghosts to interact, chat, or interview. Like all adventure games, interacting with your character furthers the progression of the game, and decides which choice of dialog in the conversation tree will trigger the correct response of the character you’re interacting plus access to new locations that you couldn’t reach. I thing I just noticed about many adventure games is that they have in-game notes to tell the player what did you discovered, questions you want to know based on what you’ve experienced in your game, or hits to your next location. But what Blackwell Legacy did with those in-game notes is to make it look your character’s actual notes rather than a thing that only exist to the player. This means that the note that you carry can be used them to interview people, since the dialog in your conversation tree can hold everything.  If you didn’t go into an event in the game which adds that to your note, then you can’t ask anyone that question of that event unless you witness it yourself. This adds a lot of encouragement of exploration in the world of Blackwell Legacy.

But where the game really starts to shine was when you’re introduced to a character that introduces you to the spirit world and make you start seeing actual ghosts. Around the part where Rosangela starts getting headaches, it’s causing her inner power to develop up until she meets, this whole mysterious Joey person that Rosa’s grandmother and Aunt Lauren cried out before they died. Joey Malone, in a matter of fact, is the Blackwell family’s spirit guide who protected them for three generations of the family. He appears to be this New York City’s private detective from the 1930s, 40s, or 50s. And I got to admit his first impression with Rosa was just plain hilarious… As it turns out Rosa’s grandmother was the first one to see Joey but she didn’t last long because she couldn’t accept that she’s seeing ghosts and went insane. Lauren Blackwell, however accepted that she’s a medium and helped Joey in helping these loose spirits spreading around New York City. Even though Lauren’s death remains a mystery (which I’m not going to spoil), it’s now Rosangela Blackwell’s turn to take over Lauren’s duty as a medium. A medium in the Blackwell series is a living person who can see ghosts and enter the spirit world, but this ability they must save loose spirits and guide them to the spirit world where they belong.

The way that this works is this, Joey has a tie that he wears around his neck and it’s the only spiritual thing that Rosa can literally touch. Once holding it, all she has to do is pull the tie, while the ghost is holding the other end of the tie which pulls the ghost in her head. Once entering in the head, they’ve entered the spirit world, well actually they’re inside her head, but inside her head is a spiritual way station which is a white light that leads the ghosts that Rosa rescues to enter infinity. Joey said it himself that he tried to enter the world but couldn’t because he’s the Blackwell family’s spirit guide which forbids him to enter the world beyond. But Rosa needs to work with Joey in saving these spirits is because if she doesn’t put a ghost through the gateway inside her head in a long time, then she’ll become insane like her grandmother and Aunt Lauren. But it’s not as easy as to just go up to a ghost and use Joey’s tie, tie them the ghost up, and pull them into Rosa’s head, they first need to know that they are actually dead and make them accept what they now are in order for them to even enter your head to the gateway.

Now this is the part of the game that gets really interesting because at this point of the game, it become the object of the game to find a ghost and make them go into your head and send them to the gateway. But as I stated before, it won’t work unless you prove to them that they are dead. So at this point of the game, you must interview the people who actually know of the person who’s dead, find the actual location of the ghost, and try to convince them that they are dead, but most likely they’ll deny it believing that they’re alive (and not remembering of the cause of their death). Now in order to do that you have to investigate the cause of death, look at the ghost’s private property, talk to the people who know of the dead one to find out their weakness in convincing that they are dead and so much more. Since you have a great variety of ghosts, and different causes of death, throughout the series, this gives us so many opportunities of puzzle solving, locations to explore, and even a great variety of characters to interact with like any other adventure game.

Well, I’m not going to tell you what kind of ghost you’re going to end up helping because that’s the fun part that I don’t want to spoil. Trying to help just one is very time consuming, because you’re going to have to know almost everything about them, but this kind of display of heroism is really unique because in terms of character development it adds a good degree of emotional level and envestment of caring for them.

In the Sixth Sense they only saved one ghost and the rest of the movie showed that they’ll save more leaving so many things unfinished & mysterious, but throughout the Blackwell series you’ll save numerous of ghosts to save in order for Rosangela to save herself from insanity for not helping them. Joey will always in company you where you go he provides you hints, helps out with the tie he carries in order for the ghost to get in Rosa’s head, and especially provide comedic relief throughout the series. Topic of people dead and trying to help out these ghost is a depressing topic, but with Joey around, he’s always there to make the funniest gags, dark humor, and flat out give Rosa a hard time and with that in mind, he simply adds so much charm to his character that it makes you smile every time.

Speaking of making me smile, I love how well crafted Blackwell Legacy is actually. You can tell that Dave Gilbert loves classic adventure games because the presentation of this game looks very similar to my favorites like Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, Beneath the Steel Sky, and the rest. It’s simply nostalgic to play through this game with an excellent varied soundtrack playing at each location you’re in. As for the story, I will have to say that the torn of this game is sad driven, but very charming and settling as you continue the game. This story is very well told and it’s somthing that I can really relate to. If I were a film maker, and had the opportunity of adapting a game into a film, I would want this game to be a the best game adapted into a film. I mean, there was so much heart put in this game that I can go on & on telling you why this game is so good, but it’s something that you need to experience yourself. I will say however that the only negative I have with this game is that the game is a little too easy and the voice acting is good with some performances like Joey, but there are some like Roseangela’s voice actress that does not sound natural. I love Eosa’s character but man, she sounds like she reading her script and wines whenever she speaks. If she wasn’t a caring character, I would of simply hated Rosangela as a character. Other than that, I sure as hell had a fun time playing this game & it was a special gem that’s very under the radar. My recommendation to adventure gamers out there, is a really recommended one.

The Top Lister’s rating for Blackwell Legacy  –  4 Fingers out of 5.

Top 7 The Sims Expansion Packs

I stated in my The Sims review that the Expansion packs really does improve The Sims Experience. It’s really interesting that in this day in age, almost all video game have Downloadable Content (DLC) provided through the internet and the expansion pack remains a thing from the past. However, The Sims series to this very day continues the Expansion pack tradition. I always enjoy buying an expansion pack from the Sims because it simply make the game a whole lot better! Another big possitive for Expansion packs over DLCs is that you literally keep the copy while nobody would ever predict when the developers would pull out the game from the market and abandon the DLC. Now these are the best Expansion packs that extended this life simulator into a better experience. What’s funny is the the Sims sequels kind of repeated the same thing with their own expansion packs. Now remember, this is just for the Sims 1, the other list of the best expansion pack for the Sims sequels are coming soon after I review them.

Number 7.  –  The Sims: Livin’ Large

Ah yes, the very first expansion pack released just for the Sims. Right from the get go, the developers knew that there wasn’t enough for the game so Living Large made the game so much more imaginative, goofier, and funnier than ever before. You have so many fun items to interact with such as the Crystal Ball, The “Concoctanation Station”, Genie in the Lamp (gamble to get wish granted), Vibromatic Heart Bed (that introduces sex in the game), telescope (hunt for aliens or spy neighbors), and so much more enjoyable items. There are also really cool NPCs like Servo (the maid robot), Santa Claus, Sunny the Tragic Clown, and the Grim Reaper. Since this is a game that introduces death, This NPC will come to fetch a Sim’s soul if he or she dies. If he is feeling generous, you can make any living Sims plea with him and play paper-scissors-rock with him to bring back the dead Sim. The Sims: Livin’ Large expanded the overall Sims experience with its holiday and mystical features, but it didn’t expanded as much as I hoped for in comparison to the other ones higher in the list…

Number 6.  –  The Sims: Hot Date

Part of psychology is also sexuality so why not making your Sims romantic life be more exciting by taking them out on dates? This expansion pack introduces Sims to have relationships with other Sims. This is the first expansion pack that actually gives player to bring Sims out of the house and venture to the new lots and attractions with the feature of Downtown. You’re able to buy presents, eat out in restaurants, more than 40 new interactions with other Sims, and so many romantic “activities” if you know what I mean. This is the expansion pack that turned this life-simulator into a dating simulator… almost. But if you really care for newer ways of interacting with other Sims (especially romantically) look no further than this great expansion pack!

Number 5.  –  The Sims: House Party

If you still think the Sims is boring then why haven’t you got yourself this expansion pack? This pack spared no expense with the huge number of objects offered her from electronic rodeo, DJ booths, dance floors and cages, campfires, better variety of costumes and so much more! The best part in this expansion pack is throwing a party. Once you call for a party at your Sim’s house then so many Sims from the neighborhood will come over and give your Sims a party of a life time! Mimes, Ghosts, Carters and party crashers are introduced to your party but the most surprising part of this game was Drew Carey‘s cameo appearance. Best surprise ever!

 

 

Number 4.  –  The Sims: Vacation

Oh, man this brings me back because this was my first Sims expansion pack and here I am still buying these things with the Sims sequels. While Hot Date gave players new locations like downtown, Vacation gave the player vacation lots from the snowy mountains, campy woods, or the sunny tropical beaches! This expansion pack is all about the wonderful objects that goes way beyond Living Large with the variety of objects that you can buy like Igloos, souvenirs, fishing pier, snowboard slides, carnival games, snowman, new interactions such as fishing, volleyball, and more. It also helps to have even mascots, like Marky Sharky, Archie Archer, and Betty Yeti, to bring a smile on your face whenever you reach the vacation resort. I do admit that I’m holding this game back because the hotel prices are ridiculous, but it was fun to get out of the damn house and do something exciting, finally!

Number 3.  –  The Sims: Superstar

Tired of living in the same style in the house all the time? Don’t worry, Superstar fame is the answer to your Sims’ life! Now you have brand new careers such as Supermodels, Acting, and Singing. There are so many objects in this game that only the upper class can own in real life. You can actually make your Sims more and more popular by raising your star-rating.  Sims who have above 3.0 stars are ‘A class’ stars; Sims who have 3.0 and 2.5 stars are ‘B class’ stars; and Sims who have under 2.5 stars are ‘C class’ stars. Only beginners with 0.0 stars have ‘Nobody’ status. All famous Studio Town townies are ‘Somebody’, while the non-famous townies are “Anybody.” You can make your Sim live like a rockstar and surprisingly enough, Superstar offers more celebrity cameo appearances than House Party did with Drew Carey.  You’ll encounter big names like Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, Marilyn Monroe, and Andy Warhol. If you’re rich enough and famous enough you can own a butler, encounter obsessed fans, get pictures from paparazzi, and so many things that only Hollywood has offered.

Number 2.  –  The Sims: Unleashed

We all love animals so it’s a no brainer to bring them to the Sims experience. You can own dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, and other wild animals to live right in your Sims household. All you have to do is visit the new lot called “Old Town” and adopt the pet that you so desire. You’re also given so many interactions just to play with them, teach them tricks, enter pet shows, and other interactions with your pet to be a lot more fun! There are more than enough items in this pack to make your pet suitable to live in you house. This game offered a lot more mascots/NPC than The Sims: Vacation had ever offered. One of the biggest selling points in this game is the new feature of including an inventory system for each of your Sims. This is incredibly helpful for bringing items to different locations and give your pets treats along with you. This could have been the best expansion pack if only we could had the privilege to control our pets just as we do to our Sims. Nevertheless, this is one of the biggest expansion pack just for the original Sims game.

Number 1.  –  The Sims: Makin’ Magic

There’s no doubt in my mind that the best Sims 1 expansion pack has to be the last expansion pack. This pack was loaded with tons of supernatural objects, collecting ingredients, create magic charms and magic spells, have a dragon as a pet, some of the most interesting NPC’s the game has to offer, and play at carnivals. Makin’ Magic has offered the best out of the neighborhood lot, Magic Town, that I never want to leave once I entered that realm. Everything offered in this game is so imaginative and addicting to further your Sims’ magic abilities. Hunting for ingredients in itself was some of the most adventurous in the entire Sim 1 experience that kept us out of the dull feeling of being stuck in your house after playing a certain point in time. Learning and casting spells was the most rewarding and funniest experience I’ve ever had in casting spells upon various Sims. Even if you’re not that much of a fan of The Sims, at least getting Makin’ Magic totally changes the experience! I personally played this expansion pack the least because the release of the Sims 2 was under a mile away when this last Expansion pack was released. It’s a shame that after all the Sims 2 expansion packs, that basically copied all the expansion packs from the Sims 1, it didn’t have a Makin’ Magic for the Sims 2.  However, Makin’ Magic was the expansion pack that kept going back when the Sims 2 was released because I was waiting for more expansion packs for the Sims 2. You can say that this expansion pack put a spell on me, but I loved Makin’ Magic with all my heart!

The Sims review

Just like regular games, nearly every video game has a goal. Whether if it’s reach from point a-to-b, destroy a certain number of targets, accomplish a mission objective… whatever, it’s all in a formulaic progression where the programmers/developers made all of their player go through the game. However, simulation games were the only video game genre that defied a certain goal and just let the player have their own goals in creating a game, placing objects to wherever they want, and so much more! Geniuses like Will Wright innovated the genre with the Sim series starting with SimCity. Throughout the Sim series he made all sort of simulation games like SimTown, SimFarm, SimHealth, SimIsle, SimPark, Simgolf... you get the picture; they were all self explanatory.  It took Will Wright over a decade making all of these Sim games and then he finally came up with… well… “The Sims.” The is the very first Life simulation game where you’re able to create people and control their own lives. For the sake that it was a game where we can create whatever we want, whenever we want, it grabbed both hardcore and casual gamers appealed and as a result it still remains as THE best selling PC game of all time! Now, this is my review on one of the best selling games ever.

Gameplay

Right from the get-go, this is a life simulator that uses the point-and-click gameplay that only computers are really good at. With the power of the mouse, you’re the god of this game and it’s up to you to make whatever you have up in your mind to be created with just a click of a mouse. When you start the game, you make the decision of playing an already own household and play already created Sims (which are what these people called) with their families, property, and house already built or you can start from scratch and create your own sims.

Of course, we all want to create our own characters and in this game you can only customize their head and clothes to put on your Sim. You are able to choose male or female, child or adult, color on their skin, give them their own name, write their bio (optional) and create their own personality to differentiate each and everyone of them from being the exact same Sim. You can set how playful/serious, nice/mean, shy/outgoing, active/lazy, and neat/messing each Sim are. You can see that this game was inspired by horoscopes and they are there to create psychology in your Sims which was so innovative in which has never been done in a video game before. However if you create a child, you can’t finish completing you creation without having an adult guardian in that household. You can create more than 1 Sim together in a household; making a family. You can have a total of 8 in your family. After finishing creating your Sims, it’s now time to choose a household. Now if you’re going to put them in an already built in house, you have to make sure nobody owns it and have enough money. Remember the more objects are in that household, the more expensive it will be. And considering that you’re starting a new sims family with only 20,000 you minus well get an empty house area and built your own house.

Now you can start playing the game. The game is going on the real game time where every minute is a second and every hour is a minute. It utalizes the night-and-day timezone the game has, but instead of having to wait for 12 minutes to a different time zone, you have the power to pause, fast-forward, and double fast-forward up the time. When all of your Sims in the household falls asleep, it automatically fast forwards until something bad is going on or they wake up and go back to regular speed. This helps a lot from so many wasted hours like level grinding in an MMORPG.

Speaking of sleep, you have to provide everything that your Sims need. Needs are a core factor for making your sims to be in a good mood and obey your every command. You have to satisfy their hunger, comfort, hygiene, bladder, energy (need of sleep), fun, social, and room. The only way you can do that is if you give them such objects that offers each need, just as we do in our daily lives. You have to make their Sims, cook, take a shower, socialize with other Sims, use the toilet, stay comfortable, and keep them in a healthy and suitable environment. For hunger – it’s obvious to have a refrigerator (that always uses up your cash each time you get something from the fridge) and to make better food you need a stove, microwave, grill, and/or counter to prepare that meal. You also need a place to eat, so get them a table and seats. For comfort – everyone need to relax and they need to sit or lie down on something like sofas and chairs. Bladder – obviously you need toilets to do the job. Energy – Sims need sleep and if they don’t get any how can they operate, so get them a bed to sleep on. Hygiene – Nobody wants to smell bad so get them a bath, shower, or a swimming pool to wash away that stench. Social – nobody can live alone so they need to converse with other Sims by encountering them face to face or give them a phone call. Fun – Nobody can last boredom so give them TV, games, music, and a lot of entertainment! And finally Room – Even though you have given them all of this stuff, they need the right placed in the right room because you don’t want a toilet being place in the kitchen or the living room so it’s up to the player place them all, but also more expensive objects can make the Sims feel more comfortable and happy being in such room. But also, rooms are to be seen, so you need lighting (like lamps, windows, and other lights) to brighten the atmosphere.

Constantly, the player has to command the Sims to do something and as time passes on each of the moods will decrease its meter and to keep them in obeying you, the player has to interact with another object and (if there isn’t anything blocking your Sims way) you click on the object, click on the action, and the Sims will directly do as you say. However the Sims can’t multitask so when you give them multiple commands, they only do them one by one. The player can also cancel a command by click on that action indicated at the top of the screen to take it away and the Sim will not do it. If you’re not giving a Sim a command, they will automatically do their own action themselves, whatever they feel like to.

But in order to provide those needs, the player needs to buy and built certain objects in creating such a lifestyle  for them. That’s why you have the “buy mode” and the “build mode.” In buy mode, it’s specifically objects buying off objects and it’s up to the player to place them where ever they want as long as it fits in that house/room and there’s no object that has already taken that spot. The player as can move object to wherever they want to place them. Some smaller objects can’t just be placed on the ground so you need surfaces like walls and tables/counter in order for that sims to keep that object like computers, microwaves, sinks, telephones and so much more! There are a lot of objects in buy mode and you can get much more of them from installing more expansion packs or downloading mods. In buy more, there are objects separated into different categories; appliances (fridge, stoves, and other kitchen stuff), comfort (chairs, sofas, and beds), decorations (paintings, plants, mirrors, ect), Electronics, Lighting (lamps, lights), and Miscellaneous (hobbies or skill building activities). There are so many variety of objects that come in different sizes and prices, but the more costly objects actually doubles the satisfactory of needs it can provide your Sims making it worth the price.

Build mode on the other hand are what makes the house a house. You can create, rotate, and place walls, staircases (to create another story house), roofs, pond, swimming pools, trees, flowers, rocks, windows, doors (only way for a sims to enter the door), fences, gates, dig holes or grow landscape, floors/rugs, and everything else that you can’t buy from buy mode. Build mode specifically creates what you want like how big or small your rooms are, how to enter a room, and so many more. You can also paint your room to actually create a different atmosphere for your Sims. You have a huge variety of wall-paint to put on your wall and it also gives your very own house (from both the inside and outside) to have it’s own identity.

You can make all of this stuff happen, however the catch is that you need enough money to make it all happen. That’s why you need to give your Sims a job (or use the cheat codes). You need a job to not only buy your stuff, but also pay bills, services, and much much more! There are careers that you can find from the newspaper (1 job offering a day) or search for one on the internet (3 job offerings a day).  You can have a career in athletics, business, criminal, entertainment, hacker, journalism, law enforcement, medicine, military, politics, and science. Once you get a job, your sims have to show up at work when the carpool arrives or face the consequences of loosing your job (if you don’t call in from being sick). You can even get even more jobs from installing more expansion packs. Now jobs will make you start from the bottom with low minimum wage, and you have to build your Sims up to giving promotions. And the only way a Sim can give a promotion is to:

  • Have a certain number of friends
  • Be in a very good moode (having all needs has to be above average)
  • Develop skills needed for this promotion
  • Occasionally a decision is popped up for you to make in your job and its a gamble to decide which works. This can get you an early promotion, demoted, loss of pay, or loss of skill

So what are these skills exactly? They are learning curves that helps your sim to have an ability such as cooking, charisma, body, creativity, logic, and cleaning. In order to develop skills is if you buy your Sims objects from the miscellaneous category. Like a bookcase that has all the knowledge your Sims can learn (like cooking, cleaning), exercise machines to improve body, painting to learn to be more creative, play chess to learn logic, and mirrors to learn charisma. Now, if you give your Sims time to develop these skills they will improve, but in reaching its maximum skill level, it will take a lot more time to actually gain more skill level so just use the fast-forward button from making it a waste of your time (or use the cheat codes).

Now social takes lot more effort because every Sims your Sims meets automatically becomes an acquaintance and it’s up to you to decide if you want to make them an enemy, friend, best friend, or just remain an acquaintances by not talking to them. It does take time for your Sims to know of other Sims so just communicate, invite them to your house, give them a call, and so much more. If they continue to react positively then they’ll become your friend, but watch out, if you don’t many any contact for a while then you’ll loose friendship. There are a lot of activities that you can’t simply do with another Sims and you don’t want to hug, tickle, gossip, and so much more without building a relationship with another Sim. You can actually develop a relationship but it has to be very paced upon building a relationship. You can’t just simply kiss, dance, and “woo-hoo” in just a first meeting, you need to keep developing that relationship in order to get rewarded for that big surprise. But be careful because a Sim can only have one relationship with another Sim otherwise he/she’ll be caught by the other love affair he/she is having and it won’t look so good at all.

And you do all of this just to have a promotion, get better pay, and a successful career. And the more money you’ll make, the more opportunities you’ll have in creating your dream lifestyle right in the Sims video game.

Level Design

Right from the get go, this is game is part 2D sprites and part 3D polygons. It blends very well with the high level pixels that matches to the quality of Polygons to make it look like they’re in the same universe unlike other games that has a painting background and 3D objects like Final Fantasy VII. The Sims themselves are rendered as 3D objects, but the house, and all its objects, are pre-rendered, and displayed diametrically. The game is viewed at an isometric view point and the player can zoom in and out in three different distances and is able to rotate the camera around, but not quite like how we all do it today. The player can also move the camera left, right, up, or down by placing the mouse at the edge of the screen or use the keyboards. Since there are a lot of walls in the way, your Sims can change how we can see the walls bottom left menu bar by putting all the walls up, put the walls down when the Sims are in the room that has a wall between the player and the Sim(s), or put the walls completely down.

Depending on what vacated lot you bought, the player is stuck with the limited space and to get a bigger amount of space is if your Sims family have enough money to actually purchase that lot. Some say that you’re stuck in that lot like a “prison” because you can’t see your Sims when they work or child Sims when they go to school while the player remains waiting for their return back home. But with the power from the later expansion packs, the player can take their Sims out in other locations on vacation, on a date, studios, haunted dimension and so much more if they have a phone call for a taxi to go out to another location. Then you’re at another “prison” but with a lot more activities that weren’t available inside your house like dining in restaurants, ordering a room in a hotel, and a lot more. There’s always something happening in the Sims whether you have a stranger knocking on your door, a burglar robbing your place, a wild animal intruding, a celebrity cameo appearance, fire, a ghost coming out of the grave, infestation, and so much more, it makes the player decide to take action or let the worse come to the family home. This is all the unpredictability that continues to excites the player each time they boot up The Sims.

This game does not give a free pass to the player even though this is a game that lets the player do whatever they want. There are always consequences around the player like if your Sims starve, they can die, if they don’t take care of the baby or child the social worker takes the family member away from you, miss work your job is at risk, ghosts coming out of the grave, really bad a socializing a social bunny appears, don’t play for the bill a repo-man takes your possession… there’s just so much that does happen in The Sims that makes it so fun to play. There are a lot of NPC (non-player character) appearing on the same lot/area that you’re in and they do whatever they want unless you command your Sims to do something to them.  However, I do have to complain that sometimes things happen so much that you can’t react to it in time; especially when your Sims’ needs reduces so fast that it irritates the player from doing anything with their Sims.

Back on NPCs, there are a lot of interesting variety of Sims where there are many that are happy, snobbish, lazy, shy, outgoing, playful, and more. This is what makes it so fun to see and encounter such Sims and see what they’re like. Since this game uses psychology I can see a lot of Sims that are different just like how I see people. The Sims, in so many ways, is quite educational for including feature that no other game has offered like psychology, needs, socializing, activities, and building, this game taught me, personally so many aspect of life. In itself that is really remarkable!

Since there are so many objects provided to the player, making the Sims interact with these objects are so fun and like everything in existence, they have a purpose. Like if your in a swimming pool you can make them swim in it, if there’s a TV Sims sit down at watch it, and so many more that I’ve mentioned already. Some objects require more than one Sims for social activities like bubble blowing, volleyball, and tons more. This make coming into the Sims world so enjoyable to keep coming back.

Presentation

Since this is a game that has that isometric view point and 2D objects matching very closely to the 3D polygons, this really takes me back to old classic PC games that didn’t need full 3D graphics to be good like Bulder’s Gate, Diablo II, and the rest. Everything has a friendly interface when playing and has that artsy-feel when witnessing its atmosphere (which I’ll get to later). I really like that unrealistic approach to the game where you’ll see characters acting so goofy that in itself becomes very amusing to watch. Since it’s really hard to actually put voice acting in the game considering that there are lot of topics that no ordinary Sim would keep saying again and again, I do accept the “Simish” language. Since they do repeat the same line at each reaction you can see word balloons above their heads and see a symbol to understand what are they talking about. I remember laughing at so many parts of this game that its worth coming back to again and again.

I really love the fact that there are a lot of items, objects, and decorations that belong in a certain theme like 1950’s diner, jazz clubs, rave club, art houses, medieval times, magic, country, and many more that actually does create its own atmosphere in the game. This is one of the reasons why there’s a “stuff” expansion packs in today Sims game that adds more variety to the game and people keep buying them for specific creations.

One of the most unique aspect that the Sims has that no other game has is the music. The soundtrack in this game is varied (with so many genres to go with it) and creates that artsy feeling that I described early. When you click on buy or build mode you can see a sudden different tone to the game. Buy mode’s tracks is all very classical music that actually does get the player to be more creative, while Build mode (oddly enough) has a really deep and emotional piano solo. I admit that it seems out of place for a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but I felt quite emotional when listening to the magic piano song composed by Jerry Martin. It almost fits perfectly in a death sequence in a movie, but when listening to the artistry of The Sims, I start to wonder how precious life is when realizing what I was doing in this life simulator. I remember at a very young age I cried listening to the deep songwriting of Build Mode’s tracks that gets all of us choked-up when we listen to it.

Conclusion

There’s something about playing original The Sims that no other game has; the magical soundtrack, the wonderful point-and-click interface, the fulfilling artsy atmosphere. I admit that there were a lot of things that were heavily improved on the sequels, but The Sims does get better when you install more expansion packs to your computer. I’ll make a list of the best expansion packs for the Sims 1, but here are my overall thoughts. It’s very satisfying to keep playing and interacting with nearly everything you see in the Sims, but there were a couple of drawbacks that kept it from being the best. For instance, I really dislike the needs meter for your Sims runs out very fast and it’s even worse when you have a total of 8 Sims in your family that becomes a headache to fix their problems. Nevertheless, outside of the Sims series, there is no other game like original Sims. I still do find nearly everything about this game so appealing and there are so many aspects that the sequels didn’t do well in comparison to the first. There is now a Sims Complete Collection that includes all the expansion pack which is more recommendable, but if you were there when the original Sims was still in the market, it was always worth while waiting for another expansion pack to be released, we then buy it & install it to our computers, and spend so many hours playing the expanded game, just made it such a glorious accomplishment. Who knew that putting so many every day aspects in our lives could work so well into a video game? Will Wright was that man that knew it all! I understand that some may not enjoy the Sims like I do, but it has been some of my favorite memories of playing video games on my computer…

Things I love

  • Point-and-click gameplay has never made the player feel so powerful & fun!
  • The insane amount of objects to create and interact with
  • The feature of psychology, building, and lifestyles made itself educational to players
  • There’s something always happening in the game
  • The Sims expressions are so amusing
  • The music is absolutely magical
  • The game get SO much better each time you install a new expansion pack

Things I hate

  • The Sims “needs meter” shrinks so damn fast that keeps the player from doing that many thing with their Sims
  • When Sims are in a bad mood they take too long to restore that into a good mood
  • Children can’t grow up into Adults
  • There’s not enough space in cheaper lots and bigger lots are too expensive
  • Can’t control pets/animals in The Sims

The Top Lister’s video game rating… 5 out of 5