After playing The Sims 2 on GBA and The Sims 2 on DS, which are two completely different games and completely different from The Sims 2 on PC, we learned that there was a The Sims 2 for the PSP as well, and that this was also a completely different game from any of them.
To catch you up on our previous two Sims 2 adventures, The Sims 2 on GBA has a similar engine and a similar cast of characters as The Urbz, but is otherwise a complete tangent to it. It takes place in a reality TV show, and every returning character is out of character. It's even unrelated to The Sims as a concept, since you barely get to decorate the house, the mechanic of urgencies is so de-emphasized it's even hidden from the player, and your Sim has no wishes or wants and barely even gets skills. It is however plot-based like Bustin' Out and The Urbz, making it sorta one of this weird series.
Then The Sims 2 on DS has (almost) the same cast of characters as The Sims 2 on GBA, but it's a (half-baked) hotel simulator, and has nothing to do with anything. Urgencies and skill points have are even less emphasized, and there is barely any dialogue or plot.
Considering the decaying quality of these games and dwindling relevance to the plots of Bustin' Out and The Urbz, you can understand why we weren't too enthused to play yet another game called The Sims 2 on a portable console. Besides, we had learned that The Sims 2 on PSP has a completely different cast of characters, except for two cameos from The Urbz. This would be the first handheld Sims games we'd play without at least the recurring characters of Giuseppi Mezzoalto, Dusty Hogg, and Misty Waters. We also learned that The Sims 2 on PSP is in 3D, which we feared would be of the same ass quality as in The Sims 2 for the DS, and that game not only looked like ass, but it controlled like ass, too. And in general, we got the sense that this game would be even further divorced from what we liked about Bustin' Out and The Urbz. So we were in no hurry to try it. We were expecting yet another stinker.
We were wrong, though. Of all the games named The Sims 2, this game is the most close in feeling and spirit as Bustin' Out and The Urbz. Like them, The Sims 2 on PSP is plot-based, with lots of character dialogue - and it is just as well-written. You directly control only one Sim who has needs and also wants. Out of all these other games called The Sims 2, this one is also the closest to The Sims 2 on PC. Decorating your house is a major mechanic of the game, and you do so using essentially the same engine as the PC version, with controls adapted for the PSP. And the game generally looks great.
Guess what, this game is taking place in Strangetown! But not the Strangetown of The Sims 2 GBA or the Strangetown of The Sims 2 DS, and not the Strangetown of the Supernatural expansion of The Sims 2 PC either. The characters in this game, for the most part, don't intersect with Bustin' Out and The Urbz; the only returning characters are Mambo Loa and Lincoln Broadsheet from The Urbz, but they notably look and act differently than before. So they might not even be the same characters in the same continuity, but strange cameos or alternate universe versions of them. Also, this game also has characters from the SimUniverse on PC, like Bella Goth. So, what continuity is this? Is this an alternate universe crossover?
Like the other two The Sims 2 for portable systems, this game, too, features the Sanity mechanic. This time around, though, sanity is not restored by just keeping yourself healthy. That only prevents loss of sanity. To restore sanity, you have to fulfill your Sim's wants. This is fine as a gameplay mechanic, but it also has an implication we don't like... in The Sims 2 on GBA or The Sims 2 on DS, we liked the message that basic self-care can make a big difference to your mental state. In this game, self-care only stops things from getting worse, but doesn't directly help things get better. And that's not really true to life.
Plus, in this game, sanity drops easily and is hard to recharge, since you have to complete certain randomized tasks to regain it. When your Sim is at low sanity, they become unable to gain skills, and it becomes more difficult to have positive social interactions, so if your Sim is already losing their mind, and their wants are to gain a skill point or to kiss someone, they can't, because they're not in the right state of mind to learn or to socialize, and so how are you going to get your Sim out of this slump? You end up just going back to bed. That's darkly realistic. But doing so rolls a new set of wants, and hopefully one of them is something your Sim can actually muster the willpower to do, like dancing alone in their house.
We had our trouble with this mechanic. At the beginning of the game, we accidentally got our sanity super low, and couldn't achieve anything. We thought we were doing something wrong in leveling up the skills, because they wouldn't rise, but we learned it was because our Sim Lucy just didn't have the mental fortitude to learn anything in that dark time.
Then, there is also the usual mechanic of keeping your Sim's needs under control. This time around, they are not lumped under one single bar, and each need is shown clearly in the interface again, and the way they're handled makes sense. You can't just poop 29 times in a row to refill your sanity.
In this game, together with the usual core meters for hunger, bladder, etc., there are also the nausea and headache meters, which we don't think are in any other Sims games. You get nausea from interacting with trash or zombies, both of which are plentiful in this version of Strangetown. And you get a headache from studying too much, or eating ice cream (lol). You can relieve your nausea by throwing up in the toilet, and solve your headache by sleeping it off. Or you can solve either by "self-medicating", as the game puts it. Which involves your Sim opening their medicine cabinet and chugging pills from the bottle. That's kinda hard to watch. What was this game rated?
So, similar to the opening of The Sims 2 DS, your Sim drives into Strangetown, where their car promptly breaks down. In this case, we happen to break down in front of a garage with a resident mechanic, Oscar del Fuego. The first conversation of the game involves trying to convince this mechanic to help you, but he won't, because he calls himself the Michelangelo of cars, and he won't just fix your car because you pay him money. He's an artist. He says, just like you wouldn't ask Michelangelo to paint the Mona Lisa, he won't just fix your car on command. We choose to have our Sim reply that Michelangelo did not paint the Mona Lisa. Yeah, he says, because he didn't get any respect. This game is off to a good start.
We are sent to the gas station, where we meet Mambo Loa. She gives us the basic game tutorial, and psychically determines our aspirations and zodiac sign via... standard personality quiz. One of the questions was, what is the best way to say "I love you". One of the answers was "With no pants on". We're going to like this game.
She then introduces us to the mechanic of playing the social minigames with characters. One version or another of this mechanic has been featured in all of these portable incarnations of The Sims 2, though the way the minigame is played has been different in each game. In this version, the character you're talking with will have a speech bubble containing an icon representing the topic of discussion, and you need to quickly reply with a matching topic of discussion. In the beginning, it's just, match heart with heart, bird with bird, and seems very brainless. Later, it gets harder as you need to match rocket ship with astronaut in a split second. If you do this game correctly, you can become friends with the other character, or intimidate them, or further your romantic relationship with them. If you fail, you'll still have to go through all the minigame, and the other character will only react negatively at the very end. So you'd be trying to become friends with a character, and at the end your Sim would be about to shake their hand, and only at the last moment will the other character take their hand away and sneer at you. Can you imagine being so fake that you have an entire conversation with someone, smiling and nodding and all, and wait until they give you their hand for a handshake to then, at the last second, stiff them and be like, NUH UH, LOSER!
But this time, we can flirt with anyone, any gender. Finally, at long last, we can be bisexual. And the game lets you know of this possibility immediately. Mambo Loa asks you to try your flirting moves either with Deputy Duncan or with Bella Goth.
A major mechanic of this game is to learn people's secrets. You get a different secret by becoming best friends with someone, intimidating them, or dating them. So, the more people you date, the more secrets you unlock. The game actually promotes being polyamorous and bisexual. There is no jealousy, either. It's wonderful.
We also need to talk about the level of kink of this game. In The Sims 2 on PC (and onwards in The Sims 3 and 4), when two Sims love each other very much, they can "Woohoo". They do so primarily by going into a bed and ducking under the covers as they giggle and kick around while heart confetti flutters down from above. The two happy Sims then emerge from the bed in their sleepwear, and lie on the bed looking satisfied. If you know what happened, you know what happened. Each game expansion added the ability to Woohoo in a new place, such as the wardrobe, the elevator, the mausoleum, the haystack... While this is hilarious and kinky, all of these Woohoo-able places are implemented so that the two involved Sims are always under a cover or behind a door of some kind, hidden from the rest of the world (and especially the censors).
For the first time in a handheld Sim spinoff, in The Sims 2 on PSP, your Sim can Woohoo ✽. This happens when your Sim reaches maximum romance level with a character. While Sims in the PC version would at this point find the nearest bed for some privacy, in The Sims 2 on PSP, your Sim will leap upon their lover, wrap their legs around them, fall to the ground out of view, kicking up dust and hearts, for them both to then emerge a few seconds later all flustered and out of breath. So, they did it right there. On the ground. You can do this in public. Fucking in the middle of the street. Wow. What was this game rated?!
After the tutorial with Mambo, we leave the gas station to check on our car in the garage, and the garage is gone. Uprooted from the ground, the crumbling foundations being all that's left. No more car, no more mechanic. We find a ringing phone on the ground. We pick it up, and a voice asks us, "Have you lost something?".
We manage to secure a living situation in town now that we're stuck here. We got a giant mansion for pocket change. So there's something wrong with it, right? Yeah, it's infested with ghosts that scare you and drain your sanity. The maid, Emily, is on friendly terms with the ghosts, and tells us about their unfinished business so that we can help the ghosts move on and get them out of our house, which will let us access and make use of the previously haunted rooms.
The first ghost, Dennis, died in mysterious circumstances after marrying Hazel Dente. In fact, all of Hazel's husbands died in mysterious circumstances. In Dennis's case, he drowned in the pool, because the ladder mysteriously disappeared. We can't believe this is actually a plotpoint.
We go to Hazel's house to investigate, and it's got a serious Addams family vibe. It's all purple and barely lit by gothic candle sconces. Her bathroom features a luxurious red bathtub surrounded by plants. Her bedroom has a fluffy pink bed. We find that Hazel is newly engaged to Roland Colonzo, who was the pool boy who came to help clean the pool after what happened. He is blissfully unaware of Hazel's black widow reputation. He's hanging around the house in his low-cut shirt and tight pants, making ample use of the bathtub. In fact, when we went to visit, his bath was taking so long that we couldn't wait anymore to talk with him, and we had to enter the bathroom and have a conversation with him trying to keep our eyes on the ceiling.
In order to carry out our investigation, we get ourselves hired to help out around the house, as Hazel and Roland are ... busy. As we look around, we find more and more distressing clues to what previously happened. In the sink drain, we find a horribly mangled wedding band. In the garden, we find a pacemaker - the kind that goes inside someone's chest. In the fridge, we find a horrifying note crying for help. Things are peachy here. And our attempts to have a private conversation with Roland fail, so we have no choice but to confront Hazel.
When we talk with her, she seems to have honestly no recollection of her husbands' deaths. She says she blacked out, and in each case awoke to find that her husbands had passed away. She says it's like someone has been controlling her. The Sim we are playing as says she kinda understands the feeling. After this comes to light, Roland runs for the hills.
Now that he's single, we can date him, and those tight tight pants!
Our next investigation involves finding a missing garbage man. We find the truck parked in front of the Beaker house. We go inside to find that their house is set up like a medieval dungeon crossed with a science lab. The Beaker couple stand around making evil scheming gestures with their fingers. There is a door with a handprint lock that we are not allowed next to. Surely nothing is amiss?
It turns out the happy evil couple is not so happy, as they both suspect the other of treason. It turns out both of them are right. We help both of them bring to light the other's secrets, and while they're busy fighting, we open the locked door. In there, we find the garbage man Gimi locked in a sketchy lab, and we free him.
In either of these questlines, our attempts to tell Deputy Duncan, the only presence of the law around these parts, get brushed off. Surely it was perfectly reasonable, and this was just a misunderstanding, of course.
Next, we enter the Rossum house. In there, we find Isaac, an inventor, and his wife, Roberta. Who feels the need to introduce herself repeatedly, is disturbingly chipper, and cycles through every possible Sim animation, one after the other. When we talk with Isaac, he says his wife is malfunctioning, and needs help. He thinks she needs a friend, and hires us to be that friend.
As we do so, the obvious comes out, which is that Roberta is a robot built by Isaac and programmed to be his perfect wife. Yikes. Roberta wants to be freed from her programming, and we help her with that. She still wants to be around Isaac, though, but now she's choosing with her free will.
The program we used to give her free will was made by Doctor Dominic Newlow, who was the one who gave us that creepy call at the beginning of the game, and it turns out he coded in some sort of backdoor. With a mind-control device, he forces us to trigger the backdoor, and then he steals Roberta's head, leaving the unimportant parts of her body strewn across town. We collect these bits for poor Isaac, who really does love his wife. In most games, this would be a boring quest of, there is the arm, at the end of the hallway, as a notable item that you can pick up. In this game, people around town have made use of these objects, and they're integrated into the various buildings and places. We find one of her arms as the swivel mechanism of a satellite dish. One of her legs was in the bar, repurposed as a table leg. This was grim in a funny way, and made this quest more interesting than the common, go look for the thing, there it is.
Since we helped the ghost of Dennis to move on, now we help the second ghost in our house, who goes only by Nervous Subject - the name he remembers responding to, since he was tortured by the Beakers in their secret laboratory before being buried in an unmarked grave. We find the grave in a large graveyard where you can read all of the tombstones, marked with the developers' names. Nervous Subject's unfinished business is to prove to his girlfriend Annie that he didn't leave her, he was kidnapped and died, but still loves her. We sort that out, and Nervous Subject can move on.
As you will probably piece together, especially given the amount of information our maid Emily has about the spirit world, there is a third ghost in our house: Emily herself. But she's perfectly happy being in the house as our ghostly maid. You can also date her. This game is kinky that way. We did date her, cause we're kinky that way too. When we talked to her at one point she said that she was almost done cleaning the house, and then she would be able to offer us other services. Wow, this game.
In the ghost town of Deadtree, we find Roland again, dressed in white robes and ranting about cows. He's joined a strange cow-based religion, worshipping Beelzebeef. Note that a cow idol was in The Sims 2 on DS too, but in that game, it had little point beyond just being there and being weird. But in The Sims 2 on PSP, this version of the cow cult gets an entire storyline.
To investigate this cult, we end up joining too. We learn all about the absurd but sensible rules of this religion, and participate in their rituals, which are held in form of minigame. Press up, down, left, or right when the priest does the appropriate motion. He gestures having horns on his head, up. He chews the cud, left. He moos, right. He ... fertilizes the field, down. Yeah. He's shaking his butt side to side while making fart noises, and the whole congregation does the same, in unison.
We really appreciate how Maxis managed to write a silly cult, but also to not just make it be lol, they worship the cow statue, moo, moo, like it was in The Sims 2 DS. They actually explored what are the values and reasoning of this religion. For instance, a cow follows the cow in front of it, because the cow is obedient, and so the cult values obedience. The cow always looks forward to the future, because the road behind is covered in manure and not worth troubling over anymore. It's so silly, but also reasonable. Their tenets are like real proverbs. These people see the positive in the cow, and they want to emulate these positive virtues in their own lives. Granted, they've gone too far, but we can see how this religion started and built up a following. It's not just, lol, stupid religious sheeple, harhar. No, this is an intelligent take on a cult. Even as they do ritual farting.
In Deadtree, we are spooked by a large growling monster. Occasionally, it will run through town, and if it gets too close to us, we'll get scared and lose sanity. We talk with the locals and learn that the so-called Night Beast is a beast that has been terrorizing the streets... at night. We are tasked with figuring out the human identity of the monster. There is no cut-scene for getting our clues. We must just wait to see the Night Beast on the prowl, and try our best to get a good at it ourselves, as it runs around and scares the manure out of us.
We manage to see that the Night Beast looks something like a giant pug, with pigtails and short-shorts. Hmmm.
It turns out that it is Annie Howell (surprise, surprise). Her transformation is not triggered by the moon, or nightfall, but rather by her mood. Because she works at night as a waitress in the bar, she gets pissed off at the rude patrons and becomes the werepug. We fund her anger management classes (which the dialogue addresses that she can't afford with what she's making as a waitress) and now the problem is solved.
This was one of the most interesting werewolves we've seen in a while.
In the library, we meet Lincoln Broadsheet, a returning incarnation of the character from The Urbz. In this version, he's not in a wheelchair (we presume due to engine limitations), but instead floating around with a custom-made hover-belt that keeps the weight off his legs. He specifically points out that he can move his legs, but can't stand on them, hand-waving away the fact that he has the same idle animations as everyone else.
We are glad they included Lincoln, and that they didn't retcon his disability. We are less glad that they didn't actually implement a wheelchair for him. But alas. In general, we lament that the way they implemented people in this game means they all have approximately the same character model. In the sprite-based games, the people could all look very different and have different heights and weights and shapes. Mambo Loa in The Urbz looked short and fat, but here she's just as tall and skinny as everyone else. And Lincoln Broadsheet floats.
In this game, Lincoln deals in gossip and supernatural affairs. He's realized that a woman in town named Virginya Feng has the same name as someone who went missing many years ago, and she seems to hang around the graveyard a lot. Since we have an easier time getting around than he does, he wants us to do the legwork of investigating for him.
We find out that the grave she visits is her own! Or so Lincoln wants to believe. We tell him that it could be the grave of a relative, or any number of reasonable explanations. We research the dead Virginya... to find that she looks exactly the same as the live Virginya. At Lincoln's urging, we go to meet her.
Virginya has long orange braided pigtails peeking out from under a wool hat. She's dressed modernly, with a black jacket and normal clothing. She goes about the bar, dancing and occasionally playing a tune on the piano. Nothing seems obviously supernatural about her.
We become friends, and she suddenly bites us. She apologizes, as it is not something that is voluntary. She says it feels like someone else is controlling her whenever she does that... She gives us a quick explanation about being a vampire (which we become) and she asks us to help her find a cure.
As in The Urbz... Mambo Loa knows the cure. This time it is not chocolate chocolate chocolate, but rather a blood and garlic smoothie. MMMmmm.
So we cure Virginya from vampirism, and now she has resumed normal life, even though a century has passed in the meanwhile.
This is one of the most interesting vampire characters we've seen in a while, especially concerning female vampires.
At the end of our quests in Deadtree, we finally summoned Beelzebeef, only to learn that Dominic Newlow, who now goes as Doctor Dominion, was manipulating the entire cult for his purposes. He stole the summoned Beelzebeef and teleported away.
We have a conversation with Sinjin, the remaining leader of the cult, and he reveals that he was under mind control, and he noticed a strange green diamond floating over his head. This game is addressing what is the plumbob. Fantastic. He will keep the religion running so as not to leave his herd suddenly without their cause. Even if he now knows that the religion was fake. Though, it's weird he now thinks the religion is fake, considering we did indeed summon its cow deity, and there it was, in udder glory. But he was disappointed that it didn't usher in the apocalypse to punish everyone he doesn't like.
District 47 and the ending
We go to District 47, where we are introduced to the conflict between the army family and the alien family. The game suddenly takes on a Half-Life vibe with desert bunkers, the military, aliens, and a Dude in Black. We assume Warner Bros. now owns the term "Men in Black", which is why they won't say it. Even though, how could someone own that phrase, but whatever.
This arc didn't seem to have a satisfying conclusion. We helped everyone solve their immediate problems, but everything there is still left in disarray. The military family is still messed up, the alien family is still messed up. Does Jenny Smith even know her son Johnny has now run away, or what was her alien husband looking for (photos of his original alien family)? We don't seem to be able to have a conversation about it.
Deep in the secret government lab, which we unlocked by inputting the prisoner number of Jean Valjean, ✽ we find a computer. We talk with the computer, trick it into thinking that we are Doctor Dominion, which lets us acquire the teleportation device. We get it, and we are teleported to where Doctor Dominion currently is. He is using our car, Beelzebeef, and Roberta's brain to power up his mind-control device.
He approaches us to give us his villain origin story monologue. Click to reveal spoilers...
It turns out he was a Sim forced against his will to do nothing but study, work, and improve the house. When his Logic stat got high enough, he realized that he was living in a simulation, and controlled by a player. So he hatched a scheme to get revenge on the player, and free their world. He would use his mind control device through the protagonist to take control of the mind of the player, and force them to quit the game! If we choose to do so, we can turn his arguments about: that he's merely an antagonist scripted to serve as an obstacle for the sake of the player's enjoyment. This game went there.
And if you do lose the boss battle against him, you find yourself on the title screen. He made you black out and quit the game. This is some Psycho Mantis bullshit, and we love it.
But we win, and he loses, and so the protagonist is still controlled by the player, and a bit unsure of what to do next, since they're aware that the storyline is complete and there's only so much left to do in the world. This is literally the plot. Isaac, who was heavily implied to be an avatar of Will Wright, creator of the series, warns the protagonist not to think too much about the words of a mad scientist.
And what about Roberta? Now that she's been reassembled, she's been reset... and has forgotten all about meeting us or Isaac. We have to all become friends again.
This game was really good. Easily the best spinoff The Sims 2. And generally, a really good game, with hilarious dialogue and ridiculous scenarios. It was fun, and we enjoyed every second of it. We really have very little to criticize about this game.
We weren't expecting this, but, the more we kept on playing, the more this game reminded us of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. There's something going on with the sense of humor and the mood that is very similar. The world is all dark and covered in purple lights. The gameplay also involves talking with people, and there's intimidation and seduction and hacking. You're going around solving supernatural mysteries, and vampires are prominently featured. And all the plotlines are strangely twisted. There's a monster on the loose, a haunted house, a creepy doctor... This is the last game we were expecting to compare to Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, but we kept thinking how similar they actually are, in good ways.
We would recommend it to anyone who has some prior knowledge of The Sims on PC, so to get all the funny in-jokes about the series. We would recommend it... the problem is, this game is currently in EA purgatory. This game was released as a physical disc, but, for the most part, it was sold as a download on the PlayStation Network. After The Sims 3 came out, EA presumably didn't want to support anything with the number 2 on it anymore, so they pulled this game from the store. If you bought this game as a download back then, it's still on your system and you can still play it, but you better hope your system doesn't die, because you won't be able to download this game again. If you want to purchase this game now, all you have to go with are the few remaining discs for sale, mostly used. Also note that the PSP and the PSP Vita themselves are discontinued, so, as time goes on, this game will become increasingly unobtainable.
So, primarily due to EA's scatological business practices, this game is abandonware, in spite of being only a little over 10 years old. They've made it so that you can't give them money for this game. If you want to play this game... either you get a PSP and one of the remaining discs from whoever is selling one, or you do you best Olde Salty impression. Ya-harr!
In any case, if you do find a way to play this game, we recommend you do.
- We suspect this is because this game is on the PSP, which was marketed as the more mature and adult handheld console, while Nintendo strives to be baby-friendly.
- This has been a recurring reference in these spinoff games. The number of Jean Valjean was the code number of the Velocirooster in Bustin' Out, and, in The Urbz, the character of Giuseppi addresses the same themes as Jean Valjean.