The Sims 2: Bon Voyage - PC - Review
Another couple of months, another Sims 2 expansion.
Up front, let’s make no mistake about this, the Sims 2 – as a game – is a memory hog. When you combine that with an expansion that has its fair share of memory leaks, crashes and launches slower than a turtle mired in January molasses, you are talking about an expansion with a problem. And that is a shame, the program has some great content ideas.
As expansions go, though, some of the previous releases have had more content, but none that hinted at the fun that Bon Voyage brings to the table. But this game will present its share of problems. For example, those who have loaded up their game with customized content from other online sources should be forewarned, there are a lot of global hacks that simply won’t work with this expansion. Which leads to …
An irritating matter ...
As a franchise, The Sims 2 is highly addictive. The game and all its expansions is embraced, loved and even has players so fanatical about the experience that they spend many, many hours modding for it and sharing the mods. Go online and you will see numerous sites dedicated to providing more (mostly free) content that not only adds to the game experience, but propels it forward to higher levels. Maxis, while very much aware of the modding element of the game, seems to disregard that aspect and associated fan base by a fair amount with this expansion. (And if you do not believe that, all you have to do is go online to fan-base forums to read the 'disappointment' of the community).
True, with other expansions, you had to save your downloads folder and reinstall it, but what happens when you do and nothing is recognized afterwards - not even Numenor's CEP (color enable package by a talented modder - this package had to be completely uninstalled and reinstalled and the computer restarted for the CEP to start working). It means that any downloaded content is useless until other modders (like those over at www.insimenator.net) can come up with packages that re-enable the hacks (like the Insimenator, a global behavioral modification program that makes the game a bit easier to manipulate; and those people responsible for the program deserve a lot of credit for working so hard to update the program ).
But you can imagine the reaction when approximately 17-20 gigs of custom content (including customized Sims - from fan sites) just vanishes and won't install back into the game because BV 'saves games in a different format and prior content may not be recognized.' This happened with a fair amount of the content that was installed; it simply was not available for the game any longer after installing Bon Voyage (sort of ironic the title of the game and the way the content was wiped). And, of course, if you decide that you can't live without the custom content, and decide to remove Bon Voyage from your machine, in spite of the fact that the game says it will only eliminate the games saved since the install, say goodbye to your entire EA Games folder in your My Documents folder (that is the place that all custom content, game mods, neighborhoods and the like are stored).
Just remember to burn that folder to a safe place before installing BV and you should be fine. In this instance, the entire EA Games folder was backed up prior to the installation of the game, meaning that once removed, the game could be reverted back to its hacked, glorious state. After all, once a single-player game is purchased, it becomes the property of the game owner and he or she can do whatever they like to it in terms of modifications for personal use.
Ok, rant off. On to what the expansion offers …
The heart and soul of this expansion is the ability to take your sims on vacation. Three locations are offered – Takemizu Village (think Zen, Tai Chi and Bonsai trees and you get an idea of the serenity offered here), Twikkii Island (beach) and Three Lakes (mountain, cabins and camping). Each offers tours and other things you can do – well, if the game’s bugs do not prohibit you, that is (but more on that in a moment).
Sims can plan their vacations by phone and take family trips, or plan honeymoons. Once the vacation is booked, you will be picked up in a shuttle and taken to the airport (the latter part is unseen).
When you are on a vacation and leave the game, saving it beforehand, when you re-launch the game, you will begin at the place where you left off. But the game itself was buggy. Ordering room service meals required that the door be unlocked, which also meant that other guests could wander in.
A room service meal, for a family of three, can run up to about 155 simoleans. But it does absolutely no good when the waiter bringing the meal walks two-thirds of the way into the room and then gestures toward a table, and the food disappears. No food, no meal, hunger continues and your sims get weaker. As the family neared closer to starvation, it was decided that maybe better luck would be had at another resort. All attempts to move location went by the wayside (this was on a AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 machine with a gig of RAM running a Radeon X1600XTS with 256 megs of video RAM).
The vacation element is robust, allowing sims to not only go on vacation and rent resort space, but if you have the simoleans to afford it, you can buy housing in the vacation hot spots. Nice to have that permanent getaway, just when the stress of the world gets too much. It also means that while you could take vacation days from work with past iterations, now they mean something in terms of being able to go places. There is new jewelry and a jewelry icon in the wardrobe area where you can match jewelry to outfits.
New Maxis meshes and objects round out what the expansion adds to the vast world of The Sims. More selections are available in the turn-ons and turn offs and there are new fears. One of the more amusing ones, judging from the icon, was the fear of being struck by lightning. It is nice to see sims having the same general fears as the rest of the real world … well, in some respect.
Nothing new under the graphics sun, but a few bugs do pop up …
The game uses the same graphics engine of previous games, but there are glitches. By way of example, a test family called the headmaster over to dinner. There are many options when trying to schmooze the guy into giving your child a better educational opportunity. But for some reason the radial menu would pull up some of these options and then dismiss them the moment you had them selected and returned to the game. As it turned out, the headmaster, deciding to head home for the evening, got as far as the stairs and that was it. He is frozen in place, left to wither away and die. He would not teleport, he would not move in any manner.
There are a few new audio selections that come with the package as well.
As a matter of course, and to cycle back around to the rant – after the expansion was reviewed, it was removed from one of the host machines (the program is on two machines, one for testing and one for playing). Playing the base game without the global modes (or hacks) and custom content was just not as much fun – and that is what games like this are supposed to offer a player. And if you think that the problems with custom content was a solitary experience, go online and visit some forums and hear the screams of the community. Not everyone is happy.
Essentially, Bon Voyage offers some great expansion content, but the problem is that the program comes with a few bugs that need to be patched before this becomes a permanent fixture in the Sims 2 library. It is not like this is a new company putting out a first product. Maxis has been doing this for a while and it should be releasing products that not only embrace what its community is doing, but without the bugs. Rushing the game out the door with problems is not only a disservice to the community, but to its own fine name.
Review Scoring Details for The Sims 2: Bon Voyage
There are a couple of bugs in this program that are unacceptable. Releasing a program that will need a patch is not a cool way to go. Having written that, it should be noted that what is brought to this expansion is good content for the Sims 2 franchise. It is a nice table-setter in that it brings more diversity to the franchise as well as the promise of better things to come. Maxis is just beginning to explore what this franchise can do.
While the game plays off the typical Sims 2 engine, there are graphical glitches in this title that are unacceptable and detract from the game.
Some new sounds, but this is hardly innovative.
Good ideas but so-so execution. The expansion succeeds on some levels, but really stumbles in others.
It is time Maxis was held accountable for a product that has more bugs than it should – and fair-sized ones at that. The franchise is still more than viable. In fact, once the patch fixes the problems, this is a terrific expansion. But too many things are in the way at the moment. This score reflects the program's deficiencies, not what it offers in terms of content. The latter is solid.