Product Type: Electronic Arts PC games
Newest Review: ... and dance, arts and crafts, sport, fitness, science, nature, gaming, cuisine, tinkering and film/literature. I like that there are so many ... more
A better work-play balance for your Simmies
The SIMS 2: Free Time Expansion Pack (PC)
Member Name: thereddragon
The SIMS 2: Free Time Expansion Pack (PC)
Advantages: Lots more fun for your Sims (and you! ), new hobby-related objects and community lots
Disadvantages: May slow down lower-spec PCs, some annoying repetitive animations
'Free Time' is the seventh in the series of eight Expansion Packs for The Sims 2 (see my other reviews for the last one, 'Apartment Life'). This pack, which came out in February 2008, adds an array of new features and enhancements.
The main new feature added by this pack is that of enabling your Sims to enjoy hobbies and other leisure time pursuits. Sims can now be 'creative' in various new ways: Cooking, Music & Dance, Sports, Fitness, Nature, Science, Gaming, Tinkering, Arts & Crafts, and Films & Literature.
Each Sim will now have a particular 'talent' that they favour, and developing that talent will eventually make them a master of it, with a new animation depicting them being 'In The Zone' when practising their pursuit. For instance, if you have a Sim who has maxed out their talent for Music, when they pick up the new violin that comes with this pack and play it, they will magically change into formal dress and be surrounded by a glowing white aura and sounds of disembodied cheering and applause (I find this rather spooky, actually!).
This pack also adds 'Secret Lots', each one associated with a different hobby, which can be unlocked once your Sim shows enough promise in their particular talent. For instance, if your Music & Dance Sim shows enough enthusiasm and talent for their craft, a representative of the relevant Secret Lot, a local dance studio, will show up at the Sim's house and give them a invitation to come to the dance studio anytime they like. They simply get in their car, or call a taxi, and visit the lot as they would any other community lot. Here they can carry out their hobby to their heart's content. I find the dance studio particularly fun, with random Simmies doing a 'dance till you drop' everywhere, and sometimes your Sim can meet a new romantic partner there!
There are loads of new objects to go with all these new hobbies. Arts & Crafts Sims can use a pottery wheel or a sewing machine, Tinkering Sims can work on an old broken-down car and try to fix it, Gaming Sims can purchase a selection of new computer games (including a mock-up of The Sims 3!) to play and even join network gaming competitions. For Sports Sims, there is a basketball hoop, and Fitness Sims can purchase an exercise bike or a ballet barre.
In one of the most fun and amusing hobby-related features, there is now a Cooking Contest Table at which your Cooking Sim can enter a cooking contest with other Sims (the others will be 'chosen' randomly by the game itself from among other Sims in your neighbourhood) and see if they can win it - the animations for this are really cute. In my own game, I played a cooking content between my Bree from Desperate Housewives Sim (whose cooking talent was maxed out, of course) and three randomly-chosen Sims who turned out to be no match for her. True to life (well, true to TV, anyway), Bree won, for her excellent cherry pie. This was followed by Bree whopping and jumping for joy, while the others slunk off in embarrassment. Awwww.
On the subject of new animations, your Nature-inclined Sims can go bird-watching or bug-collecting - the latter allows your Sim to collect interesting specimens of the various bugs they find - and Fitness Sims can practice Tai Chi. Sims can also now talk to each other about their hobbies.
However, also on the subject of new animations, there are a few that you may find become annoying after a short time - there are several new gestures of fidgeting, whistling, cracking their knuckles, and reaching back and pulling their ankle up behind them and standing on one leg, which are cute the first time you see them but very quickly get way too repetitive (much like the gestures that the Sims learn on holiday in the Bon Voyage expansion). If these animations prove to be too much for you, you can eliminate them with a hack from http://www.simwardrobe.com - download the file called SW-Stop-All-Hobby-Related-Idle-Gestures.zip. That's what I ended up having to do!
There are also five new careers: Oceanographer, Entertainer, Architect, Dancer, and Intelligence Agent, and a new Neighborhood called Desiderata Valley, which comes complete with a dedicated Cooking Contest community lot. As with the supernatural characters added by previous expansion packs, such as werewolves, vampires and so on, this pack adds Genies. A gypsy may give your Sim an Aladdin's Lamp containing a Genie - if so, he will grant you three wishes, but be careful what you wish for!
Secondary Aspirations are another new feature, giving your Sim more complex aspirational goals. These include a new Grilled Cheese Aspiration, a bit of silliness that will make your Sim obsessed with grilled cheese sandwiches, to the extent of painting pictures of them, making and serving them to everyone, and boring other Sims with talking about them (often causing the other Sim to stick his fingers in his ears and do the 'la la la la I'm not listening' gesture).
In addition to those mentioned above, there are several other new objects for your Sims to have fun with - they also get a train set and get to choose and place whatever features they want it to have (mountains, lakes, and so on), a new pool table, a classic Moog-style synthesiser to play electro music on, and even an ant farm.
All told, this is a fun and worthwhile addition to your Sims 2 expansion collection. I have all of the expansions and would not want to be without any of them!
Also on ciao.com as EsmeraldaDragon, ciao.co.uk as thereddragon and Helium as Esmeralda Draic.
Summary: Add hobbies and creative skills to your Sims 2 game