The Sims 3 (PS3)
The Sims 3. Playstation 3 At Christmas my mum was kind enough to buy me The Sims 3 game for the Playstation 3. She remembered how I had spent many hours playing the original Sims games when I was around 18, so she thought that 12 years later I would enjoy this game and I have to say she was certainly spot on with that ... thought!
The game comes in a normal PS3 game box, which contains the game disc along with an instruction manual for the game. The game instruction manual is written in English and is clear and simple to follow although with the in game hints and tutorials I found that I didn't really need the manual at all.
For those of you who don't know what The Sims games are, they are a series of games available across various gaming platforms including, but not limited to, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and PC. In the game you must create a family or if you prefer a group of friends who will all live together in your Sims house, you then control their everyday lives covering everything from finding jobs and going to work right through to when they should eat, use the toilet, take a bath and even when they should sleep. Throughout the game you are presented with many challenges and opportunities which you should complete to progress in the game and give your Sims the lifetime happiness points which they deserve.
Creating Your Sims and Moving In
The first time you play The Sims you will be required to create your Sims. To do this you will be taken to the Create a Sim Studio where you will get to choose everything about your Sims from hair, skin and eye colour down to clothes, shoes and accessories and finally all of the personality traits of your Sim. You can even edit the sounds and pitch of their voices. Once you have created up to six Sims to live in your Sims house you can then choose the relationships of each Sim to each other. At this point I would advise you to have them as friends as this will make your life easier when you want to complete the romantic challenges within the game. You will also need to give your Sims names and surnames so you will know who is doing what in your game. For my Sims I chose Karie, Harriet, Bruno and Clara, I have no idea why, they were just names which came into my head at the time.
Once your Sims are created you will need to choose where you want them to live. To this you will be taken to the Town Map, at the start of the game you have a certain amount of money in your budget and you are given a choice of a couple of homes which fall within your budget. Personally I chose to buy the cheaper one and I chose to buy it fully furnished so I could get straight into the game. I did this because I knew I would have spent ages playing with the house and redesigning it if I had the chance!
Getting to Know You!
Once you have moved in you will need to introduce your Sims to each other and establish their friendships and relationships, this is done by using the conversation menus which appear above their heads when you click on them, you can choose for them to be friendly, romantic, mean and even flirty or evil to each other and it will depend on your Sims traits (which you chose) as to how well they will communicate with each other. Throughout the game there are many challenges which involve all of these kinds of conversation so chances are that you will experience everything from romance and passion to evil Sims who like to pick on other Sims and often end up in fights with enemies!
As you play the game a small menu will pop up in the corner of the screen to keep you informed of what your Sim wishes for in life. When a wish pops up you can click on it and make a promise to your Sim to fulfil their wish. Wishes can be anything from making the bed and washing the dishes to moving house or getting a promotion at work. When you fulfil a wish you are granted Karma points which will add up to a maximum of 100 points.
What Goes Around, Comes Around...
As mentioned above, you will be adding up the Karma Points quite frequently throughout the game. You can use these points to purchase both good and bad Karma powers to use on both your Sims and Sims around town. Some of the challenges within the game require the use of Karma Powers so you will find yourself using these quite a bit, it was more often than I had anticipated when I read about them at the start of the game. Some of the powers will make your Sims extra lucky for a few hours or turn them into fast learners whereas other powers will make them incredibly unlucky or fail at anything which they attempt. You need to try and keep your use of the Karma powers pretty even as every night at the midnight hour Karma will be restored, if you have used them correctly then you will be granted more Karma points, however, if you use them only to your advantage then you can expect a natural disaster of some kind at the midnight hour and your Sims will be sent into panic mode, they will also need to deal with the effects of the disaster which can be anything from some rubbish piles on the floor to broken appliances and even flooding and house fires which you will need to extinguish quickly or be quick to call the fire brigade to minimalise your damage.
Find a Job and Learn a New Skill
As well as mastering everyday life including your toilet duties and eating you will also need to ensure that your Sims find some kind of work to pay the bills and buy new things. Finding work in the Sims is really easy, you simply need to get your Sim to read the newspaper, search on the computer or use the town map to go and find a job in one of the town businesses. Your Sims will be able to do any job, however if you can find a job which suits their traits then they will progress quicker and earn promotions faster. Each career has 10 levels and you can work anywhere from the local grocery store or book shop to the Police station, Science lab or even the Criminal Warehouse.
To progress quicker in their jobs the Sims must learn some skills. For example, one of my Sims, Karie, worked in the local Bakery as a Chef and therefore she needed to be good in the cooking skill, in order to do this I had Karie reading books about cooking and cooking all of the family meals. Another Sim I had was Bruno, Bruno had a lifetime wish of reaching level 10 of the Law Enforcement Career and to do this he needed to be in top shape athletically and very logically minded so during the hours he wasn't working I had him doing workouts to improve his athletic skill and playing chess to improve his logic skill. Other Sims I have had have mastered the guitar, gardening and charisma skills all of which are pretty easy to accomplish as you simply need to practice the skill over and over again, the only problem is the amount of time it can take to do this.
Have Some Fun!
Life for the Sims certainly isn't all work and no play! Sims love to socialise and have hobbies to do when you are busy with another Sim. Hobbies in the game range from cooking and reading through to painting, gardening and fishing, each hobby has its advantages as they will count towards improving various skills and things like painting and fishing can provide an extra income for your household when you decide to sell your fish or paintings. Another great hobby for your Sims to master is writing, this is especially good if you can find the time to get your Sims writing books as the royalties from the books is paid weekly and can add up to quite a lot, great if one of your Sims has a lifetime wish of being very rich!
As well as the regular hobbies some Sims prefer to have relationships as an enjoyable event in life, my Sim Harriet is a good example of this as her lifetime wish was to be a Heartbreaker. For this wish she needed to flirt with lots of Sims and eventually become the girlfriend of 10 different Sims. This is not an easy task to accomplish as you will need to keep on top of all of the relationships so that they do not turn back to simply friendship. You will also struggle with this lifetime wish if your Sim gets engaged to one of their partners as for some reason engagement deactivates the conversation option of turning a Sim from Romantic Interest into Boyfriend/Girlfriend, yet your Sim can still flirt and cheat on other Sims.
Obviously with all that flirting that is being done your Sims are going to want something more in their Sim lives, this comes in the form of Woohoo! It doesn't take a genius to work out that Woohoo is indeed Sexi-time. If your Sim wants Woohoo it will show up as a wish in the wish box and to fulfil this wish you will need to get them to flirt and compliment their Woohoo partner endlessly until the Woohoo option appears, your Sims will then move to the bedroom and get under the covers where you will see the covers moving around and little hearts above the bed, sounds a little strange but it is rather amusing really, especially when they roll over and go to sleep afterwards or get up and argue!
Woohoo in the Sims can lead to Sim Children, if your Sim becomes pregnant you will get a little notification pop up and a couple of weeks later (in Sim Time) your Sim will go to the hospital where your new baby Sim will arrive. If however you don't want to get a Sim pregnant then you can always adopt a child. The adoption process is easy as you simply need to use your Sims mobile phone to call the adoption service and a few Sim Hours later your new child will arrive at your home.
Regardless of how you get your Sim Children your Sims will need to look after their kids and make sure all of their needs are fulfilled. When the child reaches school age a school bus will pick them up each morning and drop them home each evening, you will need to make sure they have done their homework each day and if your Sim children do well in school there are extra bonuses and rewards available as well as many wishes related to what the children want.
Just like in real life, Sims have birthdays and they do get old. The aging process in the Sims is quite fast in my opinion and after 3 of my Sims reached old age quicker than I would have liked I decided to change the aging speed in the options menu to make their lifetimes Epic instead of normal or long. Even with the Epic setting they still seemed to age quickly so I decided to turn aging off altogether and then just give them birthdays when it suited me instead!
When a Sim has a birthday or when you want them to age up you will need to buy them a birthday cake and have them blow the candles out. When a Sim does this all the Sims in the house will come to celebrate with them and you will be taken to the create a Sim studio so that you can choose new clothes for your Sim.
Building and Moving House and Buying Out The Town
If you become tired of the house you are in you can always move to another part of town, providing your Sims have enough money of course. Or, if you prefer you can simply go to the Build and Buy menu where you can build extensions onto your house, change the landscape and terrain or simply have a change around with the furniture in the house. Whatever you do in here is entirely up to you and most of the time your Sims mood will improve as they seem to like new things in their lives.
As well as buying a new house you can also make a decision to buy shares in the local businesses which will enable you to claim a percentage of the profits each week, if you are feeling particularly rich then you may even be able to buy out the business and receive all of the profits. This is also a great way to get your Sims lots of money without having to do too much!
The Inevitable End
As with all good things in life, a Sims life must eventually come to an end. When your Sim reaches old age you can expect the end to come at any moment. When your Sim is going to die he or she will be visited by the Grim Reaper, your Sim will appear to float in the air and talk to the Grim Reaper before becoming a ghost which can live with your family for up to a week. I found this scene to be rather amusing and at the same time really annoying as none of the other Sims will do anything while the lengthy scene with the Grim Reaper is taking place.
Life After Death
Once your Sim is a ghost and wandering around your house as if nothing has changed he or she can use their new found ghostliness to scare other Sims or they can simply continue to move as if nothing is different. If you decide that you no longer need or want your dead Sim then you can wait a week (in Sim Time) and the Sim in question will leave your game. If however you decide that you want to keep your Sim you can use the Divine Intervention Karma power to resurrect your Sim. Doing this will return them to Elder state and continue as if nothing ever happened. But of course, be careful of over using your Karma powers!
So, taking this into mind, at the end of the day The Sims is a seemingly unlimited and ongoing game of life, addictive and fun, yet at the same time long, sometimes quite slow and very frustrating but I still keep going back for more!
The controls of the game are easy in the sense that you mainly need to navigate through menu screens and move your Sims around the house and town. However saying this, it can take a while to get used to exactly where each menu is located and how to access them all as there are quite a lot of them and different buttons do different things in different menus.
Playstation Network Trophies
The Sims 3 is trophy compatible and there are 51 trophies which can be won in total. I am very happy to say that I have actually completed The Sims 3 trophy list and have my well earned Platinum trophy. The trophies were generally very easy to achieve and mainly just required a lot of time to be put into the game. I did have a problem with one trophy not unlocking when I achieved it but I did a little Google searching and found that I needed to uninstall the game and reinstall it but not delete my game saves, then when I reloaded it all on and completed the trophy it popped first time.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics in the game are good and generally quite smooth. The only issue I really have is the amount of time it takes to load the different scenes in the game. It seems to take ages, especially when moving from one area of the town to another. The sound in the game is generally ok although if you play it often you will probably find the background music will become annoying and very repetitive at times.
Price and Availability
The Sims 3 is widely available. I don't know how much my mum paid for my copy, but a quick search shows me that CEX have it for £20 and you can find it slightly cheaper on eBay.
Overall I really enjoy The Sims 3, I find it to be a really addictive game which I enjoy playing, possibly a little too much! I cannot say exactly why this game is so addictive because in all honesty if somebody said to me that I would enjoy a game where you have a little simulated family and you basically control their every moment I would think they were nuts, but yet I do enjoy this and I do find it to be strangely challenging and addictive.
I recommend this game but I will warn you that you will most probably become addicted too!
5 out of 5 stars from me!
Thanks for reading :)
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Test Drive : Ferrari Racing Legends (PS3)
Do you want a game that's just ferraris racing round in circles for several hours? Then this game is for you. Most people would say no to that question, which is why it sold so few games and wasn't even released in the United Kingdom. However, the game was sold as region free in Canada and france, so i bought a french copy, which plays ... on any xbox worldwide. So there's my first issue with this: Paying a premium to buy a french copy.
The game is in English and the announcer will speak in English too, the manual and case however are in dutch and French which is a bit of a worry to anyone who can't speak French, as you have to learn the controls just by playing the game which takes time, and isn't helpful when everything is in metric, and the menu's are more complicated than solving the mystery of the universe.
The gameplay is below par. I'll start with the physics which for those of you who've played the Shift series, you'll be familiar with. There is a lag between actually moving the controller stick and the car moving on screen, and then when you're turning into a corner it'll take a while for the car to stop turning, so you can never really judge just how much you need to move the stick or how quickly.
Furthermore you don't have any customisation features to the point where you can't even choose what car you want for a race. You get what you're given and thats your lot. You can't even choose the colour. The game is also incredibly difficult with difficulty ranking up pretty fast and I personally felt cheated of a win in most Silver and Modern era races. Somehow despite the CPU having the same car as you, they are always faster and have a higher top speed. It's damn nearly impossible to secure a win when you get more points. Even playing on Easy is a serious challenge.
In the title i used the phrase "deja vu" because while this game has a great longevity and lots of interesting storyline based missions, it really does repeat itself several times. The tracks are used over and over again and races can last up to around 20 minutes. The cars are the same, they aren't even different colours, you get the same colour model of car every time you play a race.
Overall not a great game, repetitive, extremely difficult, annoying, and just generally god awful. No wonder it never sold any copies, and wasn't released in the UK.
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Dungeon Hunter Alliance (PSN)
Nothing beats a good dungeon crawler, as my gushing endorsement of Diablo 3 in an earlier 2012 review testifies to. Console gamers, lacking a gaming PC, are however still awaiting the arrival of Blizzard's best selling action RPG for their gaming system of choice. To those of you stuck in that camp I would recommend Dungeon Hunter ... Alliance, available to buy from the PSN store at a budget price. It's a good way of sampling a Diablo-esque experience on a Sony Playstation 3 without dipping too deeply into your treasure reserves. Good thing too as you'll need the coinage you earn from dungeon exploration to purchase armor and weapons to survive the adventure awaiting you.
Before embarking on your quest players need to select which of the three classes on offer they wish to play as. During my inaugural run through Dungeon Hunter Alliance I decided to pick the beefy warrior who is strong enough to wear the best armor and wield the mightiest weapons. The other archetypes available to choose from are the rogue and mage. Dexterous rogues specialize in evading harm whilst dishing out serious pain by duel wielding melee weapons or attacking from afar with a bow. The mage on the other hand, despite being frail in the hit points department, is a versatile fighter thanks to his vast array of spells. By uttering a few incantations it's possible to toast enemies with fireballs, freeze opponents in place with an ice blast, heal allies using restorative magic and conjure cute bunnies from a top hat (okay I made that last one up.)
Each of the above mentioned classes have their own unique skills, which are unlocked and improved by spending skill points that are acquired every time you level up. As any experienced RPG fan can tell you leveling up happens whenever you gain enough experience, which is earned by completing quests or slaughtering the legions of evil creatures infesting the dungeons you explore. Man the life of a humble goblin is not a glorious one. You are forced to dwell in a dank catacomb awaiting the arrival of experience seeking heroes who proceed to whack your green skinned noggin. Reminds me a bit of my existence were I reside in a darkened bedroom, playing online games, waiting for some thirteen year old kid to kick my arse on Call of Duty.
Upon leveling up players also get two attribute points to distribute as they see fit. Enhancing your endurance benefits everyone as it increases your health pool, but the other statistics are focused on particular classes. Improving strength is encouraged for warriors so they can don heavy armor, dexterity benefits rogues as it increases their critical hit chance whilst energy is important for mages as it fuels their spells. All that said you can customize your character as you like. All classes may equip any gear they find, providing that they meet the necessary requirements. There's nothing stopping a player from beefing up a mage's strength with level up steroids, so they can don plate armor, even if it isn't the optimal spec. Feel free to experiment as your choices are not permanent and can be reset by paying some coin back in town.
The appeal of dungeon crawlers has to be loot hunting for better equipment. As you explore levels you'll find all kinds of gear hidden in chests or dropped by vanquished monsters (I'll never understand why that giant spider I squished was carrying a helmet, but whatever.) Weapons and armor can also be bought at the town merchant, but his prices are fairly high given that fantasy worlds don't have Amazon to compete with. My advice is to save your cash for health potions, because in order to survive in Dungeon Hunter Alliance you'll be chugging curative tonics at the rate in which Lindsay Lohan guzzles alcohol on a night out.
To be honest using drops from defeated enemies is more than sufficient to get you through the game. The chance of finding rare and more powerful gear increases if you take part in the fun online multiplayer, but be aware that indulging in co-op dungeon crawling comes at a price. Yes the loot drops are better and having someone watching your back is handy, but the more players taking part in a game the tougher the difficulty becomes. I found beating the game was fairly straightforward in the single player mode, but some bosses become nigh on impossible to beat when challenging them in a four-man party. Hmph. It must be my slacker teammates letting me down as my gaming skills are without equal... well except for that annoying teenage Call of Duty youngster of course.
In terms of gameplay, Dungeon Hunter Alliance feels a lot like the Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance games some of you may have enjoyed during the Playstation 2 era. The default control scheme is similar, with the left control stick handing your character's movement, the x button making you attack and the other face buttons activating skills you assign to them. The game also supports the Playstation Move allowing motion control fans to command their character with the aid of an onscreen cursor, much like PC gamers do with a mouse pointer. Well that's the theory anyway. I cannot comment on how responsive the Move controls are as I never bothered buying one. I personally do not see the appeal of waggling a stick... at least with my pants on.
Story wise Dungeon Hunter Alliance isn't going to win any prizes. Heck the simplistic narrative would struggle to get Dooyou crown nominations, but I cannot really criticize the game for that. Games in this genre just need enough plot to explain why you are trekking across dungeons, forests, ruins and so on. Anything deeper than that would get in the way as you don't want lengthy cut scenes pausing the action, especially when playing with other players (there's always some dumbass who keeps you waiting for five minutes as they refuse to skip the banal dialogue sequences.)
In case you are wondering the story sees the player take control of a deceased king (no not Elvis) who is resurrected by a fairy. The cute pixie needs your help in saving her sisters who have been enslaved by the Dark Fairy (basically Tinkerbell if she ever became a Goth) who is also terrorizing your former kingdom. You have to respect a monarch who comes back from the grave to save his people. Somehow I doubt Prince Charles would do the same.
Although I have been critical of Gameloft in the past (their portfolio is full of uninspired titles that are carbon copies of popular games) I have to give them credit for their work on Dungeon Hunter Alliance. Yes it may not have the depth of Diablo 3, but it doesn't cost anywhere near as much either. Visually the game isn't anything special (no surprise given that it was originally an iPad release) but the simplistic graphics aren't too noticeable given that a zoomed out isometric view is used to display the action, hiding the lack of character detail. Besides who cares about cosmetic shortcomings when the gameplay is so good.
Even though the combat can get repetitive I was never bored as you regularly level up, giving you new talents to play around with. That along with the thrill of finding better equipment ensured that my interest was never lost. For a downloadable purchase I'm impressed by the game's length, which beats what we get in some full price retail offerings. It will take twenty hours to beat the story on heroic difficulty and you will spend even more time repeating the adventure if you intend to hit the level cap of 75. That along with the replay value of multiplayer and trying out all three classes makes Dungeon Hunter Alliance good value for money... unlike the wares that cheapskate town merchant peddles. Ten gold coins for a health potion? That's daylight robbery!
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