All dressed up and finally somewhere to go!
EA released their revolutionary title The Sims nearly two years ago. Since that time they have doled out to a wide assortment of shut-ins and social malcontents no less than three expansions. The most recent, Hot Date, is without a doubt the best of the lot. Although it's far from perfect, it's a big step in the right direction for the Sims.
If you consider yourself the Frank Lloyd Wright of the Sim universe, Hot Date will seem a cornucopia of construction. The main feature of this expansion is the addition of a downtown district for each of your neighborhoods. Each downtown contains ten lots; though nine of them are full at start, you are free to bulldoze what's there and replace the shops, restaurants and hang outs with those of your own creation.
The default lots are generally too sparse and the fun too far and few between. Your Sims will probably find them about as fun as watching paint dry. Undertaking construction of a new downtown, you will soon find yourself hard pressed to create a variety of unique establishments where your Sims can gather for a reliably good time with the limited selection of start up items. Fortunately, the downtown lots are available for download and sharing, which should help out quite a bit. Building downtown lots isn't as fun as it sounds.
Each downtown area is populated by residents of the selected neighborhood and 'Townies,' NPC Sims who just happen to be downtown browsing for a skimpy negligee or out for an evening of fine dining, frenzied dancing and wanton bubble blowing. Your Sims can interact with Townies. They can form friendships and love affairs. They can be called on the phone for chit-chat and invited home. They can even move into your Sim's house and become a player-controlled character. These extra people add immensely to the fun factor in Hot Date.
But it's too bad that they don't allow Sims from your other neighborhoods to meet downtown. I would have preferred a single downtown district where Sims from all of the neighborhoods could congregate (like a giant Sim hub), maybe throw in a few Townies for a bit of chaos and save us all a lot of wearying construction.
Indeed, players cannot truly affect anything downtown in play mode other than their selected Sim. 'Build' and 'Buy' are not selectable, which just adds to the tedium of construction. There's really no way to be sure that your downtown will be free of corners in which Sims will get stuck and other building and placement errors other than sending a Sim on a trial run and taking careful note of what needs to be changed. This is simply more work than fun.
A sub-category motif abounds in this expansion and it extends to objects as well as social interactions. Objects have been categorized to the point where some items are nearly impossible to find. This is particularly true with the downtown objects and compounded by the fact that some uptown objects, like computers and the virtual reality glasses, aren't available downtown. And, of course, there are downtown objects which aren't available to your neighborhood. Spending two hours searching for the hotdog cart is sure to weigh on anyone's fun meter.
The real joy of this expansion rests in sowing the seeds of discontent among the residents of your Sim neighborhoods. Hot Date gives the gamer some great tools for creating angst-ridden relationships, as it introduces more than 40 new social interactions. Familiar categories of exchanges have been broken into subcategories. For example, a Sim hoping to entertain a guest must next decide whether a Joke will do the trick, some Juggling might be called for or to go whole hog and break out the Puppet. How a Sim reacts to your Sim's amusements depends, of course, on their personality.
Sims have always had Interests, but they didn't appear to play a very large part in forming relationships. In Hot Date, Sims now have more interests and they can change these by simply heading downtown to buy a magazine and bringing it back for a good read. Interests can be gained much more quickly than skills and it gives your Sims schmoozing ammo for their amorous assaults on more difficult Sims. Players can nudge their Sim into changing the topic of conversation, hopefully to an interest they both share. That's a lot better than being confined to watching helplessly as your Sim bores the hell out of everybody he/she talks to.
Players will no longer be able to have one Sim pin another in a corner alternating between Joke and Compliment until they have coerced a friendship out of the befuddled victim…or at least not as easily.
There are far more physical interactions between Sims than in previous versions and they allow for much more complex relationships, which is something that the Sims apparently needed. If your Sims are feeling amorous while dining, they might indulge in a bit of footsie. They can also Cuddle on just about any communal piece of furniture, an option which might include sub-options like Embrace, Caress, Kiss and Make Out. One Sim can give another a playful tickle or tickle them mercilessly until they wet themselves. The additional options made me wonder how the game had done without them all this time.
Gifts no longer come from thin air. Now your generous Sims can shower their lovers with flowers, jewels, toys and candies. They can even buy clothes for their friends and themselves, clothes which are added to their wardrobe and available when they get back home. This is a very nice touch and a pretty cool feature of the game.
The concept of time has never merged seamlessly into The Sims. Just walking across a moderate-sized room will take a Sim whole minutes. Time is even further warped in Hot Date, particularly in downtown mode where time seems to have no connection to anything. A restaurant meal can take upwards of four hours. If a Sim leaves downtown by taxi at 8:33 in the morning, they should not be getting home at 6:56 in the evening. Fortunately, Downtown Time is only a distant cousin to Neighborhood Time; time spent downtown doesn't seem to have much bearing on Neighborhood Time or even in relation to their careers.
We are given a bit of love with the energy meters, which seem to run down slower while your Sim is downtown, allowing your Sims the opportunity to enjoy the new downtown features and maybe even make a friend or two. Your hygiene meter is the big loser this time out. Your Sim can step out of the shower and into a cab to meet a potential lover downtown and by the time they have wined and dined and the date agrees to return to his swinging bachelor pad for the 'hot' part of the date, either or both of them will abandon affection for want of a shower. Apparently, there is something mysterious and unseen downtown that will have your Sims smelling like rancid gibbons in no time at all.
But this is a minor quibble. The addition of expanded conversation options, physical interactions and interests makes it much harder for your Sim to win friends, but it is a much more rewarding experience. It lends the game an eerie trace of depth and plenty of potential drama. Hot Date is definitely the most worthy of the Sim expansions, though a bit flawed. And it's more fun than a barrel full of gibbons.