Long before the dust settled on the first copy of The Sims, Maxis has been tossing out expansions to the game with the unerring frequency of offers to enter the Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. While some of these expansions (i.e. Hot Date) have scored bullseyes, others have flown less true, been less fun, and may even make a person yearn for a visit from Ed McMahon to liven things up.
The Sims: Superstar, the sixth expansion, definitely leans toward the latter variety. Although this expansion strives to add an element of glamour to the neighborhood by allowing your more "creative" Sims to pursue careers in the entertainment industry, it comes off as more of an exercise in frivolity.
It also begs the question, "Is this what the game really needed?" Going out for celebrity status is simply one of 15 or more career paths and none of the others are supported in any kind of depth whatsoever. However, if your neighborhoods are filled with ambitious, attention-hungry glory hounds in desperate need of head-gassing and ego-bashing, Superstar should preoccupy you for a couple of weeks.
As with all the other expansions, players can expect the obligatory array of new walls, floors, furnishings and building materials, enough to satisfy the Builder Bob in anyone. There are also a host of new luxury items; everything from mud baths and wind chambers to massage tables and scuba tanks are at your disposal. Of course, these items are priced out of the range of your average, everyday Sim, but since this expansion is geared towards the elite, sod the proles!
Superstar also includes "Studio Town," a new location for your Sims' universe. In Studio Town Sims can try to get discovered at karaoke bars, act on sets, record at studios, perform in front of audiences, schmooze at oxygen bars or just break down and pig out on smoothies. Like all locations in The Sims, the lots here can be expanded, obliterated, or created from scratch at the whim of the player.
The real innovation in Superstar is the concept of celebrity. Sims now vie for superstardom in acting, music and fashion in ways that involve the player to a greater degree than merely commanding your Sim to talk to a mirror to gain Charisma, for example, or just get to the carpool vehicle on a regular basis. Players help their Sims by obtaining an agent, perusing the daily tabloids and urging Sims to perform at the right venues, in front of the right crowds, and directing them to suck up to the right people - just like in real life.
Some of these activities are not quite as involving as they may at first seem. Securing an agent, studying the tabloids and even performing before a small crowd won't give anyone much of a charge. As your Sim gains in fame, however, and obsessed fans began stalking them - well, that adds a bit to the interest.
Your Sims' popularity, of course, is essential in the fame game. Sims who can maintain a hectic social life while still managing to shower and go to the bathroom on a somewhat frequent basis will find the most success. This is still The Sims, after all, and meter management takes supreme importance.
If your Sim hits the big time and can afford to shell out $500 per day, a Butler is just what the doctor ordered. The addition of the Butler is definitely a highlight of this expansion, much more useful than the maid who comes and does her thing half-heartedly for a couple of hours a day or the glitchy robot that spends more time in doorways changing hats than actually cleaning anything. Butlers can actually prepare satisfying meals for your Sims, tidy up, and phone in for more staff when the need arises. But then again, only the wealthiest Sims will be able to sample this guy's wares.
Superstar is very much a trot along the treadmill, with no improvements in control, graphics or sound. One of its most glaring faults is that it doesn't fully incorporate previous expansions. Here I refer specifically to the fact that "Superstar" was already a career objective introduced in Livin' Large. And do not think that simply because you have a Sim who had previously advanced to the rank of "Superstar" that same Sim will be anything but a "Nobody" in the Superstar expansion. While Superstar has its own method for advancing the aspiring star (including a new system of 'star points' which Sims earn by basically making asses out of themselves in public), some acknowledgment of the superstars of Livin' Large would have been a good thing. And it ain't in here.
The Sims: Superstar is yet another thumbsucker meant to whet the appetites of Sims aficionados until Maxis obliterates this shallow but entertaining universe with The Sims 2. Sure, it's got plenty of new items and toys, but unless the majority of your Sims have an interest in a show biz career, this star-studded expansion is somewhat hollow and does little to bring the rosiness back into this old game's cheeks.