Vacation...all I ever wanted?
Everyone needs a break from the action - even virtual people. Whether it's a weekend at a tropical getaway, a camping trip in the great outdoors, or lazing by the fire in a cozy chalet, your Sims are now just a phone call away from a vacation experience that won't do a damn thing for them but might entertain you for a while.
Sims Vacation is the fourth expansion in the Sims series. While certainly not the worst, it is not the best either.
Like Sims Hot Date, which added a new Downtown area for each neighborhood, Sims Vacation adds a new Vacation Island for each existing hood. However, as in earlier Sims expansions (i.e. Livin' Large and House Party), Sims Vacation is primarily concerned with providing new goodies for your Sims to interact with. And, in that respect, it does an admirable job. Your Sims will now be able to build sandcastles along the beach, play volleyball, have snowball fights, go fishing, and purchase postcards to mail to their friends back home.
The new items are cool as they allow your Sims a wider variation of activities, and the interactions are often lengthy and well thought-out. Sims can engage in a game of volleyball for hours of game time, cheering themselves on for good plays and grumbling over lost points. They can rent poles and fish along a pier, entertaining themselves for huge chunks of time, casting their rods, throwing back the small fries, and chittering with excitement when they find a souvenir item.
Most of the new items are intended for use on Vacation Island and will not be available in Neighborhood mode. I suppose this is a good thing; if your Sims could have a carnival game on their front lawn they might not be as interested in climbing the career ladder. One thing is certain, though - the fact that some items are only available in particular modes can make things hard to find when constructing and outfitting houses and pleasure palaces alike.
Juggling hundreds and hundreds of items can be problematic on its own. Gamers are treated to submenus galore which, unfortunately, just seems to make locating certain objects much more difficult and time consuming. Often, after searching through the various menus for hours for a particular item, I would become convinced that the object must not be available in Vacation mode...only to run into it later, quite by accident, buried in some obscure submenu. This is generally frustrating and can sap most of the fun out of building anything. And that's really too bad, as the default lots on Vacation Island are not exactly Club Med material.
Each Vacation Island comes complete with a beach district, a rustic woodsy area, and an alpine zone. Altogether, there are nine lots which you can use 'as is' or build on to suit your own ideals...provided you were pragmatic enough (or enough of a sucker) to purchase the other expansions. While Sims Vacation offers a multitude of fun ways for your Sims to waste their time, many of the items which would make a vacation area seem complete are only available in the earlier expansions.
Your Sims will not run into any of their friends and associates from the neighborhood - avoiding folks you know is one of the reasons people enjoy going on vacation. Likewise, your Sims won't run into Sims from your other neighborhoods, either. This is kind of disappointing, as it would have been a great opportunity to mix and match your Sims from various neighborhoods.
Instead, Sims Vacation offers 'Tourists', who (like the Townies in Hot Date) are basically computer created and controlled NPCs that your Sims can interact with. Also like the Townies, a Tourist could possibly join one of the households in your Sims' neighborhood if the stars are right.
Unlike conversing with the Townies in Hot Date, your Sims' interactions with the Tourists are very limited. Your Sim will not be able to ask a fellow tourist on a Date or even to just Hang Out. They have no commitment to any conversation or activity they undertake with your Sim and after a little small talk, a few jokes and a flirtatious glance or two, they're on their way.
The Tourists are always on the move. It's as if the resort at which your Sims are vacationing is actually a rest-stop along some busy highway; the guests are as transitory as a migrating herd of caribou. In fact, although the vacation lots contain accommodations, your Sims will be the only ones sleeping there. No matter how many doodads you throw around to impress the guests, when it comes to sleeping your luxury resort will be about as popular as Bates' Motel. The steady flow of Tourists to and from the lot at all hours makes it pretty difficult for a lone Sim to enjoy a little time off without his Social meter taking a nosedive.
Of course, Sims don't have to vacation on their lonesome. They can sneak off with a single friend or go with the whole family. This expansion was actually designed with the family vacation in mind, and families with children will get the most out of it. Children will be able to interact with most, if not all, of the new items. They can also go hyper, molest the resort mascots, and even get your Sim family booted off of Vacation Island. This can be pretty funny and it adds a bit more personality potential for the kids in the game.
The big losers in this expansion are Sims looking for a little rendezvous with their next door neighbor. This can quickly turn into the vacation nightmare. When Sims vacation alone or as a family, the player can control all members of the traveling party. But when one Sim asks a neighbor to come along, the game operates the same as it does when a Sim asks another to Date or Hang Out in the Downtown mode of Hot Date. The vacationing companion will arrive with a mood crystal above their head to let you know their most pressing need. You won't be able to actually do anything about that need, at least not directly, because you can't control the companion.
Unfortunately, when it comes to a Sims' most basic needs (i.e., eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom), the companion often can't bring himself or herself to do it. Sometimes they will take a clue from your Sim - if your Sim hangs out long enough in a bathroom, maybe the companion will use the toilet. If your Sim takes a shower, maybe the companion will do so.
This isn't an exact science. In fact, it doesn't work most of the time. It is very likely that the companion Sim will be miserable, having wet themselves, unable to sleep from hunger, and unwilling to eat anything except what comes out of a picnic basket and the burgers your Sim grills up. This can be aggravating as all get out, and it won't do much to improve your Sims' relationships, either.
And although you have full control of your Sim in Vacation mode, you may find they have developed a rather annoying amount of autonomy, overriding your commands and coming up with their own ideas of what they are going to be doing. This, combined with The Sims' legendary pathfinding problems, might make you feel like you're not controlling anybody and are simply at the mercy of a bunch of pixelated little people hell-bent on a luau despite the fact that their bladder is at critical mass.
The Sims Vacation is not a great expansion. There has been no overall improvement in the game, it's graphics, control, or it's gameplay in general. Hot Date was far more innovative with its addition of 40 new social interactions and a few other features that had a big impact on the way that game actually plays. Sims Vacation is basically extra building space and a few more objects. It's just another Jedi mind trick to keep us interested until they iron the bugs out of Sims Online.