Hit in the coconuts.
Sometimes I get worried that with all the video games and the typing and the looking at monitors indoors, I’m not getting outside enough. You know, natural light, “fris-bee”, um… smoking? I don’t know. Anyway, I was thrilled when I heard that EA had mangled all the fun of the outdoors into The Sims 2: Castaway, a game I could safely play inside.
It was a trick! A trap! One minute I was making the young, pretty crew of a sailboat, when suddenly I wrecked upon some godforsaken island paradise. I made the most of my hard new life by hunting, fishing, and tickling the female survivors. But at least I savored all these fun activities with the Wii Remote, right?
Nope. Sims 2: Castaway is all about simple physical activities, like pushing a spear or tugging on a fishing rod, but you won’t be doing them with the Wii Remote. No, the closest you will get to your island adventure is a pointing the remote and shooting a series of plain, uninteresting buttons.
The results are not pretty: the dated graphics and gameplay clutter the experience like debris from a doomed and distant vessel, washing up onto the shores of your Wii.
If you want an enjoyable treasure hunt adventure, pick up a copy of Zack and Wiki, where you can actually swing hammers, open turnkey chests, and dig through the sand. That you are wasting precious seconds of your life even reading about Sims 2: Castaway and not playing a darling sleeper like Zack and Wiki is killing me right now. Look at me! I’m dying.
If you still insist on reading every word (I love you), Castaway is the bastard child of several Sims conventions, which shows that everything that works on a PC can fail horribly on a Wii. First you steer your avatar through dense clusters of objects, as if you were driving a forklift to pick up a feather. When you’ve finally parked your Sim directly in front of the target, you interact by selecting an action from a list of written phrases. The analog stick and directional pads both failed to scroll through the lists reliably, so I was forced to point the Wii Remote at each slim line and shoot it, which slowed me down a great deal. A few hundred clicks later, I was craving a more action-oriented control scheme just for the sake of varying up the activity.
Why can’t I point at onscreen objects with the Wii Remote and then swing the remote to use them? It feels like Castaway is completely missing the point. It's like watching fun through a one-way mirror... it LOOKS like fun is happening behind the glass, but you can’t partake.
It’s harder still to look at all the ugly, low-detail art that you would find on the last-gen PS2. The camera usually stays far enough to make everything look muddy, even if the models and animations look okay up close.
Castaway is at best a short, passable scavenger hunt. Some players may tire and give up, especially when the game requires you to collect a dozen unremarkable brown stones, hidden around the world like twelve middle fingers on one massive Moai hand.
Making clothes and houses is light fun, but the castaway-survivor scenario becomes lost in the Animal Crossing-style gameplay. There is little danger or fear on Free Fruit Island, where the chimps are helpful and nearly every inch of green is covered in something to eat or destroy for building materials.
If you like crafting in World of Warcraft, hoarding natural resources for hours to build armor and tools, Castaway is one giant crafting system with a chimp thrown in. Go crazy. It’s cute, but the “building” gameplay here turns people into livestock. You saunter out into a virtual field, graze on Lumber and Coconut +1 items, and wander back to the workshop stable and push a button - out poops a chair. Warcraft players call this cycle “grinding”, and they know that it can feel like more of a punishment than play.
The truth is, good people suffer to complete dreary ports like Castaway, but this feels like one more bump in EA’s rocky relationship with the Wii. Concepts and premises like this whimsical survivor tale are fresh at least; now EA needs to escape from Suck Island and find fun gameplay. Until then, there are many more things you can and should do with your time and Wii then mill through Sims 2: Castaway - maybe I’ll go outside for real after all.