Who needs button bashing when you can play a mobile game that teaches you as much about sociology, sexuality and anthropology as any text book? Well, yes, we know that sounds deathly dull, but bear with us.
The Sims 2 is such a game. You take control of a 'Sim' – a little pixelly person – and are charged with finding them mates, dosh and a house full of swanky furniture. And no, you can't take a short cut by marrying them off to a footballer.
It's based of course on the legendary console and PC game, and although the gameplay is considerably cut down, the isometric viewpoint and graphical style will be instantly familiar if you've played the original.
So what's the key to success? Chat. When other Sims pop around for a visit, you have to guess whether they'd rather talk about politics, music, food, love or other subjects, and then chat them up in order to get into their pants/knickers (delete according to preference). Sure there are other stages of friendship in between, but really it's about getting jiggy.
Of course, no one fancies a penniless loser, so you have to get a job, although strangely the interview process involves gossiping with your fellow Sims, who'll hook you up with employers. Working gives you dough, which you can then spend on furniture for the house, or even on an extension.
Self-improvement is also a big theme, happily without any foghorn-voiced American motivation gurus barking into headsets at you. Instead, you have to build up your Sims personal attributes – cooking, charisma, logic and so on – by devoting time to specific activities (in these cases, preparing meals, practicing speeches in a mirror, and reading books).
As you improve, you can get better jobs, which pay more money and give you more free time. It's a superb learning curve (I certainly learned a lot from it – formerly unemployable Ed), introducing new objects and rooms as you go along. The controls are also accessible, making it easy to walk around your house and talk to people.
Oh, and did we mention the toilet? A series of indicators along the bottom of the screen show how hungry your Sim is, how clean they are, and whether they need to go to the loo. What happens if you ignore their swollen bladder? Well, it gets messy, that's all we'll say.
The downside to The Sims 2 is that it won't really appeal to existing Sims fans. It's an impressive conversion job, but it doesn't add anything to the versions on PC or console. You could also argue that the game doesn't boast much replayability once you've made your way through the game once.
But if you're a Sims virgin, it's a marvellous introduction to the series, and may well persuade you to try out the full-blown versions once you're done. It's also a wholly original game concept on mobile, apart from Gameloft's New York Nights: Success In The City, which was itself a cheeky rip-off of The Sims anyway.
The Sims 2 isn't about technology, whizzy graphics or complex gameplay mechanisms that'll leave your fingers floundering. It's about people, pure and simple. And it's fun indeed.
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