Something strange is happening. As computer games become more popular, so some are becoming less game-like and more... well, work-like.
The best examples are Nintendo's Brain Training games, which have been lapped up by Japanese OAPs who want to keep their little grey cells in tiptop condition. And a similar theme seems to be at work in The Sims 2. This is a game where for the first couple of hours the most exciting thing you do is wield a vacuum cleaner.
At Pocket Gamer towers though, we're happy to push past first impressions. And a good thing too because after that early tedious house keeping, The Sims 2 is revealed as a game with plenty of charm.
Find a cow for instance, and you can milk it to get a treat. Alternatively, tip it over and milk it to get a milk shake! Or what about the little inbuilt synthesiser with which you can make your own tunes? Even better, you can eventually build an art gallery in your hotel, and then create your own paintings using the touchscreen and stylus. Then there are the casino games, including trump-style card games involving ghostly pirates and monkeys where you can win extra cash.
The snag, however, is you begin as the new, penniless owner of Strangetown's one, rundown hotel – and the only way you can raise the $1,000 you need to build your first guest room are boring, repetitive tasks: hoovering, picking up radioactive rods, and the like.
Even once you've got a building permit, the next problem is it takes your hippy builder Tristan Legend eight hours to build the room. Literally, eight real hours, each consisting of 60 human minutes. Of course, you can spend this time hoovering – sometimes you'll find lost erasers or rings in the dust that will get you cash when you fish them out using your stylus (if nothing else, The Sims 2 makes excellent use of the DS' touchscreen, with tons of mini-games). Alternatively, you'll just switch off your DS and reconvene the following day, which is extremely frustrating.
Happily, once the money and guests start rolling in the game picks up. Unlike most Sims games, where you have lots of little computer people randomly running around, in the DS version of The Sims 2, you have direct control of only one Sim. At the start of the game, you'll create it, choosing attributes like hair style, gender, clothes and a name. You'll also have to build up its relationships with all the weird folk in Strangetown, and believe us when we say this is one well-named place.
Each person – from creepy Jebediah Jerky to ex-cult TV star Kent Hackett – goes through various mood swings, which you can try and overcome with a paper-scissors-stone-type game, whereby you have to choose the right response from the three available. If you're in romance mode for example, they might pucker up for kiss, or if upset a hug might be required. Get it right, and your relationship rating will go up. Make too many wrong choices though, and your Sim's sanity meter will fall to zero and you'll have to give them a shower, a nap or perhaps some food to get it back up so you can continue.
Another area where this DS release is different to the usual Sims fare is it has a plot. This rumbles along as you undertake specific missions, such as building a vault so that mafia boss Frankie Fusilli can stash his cash. There are also sub-missions, which often appear on your in-game phone as messages or direct calls. In fact, once you're a couple of hours into the game, there are more than enough tasks to be getting on with.
Even if The Sims 2 on DS isn't as innovative and downright enjoyable as the traditional Sims' experience, there is plenty of fun on offer. Though you might well never get the hoovering bug.The Sims 2 is on sale now.