The way it works is that you have to complete missions to unlock items and other parts of the game. Initially, you have to complete missions to unlock what they call "sandbox" mode (i.e. playing The Sims as you do on the PC) and the two-player mode.
The first thing you do is make a sim. You can choose male or female, and that sim's personality, then you have a choice of faces, skin colours, eye colours, hairstyles and so on. Each component of the sim's appearance can be set separately, then customised by colour. However, there are not a lot of options - maybe 8 different face shapes, 8 different hairstyles, 8 or 10 eye colours, 8 or 10 outfits. Although you can change things like eye colour and shoe style, in practice the sims are too small for different eye colours and shoe styles to be noticeable.
Then you play the first mission, called Money from Mom. You live with your nagging mother in a tiny little house, and have to raise enough money to move out. Achieving certain objectives unlocks objects. This mission drove me insane, until I found a way to cheat (which I'll post about in another thread). At the end of this, the "sandbox" mode and the second mission are both unlocked. The second mission is called Reality Bites, and you have to clean and repair a house which has been wrecked by partying.
I can't decide whether I actually like the game or not! I think the missions are fun, once you find the best way to do them. However, there are a couple of really annoying control features, and this is what I need to ask about. You see, stupid Blockbuster are renting out the game without the manual - there is just typed information on the back of the rental box, which isn't anywhere near enough detail.
The part of the game I expected to have the most trouble with was that the motive panel is hidden unless you press the up directional button on the controller. However, you see a bar which indicates your sim's overall mood, in the usual red to green that we're used to. Also, when something happens which drastically lowers your sim's mood (such as a flood suddenly decreasing the Room score), the motive icon flashes to tell you to look at the panel. Overall, I got used to it.
I had trouble selecting objects sometimes. You highlight them with a yellow circle, but sometimes this isn't clear against the background colour. However, on the other hand, if you select multiple objects and click on them, the game asks which one you actually want to use. Which is really nice - I wish the PC version would do this.
I had extreme trouble painting walls. It kept painting the wrong side of the wall, and I have no idea how to fix this.
The single most annoying thing was that to put the game into fast speed, you have to HOLD DOWN one of the buttons! (the R1 button, for those who know their way round the PS controller). When you let it go, it goes back into normal speed! Likewise, to pause the game you have to hold down a button (the L1 button), and when you let it go it unpauses. Which is just silly - you can't pause the game and walk away! The only way to pause the game to leave it "safe" while you do something else is to hit the start button, which lets you select buy & build modes, and also the save/load and options screens. People who have the PS2 Sims manual - is there another way to change the game speed?
Overall, though, having played it for an evening, I'm still not sure whether I want to buy it. I don't think I'd want to start over with a whole new set of families in the "sandbox" mode - I am rather attached to the families on my PC and the objects and skins I've downloaded! But the missions are interesting as well as infuriating. And some of the new objects are really, really good. So I'm still undecided. I haven't played the two-player mode yet - I think a lot will depend on how that goes. I'll keep you posted :)
Hrm. I should have a "Sims" userpic too, shouldn't I?