Reviewed: March 26, 2008
Released: February 26, 2008
- Sims 2
- Sims 2 Special DVD Edition
- The Sims 2 Bon Voyage Edition
The Sims 2 FreeTime, the latest installment of the popular The Sims 2 game franchise, is the seventh expansion available for everyone’s favorite people simulator.
As you might guess from the title, this newest addition to the game focuses on adding hobbies and interests for your Sims to explore, but it actually does more than that: believe it or not, outside of the new activities, FreeTime provides a lot of little changes to the original Sims 2 game that truly polish up the gameplay experience and improve significantly upon the existing mechanics, making this expansion much more worthwhile than a quick look would suggest.
Designed for those Sims 2 players who have already explored much of what there is to be done in the core game – such as climbing the career ladder, developing Sim family trees, and fulfilling Sim lifetime aspiration goals – FreeTime provides players and their Sims with new hobby-oriented activities to check out during their off hours.
As can be expected from a Sims 2 expansion pack, this new set of interests and skills fits seamlessly into the original game, and veteran Sims 2 players will likely find the additions to be intuitive and unintrusive to the lives of their existing Sims. Sims can continue on as before and ignore the new activities, though each Sim now has an assigned natural talent for a particular interest that can often be discovered through everyday activities that existed before, such as cooking or reading a book.
FreeTime introduces a total of 10 interest categories: Music & Dance, Arts & Crafts, Sports, Fitness, Science, Nature, Gaming, Cuisine, Tinkering, and Film & Literature. Sims can build interest in as many (or as few) categories as they like, regardless of where their natural talents lie. The only thing required to gain interest in an activity is regular participation, and greater interest levels in a given hobby unlock new activities.
For instance, slight interest in Cuisine will allow a Sim to talk to someone else about the subject. A few interest ranks later, he might be able to prepare a special chips and dip platter, or a cheese plate. Eventually, he’ll be offered membership in an exclusive cooking club on a secret lot where he can receive cooking lessons, and ultimately, he’ll achieve an “In the Zone” state while he’s cooking that slows the decay of his needs so that he can spend more time making Baked Alaskas and less time sleeping or showering.
Each hobby has a similar progression, though some interests have admittedly better unlockables than others. Gaming, for instance, doesn’t really provide much in the way of interesting unlocked activities, while high levels of Fitness interest allows a Sim to go jogging with friends or prepare protein shakes. Fortunately, however, the new hobby-related items available help to round things out a bit.
The number of objects is generous and includes basketball hoops and soccer goals for Sports-minded Sims, sewing tables and pottery wheels for Arts & Crafts lovers, a run-down car to be restored by a Tinkering aficionado, and a synthesizer for Music & Dance Sims to compose their own tunes, among a myriad of other additions. Even existing items may have been given new options. Televisions, for example, now give your Sims the option to watch a movie, and just about any mechanical or electronic object can be tinkered with to build Tinkering interest and Mechanical skill.
Some of the new activities also allow Sims to create new decorative items and build badges for their Open for Business shops. FreeTime also introduces a limited level of customization, giving your Sims the ability to create custom clothing at high levels of Arts & Crafts, custom-frame their own paintings (at long last), and to paint a refurbished car the color of their choice. The customization options are perhaps not as developed as I would have liked, but it’s a nice touch that hopefully heralds greater in-game customizability for the franchise in the future.
Also noticeable in FreeTime is that families are not forgotten this time around. Children and teens can participate in many of the new activities and build skills and interest in hobbies as they grow up, and the selection of new objects and interactions includes something for every age group. Sims can also now choose up to three NPC friends to transition with them as they get older, removing that awkwardness of Peter Pan-like friends that never grow up.
Surprisingly enough, however, the best part of the expansion pack is probably not the addition of hobbies, new career tracks, extra household decorations, or increased clothing selection. I was probably most impressed that the core game mechanics that originally made The Sims 2 fun have been touched up and fine-tuned in a very noticeable and positive way. With the addition of FreeTime, your Sims now have a Lifetime Aspiration Meter that increases with each momentous event in their lives, such as getting married or having a first child. The Lifetime Aspiration Points earned can then be spent on benefits, such as slower need decay or a Summon Aliens ability.
The benefits available to your Sims will depend on their chosen Aspirations, and Sims can now also choose to have a Secondary Aspiration that provides additional unlockable benefits and a little more complexity to daily wants and fears. Your Sims will also let you know how their week went and whether they are getting what they want out of life. Generally, all these little tweaks help shift the focus of the game from the daily grind to longer-term play, a change that will probably make The Sims 2 more fun for many players in the long run.
Finally, FreeTime also provides a smattering of other miscellaneous improvements, like a much more convenient neighborhood navigation system, the addition of Best Friends Forever status for close Sim relationships that makes friendship maintenance much easier, and that genie character we haven’t seen since the Livin’ Large expansion from the first Sims game. While small, these changes are just icing on the cake of a solid Sims 2 expansion pack.
FreeTime provides more of the same style and quality of graphics that Sims 2 players have experienced from previous installments of the game. The new objects and animations fit in gracefully with those of the original Sims 2 and all previous expansions.
The sound effects and music are more of the same generally agreeable, quirky, whimsical, and convincing caricatures of real life that we’ve come to expect from the series. Though it doesn’t seem like much has been added, all the new effects – from the slap of clay on the pottery wheel to the strains of classical violin – sound as they should.
Retailing for $29.99, The Sims 2 FreeTime goes for the typical cost of an expansion pack and includes a respectable selection of new options, objects, clothing, career paths, and significant gameplay improvements that add polish, longevity, and navigation convenience to the original Sims 2 game. It’s certainly not a bad buy for a Sims 2 enthusiast, though as with the other expansion packs, it’s probably unlikely to convert those who aren’t already fans of the series.
Overall, from its equal treatment of Sims in different stages of life to its smooth integration with all previous expansion packs, FreeTime is very well-rounded and better thought-out than many of the previous expansions. The addition of free-time activities and hobby-related objects alone may not appeal to everyone, but the clean implementation of synergy among expansion packs and other solid gameplay improvements significantly enhances the Sims 2 experience.