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Like sands through an hourglass, these are the chapters of your Sims' lives.
Sims fanatics finally get a break from the continuous barrage of expansion packs in the form of The Sims Life Stories, a new stand-alone game for the Sims franchise. While the premise is the same as in other Sims games - you micromanage the lives of virtual people by making sure they eat, sleep, shower, and so on - it also features several changes that give new life to an aging premise.
Life Stories has two storylines with tasks that you must complete to progress through the game. The first story is about Riley Harlow, who's entangled in a love triangle with new guy Mickey and high-school flame Dylan. The second story is about successful businessman Vincent Moore, who has to contend with a jealous gold-digging ex and an onslaught of bad dates as he searches for love. These are not Pulitzer-caliber storylines, but there is a compulsion to play through them and find out what happens next. It's kind of like watching a bad soap opera.
To advance, you must complete certain goals that run the gamut from changing your outfit to meeting someone at a community lot (such as a restaurant or a bowling alley). Even after you finish playing the story-based games - they don't take all that long if you stay on task - you can go into Free Play mode and play a slightly scaled down but still fulfilling version of the regular game.
Life Stories plays in a smaller window compared to the full-screen mode used in The Sims, though you can up the resolution and play at full screen. This allows you to keep your email, IM, and browser open and visible so you can get some work done during the game's down time (such as when your Sims are sleeping or at day jobs), though we found ourselves constantly adjusting the camera angle to accommodate the smaller window. And some of the controls take some getting used to. For instance, to scroll left or right, you have to right-click while dragging the mouse. In The Sims, you just drag your cursor to the edge of the screen.
The bottom line. Though the plotlines are a bit corny, it's nice to see a little variety infused into the Sims gameplay. With its friendlier system requirements, The Sims Life Stories is the perfect counterpoint to plugging away on a dull proposal or mind-numbing spreadsheet.
REQUIREMENTS: G4 or faster or Intel processor; Mac OS 10.3.9 or later; 256MB RAM; 32MB Radeon 9000, GeForce FX 5200, or Intel GMA 950 or later video card; 3GB disk space
New linear storylines. Classic mode provides old-style gameplay. Runs well on older Macs. Universal binary.
Inane plotlines don't offer much depth or challenge. Controls are a bit awkward.