Sim Life (AGA) (Second review)

Title           Sim Life (AGA) (Second review)
Game Type       Management Sim
Company		Maxis
Players         1
Compatibility   KS2/3 only, at least 3 MB memory recommended
Submission      Joona Palaste ( Profiled Reviewer

Sim Life is the fourth game in Maxis's famous "Sim" series, after the
excellent Sim City and Sim Earth and the okay-ish Sim Ant. As the series
progressed, the games started to simulate broader matters, making them
more complicated. But did interest accompany complicatedness? Let's find
  Actually calling Sim Life a "game" is stretching it a bit. To get a
grasp of the picture, compare playing soccer to playing chess. That's like
comparing a 1980's computer game to Sim City. Now compare playing chess to
just moving the chessmen along the board (according to the rules, of
course), with the object of the game removed entirely, for example playing
with no kings. That's about the same as comparing Sim City to Sim Life.
  Sim Life comes on four disks, and has a thick, detailed manual, and some
other documentation. This is clearly not the sort of game you just load up
and have a bash at, to see how much you can score. Even the manual calls
it a "software toy", which I think is quite right.
  The basic concept of Sim Life is to indeed simulate life. You've got a
large world map made of rectangular blocks. You can then populate this
world map with tens, even hundreds of animals and plants, and see how they
live their entire lives in front of your eyes. Lifeforms grow and produce
offspring, and then die. Animals eat plants, and some animals also eat
other animals. Sounds boring? It might be, if that was all there is. But
Sim Life also simulates evolution and mutations, so the lifeforms' genome
changes as time goes by.
  As well as that, you can make up your own lifeforms. This is done by
picking the appearance of your animal or plant by choosing three picture
parts from a wide selection (head, torso and abdomen for animals, or
flower, stalk and roots for plants). Then you set a few genetic
attributes, and name your creation. It's so simple, you can generate whole
zoos or herbaria in days, or less. You can, of course, also save your
lifeforms to disk.
  In practice, Sim Life is not that exciting. It will be completely boring
to all expect a select few biology-buffs. There is no real objective, and
the experience of trying to get your lifeforms to prosper is further
flattened by the fact that the game bestows god-like powers on you. There
isn't a single thing that the lifeforms need to do by themselves, with no
help from your divine intervention. Need a bunch of animals quickly? No
need to wait for them to procreate, just pause time, paste down a few
dozen new animals, and unpause the game. Animals are starving? Throw a
couple of shopping carts, which act as infinite food supplies, nearby.
None of this costs you anything. All this omnipotence destroys any hope of
a genuine challenge.
  The graphics in Sim Life look nice, but are hardly spectacular. Sim Life
comes in two versions, AGA and non-AGA, but they don't look all that
different. Sound effects are plentiful, but simple. They are too generic
to give the illusion that your animals are actually communicating, and
just serve as reminders.
  Sim Life is very heavy on CPU and memory usage. For it to be any fun at
all, you really need at least a 68030 CPU and 3-4 megabytes of memory.
Even then it can be sluggish. If you're serious about it, and can spare
the cash, get a 68040 or 68060 CPU, and at least 8 megabytes of memory.
Also, even though it can be played from the floppies, this is not
recommended. Install it onto your hard drive and you'll be much happier.
  All things considered, what is Sim Life like? The idea itself is
certainly a laudable effort, and Maxis have done good work in implementing
it, even to little details. The manual is well written, and even has a
mini-comicstrip starring Mr. Gene Poole and his family. However, a good
idea is not always enough to make a good, enjoyable game. Sim Life would
make an excellent educative tool, but as a gaming experience, it's very
boring. The fact that you never descend from your high godly status to the
level of the lifeforms themselves keeps you very distanced from the
happenings in the game. And even if you did, there would be little to
actually try to do.
  If you like games that have you on the edge of your seat, trying hard to
achieve a result, don't buy Sim Life, it will fail to deliver your
expectations. I only bought it as a curiosity, and haven't played it that
much. One for the intellectuals and collectors only.

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