The Sims 2

Jason Thompson

While The Sims was indeed fascinating, there was a bit too much 'unreality' and a strong sense of the mundane thrown in.

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genres: Simulation
Price: $49.99
Multimedia: The Sims 2
Platforms: PC
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Teen
Developer: Maxis
US release date: 2007-07

Buy The Sims 2 at EB Games
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If Only Reality TV Was This Entertaining

So much has been said and written about Maxis' original Sims game that there's no point in repeating oneself anymore. "The biggest selling PC game of all time", "virtual crack", "more fun than life itself", etc. OK, well maybe that last statement is far-flung, but I did know people who just couldn't stop playing The Sims when it first came out. Granted, I was undoubtedly amongst that very same group. It was pretty easy to spend six hours at a time just watching the little person you created try to make it in the virtual world while trying to balance out his need to eat, piss, and sleep.

And while The Sims and all its weird expansion packs was indeed fascinating, there was a bit too much "unreality" and a strong sense of the mundane thrown in. Basically, there was no time for serious leisure in the game. You were pretty much forced to stick to a strict regimen of climbing up the social ladder while excelling insanely at your chosen profession and maintaining a large group of friends. If you didn't have all those friends, you just really weren't going to get that big promotion. And then your Sim would get depressed because there was never anything for him to do except work the daily grind, come home, and try to eat, sleep, shower, and pee -- if possible - before hitting the salt mines once again. Frankly it all got stale before the first expansion pack was even introduced.

So about seven expansion packs later, the original game is put to bed and The Sims 2 is unveiled. Thankfully, Maxis has tweaked its original masterpiece and made it more fun, which means more time spent in front of your computer screen, letting real life go to waste even faster. This time, The Sims feels more like a game and less like an overall, wholly unrealistic reality simulator. And for that this title is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor.

What's funny about playing The Sims 2 is noticing all the stuff that wasn't included in the first version and wondering aloud why the hell it wasn't. For instance, now your Sim gets two days off per week. Great idea! Now he can work and have his fun like any normal person would. A life span has also been introduced. You can create a Sim and start him at birth, or as a kid, or as an adult (granted, if you play from birth you also have to create an adult Sim to take care of it, else this game would have become completely unrealistic on its own). You'll see your Sims get visibly older and track their progress through life through their own memories. Kinda creepy, huh?

Aside from those nice tweaks, each Sim now has goal sets to work with. This means, your Sim has three goals per day to try and achieve based upon their personality traits you set when you create him. My guy, a Mr. Botchnik, is really into romance, so his daily goals might be to make out with a Sim, "Woo-Hoo" a Sim (that's Simlish for "getting it on"), and perhaps something else, like, oh, Woo-Hooing in public (yes, Maxis has added a whole new sense of depravity this time around). Botchnik doesn't like commitment, but he loves the ladies, and has dabbled with a couple guys as well. He's currently shagging the mail lady, is courting some teenage hottie he found down at the mall, and also has a senior citizen lover who'd like to get hitched and is really not all that happy about his other loves. Rock on, Botchnik.

It would seem that The Sims 2 really does allow the player to fully get into his characters and live out all those weird and wild fantasies that he'd probably not get around to in real life due to the law, STDs, and good old morality. But it is fun to watch the Sim go through various scenarios and push them to their unbridled limits to see just how much they can get away with. Will you be responsible and a respectable citizen, or just a complete sleazeball who'll sleep with everything that rings the doorbell?

The game has also gone 3-D, which really brings the player in. You can fully zoom in on your Sim and feel as if "you are there". No more birds-eye view of all the proceedings. Granted, many players have complained about this due mainly to the strain this may cause on older computers. When I picked up my copy, the girl at Media Play made sure I looked at the requirements before purchasing. How nice of her. But really, this game is a workhorse, even when boiled down to a single-disc DVD version (the CD-ROM version is spread out over several discs), so much so that it literally takes a few minutes to load, even on a system like mine that can handle anything.

But minor complaints aside, The Sims 2 really is more enjoyable all-around. The ability for your Sim to be happy even in a smaller house with basic items is nice, as is what amounts to built-in expansion packs. This time, the Sims can travel to other towns and places right off the bat. Even things from The Sims Online like clothes buying have been ported over. Oh, and perhaps best of all for all you lecherous types -- you can now get it on in any bed or hot tub -- no more shelling out big bucks for the vibrating bed or "love tub" of yore.

Okay, so maybe the bottom line is that The Sims 2 is more fun for the adult-minded. Nah, scratch that. Those who loved the original game will undoubtedly be won over by this sequel. I wouldn't be surprised is one day Maxis is the company that brings true virtual reality gaming into the homes. It's already scary enough what they've done with The Sims 2. Imagine what The Sims 4 is going to be like. Very scary indeed.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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