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PC Roundup

Fantasy Wars, Simon the Sorcerer 4, City Life, Penumbra: Black Plague, Sims 2: FreeTime.

The Sims 2: FreeTime

Those hapless sims. Always running around cleaning up dirty plates, fixing showers, plunging toilets, mopping up spills. Between work, house maintenance and a demanding social schedule, does the average sim have any free time? Well they better make some, as EA's latest expansion pack for the juggernaut series is based around hobbies.

And there are plenty of past-times on offer, including keep-fit, playing the violin, building a model railway and playing videogames (like The Sims 3). My bohemian review sim decided she was going to get into arts and crafts in a big way, so spent many an hour daubing on canvas and spinning the old potter's wheel.

There's an impressive attention to detail here, as a painting takes quite some time to complete, with the image building slowly, piece by piece on the canvas. There are various different styles, from portraits to abstracts, and the finished results can be hung on the wall or sold for a decent amount of dosh, making a secondary income to supplement the day job.

Hmm... what seems to be the problem here? Aha - no wheels - that's it.

At higher hobby skill levels, sims can instruct (or indeed bore) other people in their crafts, and even join secret clubs at the top echelons. The catch is these skills decay if not used, and keeping them active alongside the everyday rounds of cleaning and socialising can be quite challenging. That's fair enough, but the rate of decline seems overly harsh when you max up a skill and then half a day later it drops back down a point.

As well as the hobbies, FreeTime introduces some extra career paths, so if you've ever wanted to be a dancer, comedian or oceanographer (erm...) now's your chance. Moreover, there's a new lifetime-aspiration meter that measures the overall success of the sim in achieving his or her life's ambitions. Filling this up earns aspiration points which can be spent on perks such as slower motive decays, or sharper business instincts to secure easier promotions, along with secondary aspirations that grant further benefits.

It's not exactly ball-busting stuff, but these are interesting additions that keep the game feeling fresher, and make the juggling act of moulding the perfect sim a little trickier. Chuck in a slew of minor additions, such as extra outfits and the ability to edit a neighbourhood's terrain after it's been created, and there's enough here to make FreeTime a worthwhile addition to any Sims fan's expansion collection.


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