The Sims Bustin' Out Review

The Sims has finally made its way onto the Game Boy Advance. The game has gone through a transformation on its way to the GBA as the original PC version would not have made the best portable game. Bustin' Out is not focused on being a life simulator and instead can probably be more accurately described as a small town RPG. You’ll still need to keep an eye on your motives – your needs for sleep, food, hygiene, etc. – but there’s far more emphasis on interacting with the town’s residents and completing task-based goals. The result is a surprisingly addicting game that will appeal to a wide range of portable gamers.

Chatting with your uncle in his farmhouse.

Like all other Sims games before it, before you begin playing Bustin' Out you’ll need to create your in-game character, or sim. You can customize the look of your sim, but not to the degree that you can on the PC or other consoles because of the limitations of the GBA. You’ll also be able to customize your sim’s personality by spending a given number of points on different traits that determine whether your sim is hard-working or lazy, shy or outgoing, etc. You don’t need to put too much thought into these attributes, though. It seems that they are more of a nod to the game’s predecessors than an actual factor in gameplay.

Once you’ve made your sim you begin the game at your uncle’s farm on the outskirts of the town of SimValley. In exchange for some help around the farm your uncle has graciously allowed you to set-up a modest little home in his old barn. Life on the farm serves as an opportunity for you to get your feet wet in the game and to learn about its play mechanics before moving out into the world on your own. The overall goal of the game is to complete a series of tasks for the town’s residents while increasing your wealth and social standing … and staying happy through the whole process.

As in other Sims games, keeping your sim happy in Bustin' Out is critical. A happy sim follows your instructions, interacts more easily with other sims, and has an easier time improving his or her skills. Keeping a sim happy is a matter of ensuring that his/her basic needs are met. The game continually tracks your sim’s needs for rest, food, relaxation, and even bathroom breaks, and if you don’t take the time to let your sim eat, sleep, and visit the potty you’ll have a miserable sim on your hands. If you leave your sim wanting in any particular area for too long, he/she will begin to complain to you and will soon refuse to follow your orders until his/her needs are met. In other sims games satisfying your sim’s needs, or motives, is a tricky proposition and you spend a good deal of game time attending to these needs. Bustin' Out is a lot more forgiving in this aspect of play, and your motives do not need as much attention. As long as you send your sim to bed at night, and shower, eat, and use the bathroom each morning, the other motives will be met pretty easily as you play the game.

In addition to monitoring your sim's motives, you'll also need to improve your sim's skills.  Skills are a rating of your sim's strength, logical reasoning ability, cooking prowess, and mechanical aptitude, to name a few.  Improving your sim's skills requires time spent interacting with the various objects in the game.  You can read a book on cooking, work on your uncle's tractor, or work out on a punching bag to improve some of your skills.  Earning your first few points in each skill is easy enough, but after that it will take more and more time to earn the next higher point.  Unfortunately when building skills all of the object interaction is done by your sim, and there's not much for you to do but watch.  This is not that big deal at first when skill points are earned quickly, but before too long it grows to be a boring exercise as you just sit and watch your sim interact with something for a long while.