Games of July/August 2020

The Sims: Bustin' Out (GBA)

I didn't play many new games in July and August, but I did boot up The Sims: Bustin' Out for the first time in a while, a Game Boy Advance game released in 2003 but played (by me) in 2005. I never wrote about it in the "old" games list because the summer of 2005 was really not what I expected, and looking back there were some definite shortfalls, sure, I liked the Galveston trip I took that year and my time watching Homestar Runner cartoons and playing computer games, but most of the summer was actually pretty terrible.

I never played The Sims at the time I played Bustin' Out. Sure, I had HEARD of it, and my brother did briefly secure a pirated copy of the Mac version and found it to be pretty boring. (This was the experience I had with the game when I finally played it, even if there was some abstract fun to be gotten out of it). But in the end, it was the stories that were fun, not the game itself.

The Sims: Bustin' Out was a unique genre in that rather than trying to tell your Sim what to do and run their lives, you are the Sim, you directly control your player as you talk to people and choose the right lines to make them like you (or not), purchase appliances and items for your house, try to manage your "needs" (food, toilet, sleep, etc.), and earn money through minigames.

While the concept is conceptually interesting and surprisingly relaxing, trying to find the right person at the right place at the right time is maddening (and then when you do find them, being able to get a word in because your Sim has a weak bladder). One of the lines in Bustin' Out suggests that there was supposed to be a snowy area further north on the map (something about surfing and skiing in the same day, but unfortunately The Cutting Room Floor only covers the console version as of this writing.

The Sims: Bustin' Out was followed up with The Urbz: Sims in the City a year later, and I'll get to that another time. The Urbz is a superior game to Bustin' Out as it improves quality of life, graphics (The Urbz is more stylized than Bustin' Out, especially when it comes to Bustin' Out's character portraits).

There's a few advantages of Bustin' Out, but they aren't many. SimValley is a nicer place than Miniopolis, the setting of The Urbz. It's got a park with a nice vista, there's a beach, there's places to swim (which notably Urbz lacks). The library in Bustin' Out also allows you to raise stats easily, by just "studying" skills in a library (though the higher you need, the longer it takes to raise it...better put the device down and find something else to do for several minutes).

There seems to be less bugs in Bustin' Out than the Urbz, except a notable one if you get knocked out while trying to repair the rocket ship in the barn, it never records it as getting repaired and you won't be able to complete the game. The rather rushed conclusion introduces the fact that your Sim is in fact from another planet (hinted at joke lines earlier, like "If you're my uncle, then I must be some sort of space alien"), and despite looking like everyone else, having no otherworldly powers, and culturally fitting right in, you are obliged to blast off in the rocket ship before crashing back to earth. The game then ends.

In the end, it only serves as a prototype for the GBA/DS version of The Urbz: Sims in the City, which is a far better game.

Hotline Miami (PC)

May as well cover Hotline Miami since Bustin' Out was the only "new" game during this timeframe. Not a lot that I can say here except that besides beating the main campaign (beat most of it before finding out there was a way to lock onto enemies...) in fall 2017, it was a great "blow off some steam with some casual, mouse-clicking madness" game.