There aren't too many games where you half expect Wilson The Volleyball to show up and give you your next objective but then again, there aren't too many games where you're asked to befriend a chimp. That's the beauty of The Sims 2: Castaway. The Sims might be sagging around the edges and drooping in unsightly places with old age but by adding sand, the Sims team has found a way of reinventing an old favourite.
You start off by finding yourself shipwrecked on a desert island and you're then left to fend for yourself. You start by eating clams and building campfires but soon move up to fishing, joining a tribe and sending out SOS signals to potential rescuers. It has all the desert island clichés you'd expect; you'll build a raft to get to new islands, cobble together new clothing with vines and leaves and shimmy up a coconut tree to get food.
Yet, because shipwreck games are rarely ever done, it feels fresh and interesting, even when under the surface the same old Sims core of having to keep your hunger, health and happiness under control are in place. As always, it's about spinning plates - trying to meet your objectives while keeping your Sim content. It's surprisingly addictive and the new surroundings mean that even those who have been here many times before over the years will want to get stuck in again. This isn't so much about filling your virtual life with distractions but building up your virtual life from scratch.
Island In The Sun
Castaway also benefits from the Remote. Rather than getting bogged down in menu after menu, you can use the Nunchuk to move your character around and the Remote to zip through the menus. The result is more time eating coconuts and hugging monkeys, less time wrestling with menus and swearing as you go to the toilet rather than pick up driftwood.
True, it's little more than The Sims on the beach. But The Sims is pretty good and hey, so is the beach. So while we can't ignore the fact that it is yet more Sims and are a little annoyed by the weak graphics on show, the underlying fact is that it's just a damn good game and that's more than enough for us.