The Sims retro revisited : Bustin’ Out

In a community where many Simmers are familiar with the latest instalment of The Sims franchise, we often forget bout the previous games which made the current ones possible.

Hopefully, you’ll have read part one in September’s Issue of SimmedUp! Magazine, but if you didn’t, here is a brief summary: The Sims Bustin’ Out is a unique stand-alone game with rich, storyline-based gameplay that would put more recent games to shame.

Combined with decent graphics for its time and a banging soundtrack to fit, Bustin Out is a humorous addition to the franchise.

Picture this; it’s a sunny Friday afternoon in 2005.  Accompanied with a snack and plastic beaker of squash, I raced upstairs. Fridays were the best days for me because I was allowed to play on my PlayStation 2 for three days! I had a bloody curfew on my PlayStation on school days because I was a gobby little madam with a foul attitude, living up to my stereotypical flaming hair.

This curfew didn’t always work, of course, as I’d either hide my good controller in my sock drawer and play late at night – until I was caught… Why was I caught? That obnoxiously loud and ominous song that played whenever a burglar turned up on the lot finally did me in. It was a truly traumatic experience for any child.

Previously, I discussed some of the iconic characters of the game, including the game’s villain, Malcolm Landgraab, notorious for swiping objects like some fancy repo man.

He was an absolute prat. In fact, Malcolm’s Mansion was the first lot I played as my cousin had already completed a few of the careers.

My first Sims interaction was firing the maid. I hoped, based on my experiences with Crash Bandicoot and Tomb Raider, that the maid would either get shot or burst into flames. (I didn’t know what “fire” meant in this context.) Disappointingly, Brigit remained alive and quaking in her high-heels because she inadvertently got the sack. Whoops.

Another iconic location in the game is Goth Manor, a well-known Sims lot that varies with each new Sims iteration.

Goth Manor “will just scare you, Melissa,” said my cousin. Yeah right. I was just fascinated by the lot’s synthesiser. I wanted to play one so desperately that I did many years later in a museum in Cornwall, UK. (I sounded terrible.)

Goth Manor is a unique area in the game with frequent thunderstorms and wandering ghosts which add another special layer to the atmosphere that you just can’t find in other base games upon release.

I also discovered in this game that you can kill off some premade (but I wouldn’t advise it as there are goals which need to be completed alongside certain characters).

So I killed off Bella Goth in a fire in the dining hall; accidentally, of course. As this was probably the first-ever sim I killed off, I was so frightened by Bella’s death that I turned off my Playstation and trembled beneath my duvet. If you’ve had the misfortune of hearing those deathly shrieks, I am so sorry.

Also, that medieval looking incubator situated in a greenhouse? Laboratory? Torture Chamber? It was, I think, an early model of a cowplant machine. Similarly, this ancestral plant ate sims too, so in a true Simmer fashion, I would put one by the front door to warn (or eat) cold callers (and the maid, of course).

The Sims Bustin’ Out featured two more gaming modes: Online Weekend and Freeplay. Online Weekend saw players connect and interact with each other within a number of themed areas. Using a broadband connection and PS2 network adapter, the servers could include up to 30 players per lobby.

Players could chat using a keyboard or a headset connected via USB. It was an impressive little extra with little to no direction. Online Weekend’s purpose was solely to allow social interactions between players. Simmers could trade items and show off the plethora of expensive objects in their decorated homes.

But alas, I was too young (and extremely cautious when it came to chatrooms) to even contemplate asking my dad to connect our Playstation 2 to the Internet, so I missed out. The servers were shut down in 2008. That same day, the servers for The Sims Online shut down too. So even when I was old enough to play it, I couldn’t. Sad times.

However, Free Play was a sandbox game where you could create a household of four sims maximum, move them into a premade or empty lot, and start a life. Free Play provided two premade households: Tutti and Frutti. The producer was either a big fan of Little Richard, or fine Italian Desserts.

The Fruttis lived at 1 Free Street, a parallel lot to The Newbies lot in The Sims 1 (PC), and the Tuttis lived at 2 Free Street. I’d always had a superstition that it was haunted, so I always bulldozed it and started fresh. It cropped up in my nightmares too.

On one rare occasion, I actually played the Tutti household on their original lot with my younger brother, who will be horrified to know he’s being included in an article about The Sims

According to my mother, like every pyromaniac Simmer and after burning Bella Goth, I developed an obsession with setting the lot on fire and letting my sims burn. Oh the irony. To paraphrase she said, “Everytime I would walk in, your Sims would just be on fire and screaming.”  You can probably tell where this is going.

Some kids like to scare themselves silly. My brother and I thought it would be a good idea to throw multiple parties, cover the outer edge of the kitchen with crates, and have a low-skilled sim cook dinner.

Rinse and repeat until someone caught fire. During this madness, we randomly instructed a Sim from our household to, “take out the trash” from the trash compactor whilst his friend was meeting his demise.

We treated this torturous routine like a game and pushed the limits to see if all our Sims caught fire until we had no one left.

However, after a while, inviting sims over for a party was impossible – no one would turn up. The game wouldn’t allow it; like it knew what we were doing to the Sims, and our rapidly growing graveyard suddenly stopped mid-development.

Nowadays, I can still mention this ordeal, and both my brother and I would reminisce in just how truly messed up this really was.

I do think the 7+ rating is a bit risky because some of the themes were a bit risque. I didn’t know what “scoring” at a party meant. I didn’t understand why sims enjoyed Strip Poker so much.

In fact, I didn’t understand why sims would strip when “Pixel Booty”, played on the synthesiser at Pixel Acres either. I was clearly too young and uncultured to appreciate these beautiful moments.

But as a fully functioning young adult, I can safely say that I completely understand it all now. Pixel Acres was a nudist colony that covered nude Sims with pixels. “Chase Skurtz” was a licentious euphemism, and “Ying Yangst” sounds like the complete opposite of the balanced, “yin and yang.” Unless, of course, she is a deceptive character, presenting these balancing qualities on the surface but subliminal, “angst” underneath.

After researching the characters further, I found safer, Easter Eggs in the game. For example, located in the home-cinema of Tinsel Bluffs is the infamous, ““Love In Baghdad” Movie Poster” which features both Fanny Adore and Humphrey Hawks, who happen to reside at Tinsel Bluffs.

Fanny Adore portrays weapons manufacturer, Lisa Lender, “making questionable business deals” whilst Humphrey Hawks is Herbert Hawker, “plotting to overthrow the Pan-Arabist dictator”. This poster was found in Buy Mode and unlike most items within the game, this poster appreciates in value over time, allowing the player to gain a few extra simoleons should they wish to sell it later on.

I’m biased, but there’s no doubt that Bustin’ Out deserves endless praise. However, I do need to include its downfalls, or this review wouldn’t be fair.

First, this game was only made for console and Gameboy, along with its successor, The Urbz: Sims In The City. I’d imagine if a PC version were produced, then Bustin’ Out could have enjoyed downloadable content such as gameplay enhancing add-ons or custom in-game content opportunities like its PC counterpart.PC availability would have rendered online sharing more user-friendly and accessible.

A PC version of Bustin’ Out may have also saved some of us from that shambolic mafia-styled mess that was The Sims Online

There are a lot of careers and goals in Bustin’ Out, so completing this game can be time-consuming. But unlike the most recent games that feature similar storyline-based gameplay, there is no right order to play Bustin’ Out. I know it’s wishful thinking, but EA should really consider remastering the game for PC and console. Developers could also produce a sequel!

Overall, The Sims Bustin’ Out will forever hold a special place in my Sims heart. It saw me through pre-GCSE, pre-A Level results, anxiety, grief, illness and many long rainy days during the summer holidays.

This article first appeared in the October edition of SimmedUp! Magazine.


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