The Sims was one of the first titles to draw attention to the “casual game” label.  There are over 100,000,000 copies of Sims games and expansions on computers, consoles, and handhelds around the world but it could be argued that in many of those releases there hasn’t been an awful lot of “game” present.  The Sims and The Sims 2 had more in common with Tamagotchi than Tetris and it was the virtual pet elements that encouraged the emergence of a new type of game buyer (and their parents) and ensured that the folks at EA would be wiping their arses with $100 bills for all eternity.

With the release of The Sims 3 in June, the franchise started to feel a little more gamey.  The “opportunities” system set precise goals for the player to beat, sometimes with the challenge of a time limit, and the combination of the open world and new options for your sim’s approach to work gave the player a more active role in career advancement.

On the surface the World Adventures add-on looks like a new iteration of the On Holiday and Bon Voyage expansions for the two previous games but it actually brings a lot more conventional gameplay to the franchise, in the way that The Sims 3 began to.

At least that’s what I can deduce from the blurb on the back of the box.  Try as I might there are significant parts of World Adventures that I just can’t review because this is the shoddiest piece of software I’ve dealt with in 2009.  I’ve actually lost count of the number of times the game has crashed on me since installing the pack.  It didn’t take me long to realise that I’d have to save at least once every sim day in order to make any progress whatsoever but three times – three times – crashes during the save process corrupted the data and destroyed my entire neighbourhood, meaning I had to start all over again from scratch.  I’d created brand new families so my losses were only met with frustration but there’s a large community of Sims players who will have been playing with just one family for generation after generation after generation since June who must have been utterly distraught to have lost so many months of progress.

It’s three weeks since the release of World Adventures and I’ve been dragging my feet ever since over this review.  Surely a company of EA’s stature would do everything in its power to get a patch out quickly to pacify a very angry community of very loyal buyers and try to give reviewers something they could write positively about.  Apparently not.  I’ve been checking the official forums every day for news and all EA’s representatives have done is blame everyone but themselves.  If you’ll allow me a brief bit of nerd rage; I think it’s disgusting that EA allowed people to pay for this shameful mess of bugs long before it was ready to ship and I find it worse that even now when their most vehement supporters have been asking for help for three weeks there has been no apology or clear, public statement about progress on a patch.  It may seem churlish for a reviewer to be getting out of their pram about a game they didn’t have to pay for but having worked for a game publisher in the past this kind of thing really gets my goat and companies like EA shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

Anyway, after a deep breath let’s take a look at the parts of the game that I have been able to review.  Par for the course for a Sims expansion are the additions to the wardrobe and virtual IKEA catalogue; you’ll find a number of new items in Create-a-sim and in Buy Mode for your home to compliment the items EA have been putting up for sale in the online store since June.  They’ve also tinkered with some of the build tools, notably making basements easier to build.  In a welcome act of benevolence that particular update, along with a number of similar tweaks, was also made available to vanilla Sims 3 owners in a patch.

The headline feature of World Adventures is the addition of three holiday destinations: Shang Simla (China), Al Simhara (Egypt), and Champs Les Sims (France).  Each has a decently sized new area to visit which includes hotels, shops, homes for the natives, and a handful of landmarks and facilities unique to the country.  Efforts have been made to instil a flavour of the country in every destination with new, ethnically relevant music in each and additional little touches like getting around by bike in China and by moped in France.

In previous iterations of the “Sims on their holibobs” formula the time you could spend abroad was entirely dependent on how much money you had.  World Adventures retains that obstacle but also adds the complication of visa points.  You can have all the money in the world but regardless of that you will be limited to a maximum of three days on holiday until you’ve already been away at least once and jumped through the hoops of an “adventure” or two to earn more visa points.  This is the part I’d love to tell you about because it’s where all of the gameplay that I promised takes place but by design they are late-game activities and my saves had a habit of exploding before I had the chance to accrue enough visa points and cash to be able to achieve anything worthwhile.

Once EA have decided to finish their game I’ll get stuck into all of the tomb raiding and puzzle solving that I’ve been promised and publish an updated review with plenty of screenshots of characters that look very much like Indiana Jones but differ just enough to avoid copyright infringement.  As it stands the score attached to this review is for the three weeks of dire, stop-start gaming so far and reflects the discomfort of all of the customers who have become unwitting beta testers at the cost of 30 quid.  Not good enough, EA.