The Sims is more than a Tamagotchi take-off, though, giving supreme control over every aspect of their day-to-day life. Tell it to take a shower, fix a meal, wash up, feed the fish, switch on the television or invite friends round for a pool party. And, if you decide that your Sim should have a life as active as a slug in a salt pot and less friends than a hyperactive traffic warden, you can – because The Sims is like that. You get to interact with them: satisfy their needs, train them in new skills – such as practising speaking in the bathroom mirror to build self-confidence – and buy more gadgets for the house. Graphically, The Sims is excellent, chugging smoothly along on a 233MHz iMac – those expecting a repeat of the disaster that was SimCity 3000 can sleep easy. The animation – presented in isometric 3D – is both detailed and charming. Gasp as your Sim stacks dishes in the dishwasher, puts food in the microwave – and, yes, the light does come on – reads the newspaper or holds conversations with neighbours. Even cooler is the neat pixellated effect you get when the Sim strips off for a shower, or to use the toilet. And the graphical home-comforts are more than backed-up by an aural treat that perfectly sets the scene. It’s also intelligent, and more often than not you’ll find yourself working hard to ensure your Sim is fed, watered, bathed and not lonely. The sight of a Sim wetting himself is tough to witness.
The Sims is not without flaws. The save system is odd: it simply saves when you quit, and to restore the neighbourhood you have to reinstall part of the game from the CD. And while it is utterly fascinating, it does get tedious. Much like real life, really.