What is the concept? After surviving those unruly teenaged years, the stresses of college, and the pressures of holiday planning, overburdened Sims could probably use a rejuvenating vacation. Island Paradise, the tenth expansion for The Sims 3 extends a tempting tropical getaway- filled with beach-based and aquatic activities. Much like the autonomy of an actual retreat, a visit to the verdant archipelagos of Isla Paradiso can be either tranquil or troublingly tense, depending on the scope of a player’s aspirations.
Once an individual or household has decided on taking an extended stay through The Sims 3’s main menu, players are transported to an opulent realm of turquoise water and lush flora. Immediately, gamers will discover that boats are the essential form of transportation across Isla Paradiso. From free taxis which ferry Sims between isles, speedboats, jet skis, paddleboats, and rowboats, watercraft are the predominant form of passage; even delivery people use zippy little sea vessels. Although Sim safety would seem to be a concern with all the marine movement, Island Paradise lacks a dedicated Coast Guard. However, players with an interest in saving lives can follow the lifeguard ambition, earning a stipend as well as bonuses for their valiant duty. With the ability to trigger slow motion runs and practice mouth-to-mouth CPR drills, Baywatch buffs can finally channel their inner Hasselhoff.
What are the expansion’s strengths? Island Paradise’s resort building challenges are one of the most sophisticated and enjoyable objective in the Sims’ thirteen year legacy. Starting with either preset blueprint pieces or an empty lot of land, players begin crafting their own dream destination. Once constructed, the day-to-day management of the retreat becomes a challenging objective, with players responsible for hiring and firing staff, picking out uniforms- even determining the amount of chlorine that should be used in pools. Listening to guest feedback, continuously upgrading, and striving for superior food and sanitation standard will keep players quite busy. Fortunately, the rewards of a daily, five-figure Simolean profit help to offset the exertion.
Similarly, houseboat building is remarkably designed. While players can create simple sailing flattops, more ambitious designers will construct multilevel floating palaces, using new features such as ladders and all-in-one bathrooms to maximize space. While the process of crafting one of these aquatic abodes isn’t radically different than building a ground-based home, being able to use these vessels as a base of operations for exploring unlocked, uncharted territories feels fresh. For Sims unable to deal with seasickness, a water-based habitat isn’t out of the question- Island Paradise permits players to build homes on stilts. For better or worse, storms capable of smashing the foundations haven’t been coded into the expansion.
What are the expansion’s weaknesses? With the addition of mermaids, we hoped to get a double dose of Tom Hanks-inspired antics, complementing the survivalist scenarios of Castaway with a bit of Splash. Unfortunately, the integration of the scaled species isn’t as extensive as one might expect. Although Sims can transform into the sea creatures by ingesting a certain type of sea kelp, they aren’t particularly resilient characters. A need to hydrate is required to hold off the menace of flakiness- which if left unchecked results in death. Likewise, a lack of salinated swimming can transform mermaids back to human state.
Naturally, the one essential attribute of these sea-beings is their swimming ability. Mermaids can swim quite quickly and learn to dive at an early age. Comparatively, becoming adept at scuba diving is a lengthy, unguided process for hominids. Disappointingly, exploring Island Paradise’s underwater environments isn’t as exhilarating as they should be. Exploring the diminutively-sized dive spots offers just a few basic actions- from collecting shells, fish, and treasure to venturing into underwater cavern rabbit holes. Bizarrely, Sims would occasionally teleport out of caves, arriving at a nearby beach.
Is it worth the money? Resort management and houseboat building are Island Paradise’s best diversions, each capable of engaging players for a few hours. But beyond those two components, the rest of this expansion pack isn’t remarkable, making it a bit difficult to justify the $39.99 price. Like many real-world getaway packages, Island Paradise offers a pleasing reprieve from the daily routine. Book an extended stay if you find a deal or wangle a way to write it off on your taxes.