They’ve pillaged pyramids, graduated from college, and even faced off against brain-hungry zombies. And now, your tired old Sims can finally take it easy on their own private island. As expected, Island Paradise comes with a catalog of new toys to play with, but what sets it apart from all nine previous expansions is its focus on ocean-based activities that let you expand on your creativity and even manage your own business. They may not all be perfect, but the features it brings to the table are definitely some of the best the series has seen.
Ocean life is the theme of this expansion and your Sims can now live in a huge new world called Isla Paradiso. This neighborhood not only comes with new homes, families, and community lots to visit, but because it is made up of lots of different islands, it also serves to highlight the game’s new aquatic features. Boats, for example, not only serve as an alternative commuting tool for your Sims, but they also open up recreational activities like sailing and speed-boating, which are great diversions to your daily grind. As you play and explore your surroundings, you’ll even be able to discover new islands and unlock new lots to inhabit or visit. Though you can use all of the expansion’s new features on any of the previously released neighborhoods, Isla Paradiso lets you have so much fun that you may never want to move anywhere else.
Additionally, your Sims can now snorkel, explore underwater diving spots for treasure, or even bump into a Merperson or two. Though it sounds nice, you can only dive in certain locations, and underwater areas aren’t that expansive. Plus, there’s not much to do besides collect shells or admire the seaweed until your oxygen runs out. It may offer the series something it hasn’t seen before, but these underwater sections ultimately leave you wanting more. Merpeople, as well, are an appropriate addition, but there’s nothing special about them besides their scaly legs and ability to sprout fins when in water. Still, if you’ve always wanted to WooHoo with a mermaid under the sea, now you can.
Buy and Build Modes have also received the nautical treatment so you can now build homes over water and even design your own houseboats. They not only give the game a fresh feel and allow you to distance yourself from the more traditional lots, but you can even take your house out for a spin and essentially live your life in the middle of the ocean if you want. Island Paradise also comes with a few new blueprints that give you more options to quickly design a house without fussing too much over the details. Of course if you want to create your home from scratch, the addition of stilt foundations, new furniture, and landscape objects give you even more ways to be creative.
Resort management is another big component to Island Paradise and lets your Sims become property owners and make a few extra Simoleons on the side. Once you buy or build your resort, you can customize what it looks like, what services it offers, and even how much your staff makes an hour. There are enough notable features to make managing resorts feel like playing a business sim--if not a taste of what its cousin SimCity offers. However, you’ll never be overwhelmed with things to do as a resort can survive on its own, with some basic guidance from you, of course. For instance, you’ll receive feedback from your guests on ways to improve its rating. Adding amenities like spas, suites, and waterslides, or simply increasing the quality of your food can improve your resort’s image and bring in more guests and money to your pocket. It’s simple and uncomplicated, but resort management adds another welcome layer of depth to the Sims 3 experience.
Unlike previous expansions, Island Paradise also offers more ways to fully interact with your Sims without feeling like you’ve lost them to a rabbit hole. Most shops, art galleries, and even your own resorts give you full access to their indoors so you’ll always feel like you’re in control. And that’s good because Isla Paradiso features plenty of gorgeous vistas and places that really capture the essence of an island getaway. With so many homes and people active all at once, the game does run into a few technical hiccups from time to time, especially out at sea. All that ebbing water surrounding your house can slow things down, but it never becomes too much of an intrusion.
With such impressive new features in store, it’s easy to lose a few hours just fiddling with your houseboat or adding things to your resort. Though its underwater sections are lacking, the rest of Island Paradise is a great display of what The Sims 3 can still offer fans of the game four years after it first launched. You may not have direct access to your own private island in real life, but your Sims now can--and isn’t living through them what the game is all about?