It’s… Good??? – The Sims 4 Get Famous Review

Previously in the saga of my opinion about the Sims 4, I waxed poetic on how the series has developed me as a storyteller, then complained about how EA was ruining it, then marveled at the sudden turn in public confidence in the franchise’s quality thanks to one very special expansion pack.

And now here we are in the present. What has happened since Seasons? Was my optimistic assessment at the end of the last post correct? Or should I have been more skeptical with EA? It all came down to their follow-up. Seasons was great, sure. But could they continue putting out good content? Could they continue to avoid the curse of niche, overpriced, reskinned money grabs?

I’ll be honest… I wasn’t the most optimistic when EA announced their next new content for the game, another expansion called Get Famous. Sure, the idea of a pack focused on fame and celebrities wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it’s also not something particularly new and exciting. Fame and celebrities have already been a part of this franchise’s past, most recently in the Sims 3’s “Late Night” and “Showtime.” So we were not treading new ground here. And even more unfortunately, “Showtime” was really not great, making the premise for this pack shaky, at least for me.

Add onto the fact that, inherently, celebrities and fame were not necessarily going to be as all-reaching and game-changing as having weather and seasons… and I wasn’t sure about it.

But I will say that the promotional content for this pack was good. I enjoyed what I was seeing from the trailers enough that I figured I’d give this one a whirl. How did it compare? Well… you read the title.

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I Am Destroyed – “Am I a Girl?” Review

My feelings toward internet pop sensation Poppy have always felt a little confused. On one hand, I think her music is endlessly catchy, her image is really fun and cheeky and humorous, and her whole shtick is really well done, but on the other hand… well… it’s pretty clear that Poppy is meant to be a parody of the modern pop star.

So when I’m enjoying her catchy pop songs… am I the target of Poppy’s derision? Am I even supposed to be enjoying Poppy’s music?

…I’m thinking too hard about this, maybe.

But either way, I think many people, myself included, were surprised at Poppy’s newest album, “Am I a Girl?” It dropped on Halloween this year, and featured musical and genre influences that I’ve never heard from Poppy before. The perfectly polished android pop star we were all used to was suddenly putting on a new image.

How well did it work out? Let’s find out.

In a Minute

What I think surprised me the most about this album, putting aside some of the genre influences, is the lyrics.

Before, in songs like “Money” and “Moshi Moshi,” Poppy’s lyrics are mostly concerned with talking about vague concepts that many people would relate to, as the genre she’s parodying tends to do, without any interest in making a statement on those concepts that is personal to the singer. “In a Minute” immediately destroys this usual habit of Poppy’s.

This track is a repetitive, electro-military track that seems to strongly imply Poppy’s dissatisfaction with how her popularity as a singer has made her decisions less her own and more at the whims of the entertainment industry. She repeats the things she has to do in order to appease her fans, because she’s “busy and important” and that is simply what she must do.

Yes, instead of lampshading just pop music, “Am I a Girl?” throws punches at the entertainment industry as a whole, and in my opinion, reflects more of Poppy’s character than ever before. I don’t think this song is the best one to illustrate the latter development, so I’ll expand on that later.

As for quality though, “In a Minute” is catchy, clean, and tight and sticks with you forever afterward. It also has a simplistic but trippy music video that goes along with it, one that pays homage to Poppy’s fondness for Illuminati symbols, to boot.

Fashion After All

Befitting a song with a title about fashion, this track sounds exactly like something that would blare as supermodels in weird haute couture strut down a runway. That pounding electronic beat, and the distant echo of Poppy’s vocals makes a catchy little track, but I appreciate this song for its lyrics as well.

Perhaps a little sarcastically, Poppy decries the nature of fame, of having people watch her every move, declaring her either a perfect paradigm of morality or a devil, viewing every fashion choice she makes as gospel. It’s an interesting blur of character. Normally, it seems like Poppy is adamant about sticking to her shtick of distant, perfect android pop star. But here it seems like the musician behind the image has stepped out from behind the curtain to discuss how all the sudden attention has made her feel.

And yet, that same clean Poppy sound persists. It’s what makes this album so odd, and so intriguing, at least to me.

Iconic

Though I’m fascinated by the way this track is constructed – similarly to the track before it with a very high-fashion runway kind of beat, but with less of a commitment to sticking to that sound throughout – it doesn’t quite work for me. I think it sticks to a message repeated throughout the album, poking fun at the popular terminology used to describe our pop icons. Poppy seems to wax philosophical on what exactly makes someone “iconic.”

The lyrics are fine enough, the song itself just doesn’t work for me. I think the way the vocals switch pitch and emotion throughout is interesting, but doesn’t do enough to differentiate this track from the rest.

Chic Chick

Here’s the weird thing about this album. If Poppy had released a song like “Chic Chick” on any other album except this particular one, I would have assumed that this song is meant to make fun of your stock “rah rah girl power” pop fare. But with all the surrounding content of “Am I a Girl?”, I can’t help but feel like this song is 100% honest. Poppy really means this song, and that’s actually kind of charming.

If you’ll allow me to speculate on the lore of this album for a moment, I wonder if this album is Poppy’s android character exploring the concept of humanity, finally starting to understand some of the subjects of all the pop songs she’s obviously studied and copied. And this album is that character attempting to find how she feels about many of these subjects, hence the question in the title – “Am I a Girl?”

Time is Up ft. Diplo

If we take that meaning of the album, that provides an even deeper look into this track.

Story-wise, I think this song is pretty clear. The lyrics, from Poppy’s robot perspective, discuss the destruction of the Earth by humanity, ruminating on her immortality, and how she will outlive humanity’s self-destruction. Taken in the context of how Poppy is also perhaps trying to align herself with humans in this album, the song takes on a double, sad meaning. It’s as if Poppy is attempting to warn humanity about its demise so that she can continue living among them.

I think the music video adds credence to this theory too, especially during the ending, when humans dance in a carefree way around Poppy, standing grimly in the center, a spotlight shining on her. She’s a part of the celebration, sure, but also she’s apart from it as well, gleaming, celebrated, but not really dancing with the rest of them. Maybe she wants to join in, but she knows getting close would be silly?

The song itself is nice too, though I wouldn’t call it a favorite. I like Diplo’s beats well enough, and I think with his contribution this track has an unmistakable Daft Punk quality to it, though I can’t say it lives up to that particular standard. I like the spacey, distant sound of it as a whole, though, really fits the message, even if my added interpretation wasn’t the real intention of the song, and it was truly meant to be a song about a robot killing off humanity because she’ll outlive it.

Aristocrat ft. Garibay

Though this was not the point of this post, it’s unfortunately difficult to talk about Poppy without also mentioning the abuse allegations leveled at her producer, Titanic Sinclair. I’m inclined to believe these accusations, and though it definitely does change the way I look at Poppy’s music, I still believe it’s possible to appreciate Poppy while also acknowledging the role this cruel man plays in her music.

That all being said… it does make it easier when the album brings a new producer on board for this track. And it may be the “hatred of abusers” talking, but I think Garibay does a much better job with Poppy’s voice than Titanic Sinclair usually does. It kinda makes me long for a possible future where Poppy still gets to make her cool music without her disgusting producer but… alas, I’m not sure that’ll happen.

It’s interesting how human Poppy sounds in this. And the less-artificial sounding vocals alongside the catchy Latin beat makes this song infectious. But the differences aren’t so much that it doesn’t feel like a Poppy song, either. The parts of the song where Poppy puts on an exaggerated aristocratic tone of voice sounds like the Poppy we’ve come to know.

Plus, the lyrics are really clever and full of excellent rhyme schemes and puns. I love the idea of a formerly impoverished girl bragging about how she’s clawed her way to the top. And considering what we’ve seen what this album so far, I can’t help but see it as a bit of an allegory for a little-known YouTube musician clawing her way into the public consciousness.

Though I don’t think I would say I want Poppy to drop her pop android persona, it’s refreshing to hear something a little different.

Hard Feelings

So I told you about the Titanic Sinclair lawsuit in the last song because…. oh boy, this song.

You know, even as Poppy herself defended Titanic Sinclair, and denied the accusations, this song makes me wonder if that was truly how she felt about the situation. A song where she wonders if she was created only to replace someone her creator loved before… how can you not make the connection to how Mars Argo accused the Poppy persona of being a direct copy of her act?

Plus, this song is also produced by Fernando Garibay, like the last one. I really do think the note of humanity his production adds to Poppy’s sound is an incredibly effective part of this album. Putting aside all the real life implications of this song, it also connects to the mental crisis Poppy’s character is going through. She wonders – if she is truly meant to always be an android, how can she feel resentful toward her creator?

I also enjoy the call-outs to Poppy’s previous character quirks, specifically the “porcelain skin” line. It feels a lot like the unearthly perfection Poppy’s character has always possessed in previous songs, especially “Bleach Blonde Baby.” This Poppy is questioning everything about her character before, and it really explains what makes this album so much different than what we’ve heard from her before.

Girls in Bikinis

We’ve gone through quite a bit of existential crisis up to this point, but we’ve finally settled back into what Poppy started out this album doing – criticizing entertainment. Whew.

I have a real soft spot for this song. The emotionless way Poppy lists off images of sexual appeal all too familiar to most of us really calls to mind some sort of mindless entertainment executive listing off all the images they think will attract the most buyers.

But Poppy seems to question this, throwing in a “Dear lord, what’s next?” and even saying she wants to see “Boys in bikinis too.”

It’s a silly, fun little song, and actually one of my favorites. If not for it’s depth, for the infectiousness of it, that bouncy electronic sound and Poppy’s interesting sounding vocals. It’s a solid entry on an album I’m already heavily sold on at this point, so no complaints here.

The Rapture Ball

There’s a great intensity to this track that I really enjoy. It’s a staple of this album at this point to contrast Poppy’s high, light vocals with heavy electronic beats, but this song is particularly fun in just how hard it goes with that concept.

This track actually reminds me quite a bit of a few tracks off of Gorillaz’ “Humanz” (which I reviewed here), which has several tracks that, like this one, puts scenes of luxury and partying against images of the end of the world. Unlike the earlier Daft Punk comparison, though, I think Poppy lives up to the allure of that album, from the seductive sound of her vocals to the sudden build of the chorus.

This sounds like a song that would be incredible to dance to, and of course that must be the point.

Am I a Girl?

Here’s another thing that surprised me about this album. I was not expecting to see Poppy question her gender identity in song form.

Yes, you heard me right. While this song does obviously ask this question as an android wondering if she is human, it also takes it from the direction of an android wondering what the definitions of “girl” and “boy” even are, and whether possessing traits from both ends of the binary make her something in between.

What I think is kind of cool about this song, though, is the solution it comes to. Instead of characterizing her confusion over gender as a problem, she feels that trying to call herself one or the other is the thing that’s over-complicating the situation. She seems to argue that if she were just left to identify somewhere in between, she wouldn’t have this confusion.

It’s refreshing to see, and not a message I was expecting. Plus, I love that big guitar riff toward the end. Get ready, that’s not the last of the loud guitar we’ll see in this album.

Play Destroy ft. Grimes

I’ll be honest, when I first heard about this album coming out, and I went to its Spotify to give it a listen, I had every intention to start at the beginning and listen all the way through. That’s how I try to first listen to any album, as it’s how the artist intended it to be listened to, and all.

But then I peeked down the song list and saw that GRIMES was on this track. GRIMES!!!!!

Hello, Grimes. Are you finally coming back to music after having your fun dating horrible capitalist monsters? Please tell me you are. Please? I miss you. I love you.

But oh my god. This song is my favorite off the album. It destroyed my life. The combination of Poppy and Grimes was something I’ve never thought of, but now that I’ve heard it I’m convinced it’s all I’ve ever wanted in this life.

What’s so incredible about this song is that it toes a very fine line between being a Poppy song and being a Grimes song. I mean, it totally sounds like it could have come straight off of “Artangels,” but it’s got a bunch of Poppy touches that we’ve seen throughout this album. It’s almost like this entire album was built just to get Poppy’s sound to a state where she could take a cut song from “Artangels,” perform it, and we’d all be convinced it’s a Poppy song.

I’m mostly joking, but even if that were true I wouldn’t mind. This song is good enough that it justifies that.

It’s just… ugh, it’s so good. It’s obviously meant to critique how entertainment makes violence seem fun, but it also works played completely straight as these two cutesy characters taking a sadistic glee in destroying everything around them. I think that’s the beauty of this album as a whole. Even though the commentary on the entertainment industry is clear, it still feels legitimate. Like Poppy, for all her knowledge of and disdain for all the little ways entertainment fools and takes advantage of us, she still wants to play along.

She still wants to be human, despite what we humans do.

God, that’s brilliant.

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“Ooh! Heavy!”

But if you thought Poppy threw down the gauntlet in the last song, you ain’t heard nothing yet.

You know, Poppy’s doing metal now, and after everything I’ve just heard, I’m really not even surprised. You’ve done it, Poppy. You’ve made me accept you even when you’re doing metal. If that doesn’t make this album a success, I don’t know what does.

It’s this song that really convinces me that this album as a whole is Poppy’s character questioning everything about herself. The very structure of this song is at war with itself, the soft, 70s pop verses conflicting with the violent lyrics, heavy guitar, and screaming of the chorus. It’s Poppy attempting to reconcile the squeaky clean, beautiful nature of her pop android character with her desires to be flawed and angry and emotional and human.

Ugh, it’s such a fantastic way to end this album. Poppy longs to go back to where she began, but after all we’ve heard, we know she can’t go back. Perhaps that’s the most human thing she expresses throughout this whole album – regret.

“Am I a Girl?” is just a fantastic and surprising entry onto Poppy’s discography, and it fills me with excitement for where she’ll be going next. I’m definitely going to be coming back to many of the tracks here for months and months to come.

We Can Do Better than This: “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” Review

I know I said the same ting last week but… I had a completely different idea for a post this week (in fact, the very same idea I had last week, go figure) but then.. my dorm floor sat down to watch another Netflix original movie.

Unlike last week, though, I have no warm and fuzzy feelings for this movie. Oh god, no. “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” is the wildest trainwreck of a movie I’ve ever seen and yet somehow it also manages to be completely unfun to watch.

There’s… a lot to unpack here. Normally for a review I would do a general overview of the plot with a spoiler-free recommendation on whether or not you should watch it, but… just like… don’t waste your time. Instead, I’m gonna give you a brief (and incomplete, but we’ll get to that later) synopsis with my commentary throughout because I’m fairly certain there’s no other way to capture what makes this movie such a forest fire.

First of all, let’s get the biggest thing out of the way first. The biggest praise I’ve seen thus far for this movie is praise for its diversity. “Sierra Burgess”‘s title character is a plain-looking fat girl and she doesn’t go through a makeover at any point in the movie in order to snag the hot, football guy. Rah rah, hooooray, whatever.

Here’s the problem though…. this is a bad movie. So diversity doesn’t really save it at any point. But, if you connected with this movie because of the diversity, because Sierra isn’t model-thin like so many of her rom-com contemporaries… I get it. But just hear me out for a second.

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Warm n’ Fuzzy – “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” Review

After a long time of really wanting to, I finally sat down on Friday night to watch Netflix’s new movie of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” and tl;dr it was amazing and totally deserves a watch.

I was a little concerned when I heard that this book was being made into a movie, honestly. I’ve read all three of the books in this series and they’re definite favorites, and it’s always a bit scary to watch movies made out of books you love. But thankfully, the movie lives up to the quality of its source material.

Much of the discussion I’ve seen surrounding this movie is about the diversity of it – the story surrounds Lara Jean Covey, a 16-year-old mixed-race girl in a story normally reserved for white characters. The story doesn’t shy away from Lara Jean’s Korean heritage, and instead integrates it purposefully into her character, while also allowing her to play the normal romance story roles. It’s a great example of what more stories should do going forward, and I definitely think it’s valid that so many people are talking about this aspect of the movie in a positive light.

But I also think this movie has a ton of other great things about it, and I wanted to talk about those aspects for a moment. As is the case for my other reviews, I’m gonna give a general overview of the story and a bit more of an explanation of my thoughts on it without giving any spoilers away, then I’ll be taking a spoiler-laden dive into it for those who have seen it or don’t care about spoilers.

Overview (Spoiler Free)

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is about Lara Jean, a junior in high school who lives with her older sister Margot, younger sister Kitty, and father in Virginia. Lara Jean loves to bake and has a penchant for fantasy. Though at home she’s outgoing and sentimental with her family, in school she is a shy, reserved girl who mostly stays out of school politics.

Throughout the course of her life, she has had crushes on five different boys, all of whom she decided to write a letter to in order to sort out her feelings for them. She stores these letters in a hat box in her closet, addressing them but never intending to send them out.

The story begins as Margot is moving off to college in Scotland, leaving Lara Jean “in charge.” Though she’s nervous about this prospect, she does her best to set an example for Kitty and deal with the change with grace. Then, unexpectedly, Lara Jean’s letters disappear and she soon finds, to her horror, that they have been sent out to all the boys on her list. Though one is addressed incorrectly and returns to Lara Jean, all the rest go out, including one to Josh, Margot’s ex-boyfriend who Lara Jean has been crushing on secretly for years, and one to Peter, the somewhat arrogant lacrosse jock who up until recently was dating Lara Jean’s former best friend.

Afraid of making Margot upset, Lara Jean devises a plan with Peter to pretend to date him, to serve the dual purpose of making it clear to Josh that Lara Jean isn’t in love with him and to make Peter’s ex jealous.

It’s a fun and heartfelt movie, well-acted, with great music and a really intriguing storyline. If you’re not someone who enjoys YA romance fare, you probably won’t like this one, but if you do it’s a standout in its genre for the relatable and round main characters and delightful writing.

A Deeper Dive (Spoiler Time)

The biggest mark of a good adaptation is that it retains the feeling of the source material. Every book-to-movie adaptation must be a little changed, but the most important thing is that the soul remains intact, and I think “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” does this perfectly.

What I loved about the books so much was the feeling they gave me. Jenny Han’s style of writing and the world she creates is warm and loving, like the literary equivalent of a cup of hot tea on a rainy day spent inside.

The movie captures this feeling surprisingly well thanks to the wonderful acting of Lana Condor as Lara Jean, who sells the reserved yet loving character so well it’s like she was exactly who Han had in mind as she was writing it. Plus, the soundtrack has an indie flair but still holds onto a nostalgic, gentle sound that matches this feeling.

And that’s good, because this story is primarily a character-driven one, and pays a ton of attention to the way characters relate to one another. Overall, I think the movie does a good job holding onto the strong characters, but there were a few missteps thanks to the fact the story had to be cut down for time.

As I’ve already mentioned, Lara Jean’s character is still well-developed even in the pared-down time. Her little character traits that made her so relatable and real in the stories – her messiness, her love of baking, her particularness for tradition – is still there and well-integrated. Peter’s character is explored well too, I think, never making him compromise on his sometimes obtuse personality in order to mold him into a likable romantic interest. Both characters’ flaws are explored well, and overcoming those flaws is what makes viewers root for them and their romance.

Unfortunately, a few characters, namely Chris, Josh, and Gen, don’t get as explored as they do in the books. This makes sense, because following the plotlines that give all three of these characters a bit more roundness would have probably taken away from the central focus of the story – Lara Jean’s quest for emotional vulnerability. I suspect there might be adaptations of the two sequels of this book, so I’m optimistic that one if not all o these characters will be explored further in those.

Though I really do wish Gen in particular had gotten even a whiff more of depth. Though in the books she is a real mean piece of work, she is later revealed to have deeper motivations to dislike Lara Jean beyond “she kissed my not-yet boyfriend that one time while playing Spin the Bottle.” Though I thought the “It wasn’t tongueless to me!” line was hilarious as an explanation as to why Gen does the horrible things she does, it does cheapen and possibly take away the possibility of further exploration of her character in the possible sequels.

Still, the primary emotional conflict, after all, is Lara Jean’s struggle to open herself up to anyone except her immediate family, and I can’t fault the movie too much for not being interested in exploring her backstory with Gen. That emotional line is well established and followed through, anyway.

But what really makes this movie, and this story, fun is the woven threads of fun plot tropes it uses to great degree. The fake dating trope is the big main one I want to talk about, because it’s not only a fun trope, it’s also really well integrated into the themes of the movie.

After all, the only reason Lara Jean enters the fake relationship with Peter is because she’s attempting to avoid emotional vulnerability with Josh. And from the get-go she’s making strict rules with Peter to avoid being emotionally vulnerable with him, too. But it’s that attempt to appear emotionally vulnerable with Peter to the outside world that provides Lara Jean’s first brushes with love. So, not only is the trope exciting to watch play out, it isn’t forced in the narrative thanks to the thematic connections it makes.

Overall, this is a fun movie and something I’d definitely watch again. And it really made me hope for adaptations of the entire series (Netflix, please).

 

Surprise! – “The Now Now” Review

Remember that time, just over a year ago, when I thought that “Humanz” was gonna be the last Gorillaz album? Remember that? When I continuously defended it to the weirdly many detractors I came in contact with because it was one of my favorite bands in the world coming together with lots of other artists to comment on the state of the world in a bunch of beautiful, genre-bending tracks? And I wrote a whole review on it thinking it was gonna be the last one ever?

Oh… well… uh… Gorillaz is back now. I guess “Humanz” wasn’t their last album, huh? Surprise!

I’m joking around a little, but gosh was I not expecting this album as fast as it came. Well actually, I wasn’t expecting this album at all, but here we are! I wanna do “The Now Now” the same justice I gave “Humanz,” but as I sit here writing this intro, I don’t feel like I have the same sort of emotional investment in this album as I did the last one. I’m not at all saying it’s a bad album – it’s great. But the fact it came so quickly and was accepted so easily into the fanbase makes it seem so much less of a big deal than “Humanz” was.

So, anyway, I’m gonna do my best here because I love Gorillaz, and I feel… complicated about this album. I apologize in advance, because while this review starts out pretty run-of-the-mill, it kinda gets weird toward the end. I wanna reiterate that I don’t think this is a bad album, and yet… it really disappointed me in a way I have trouble voicing throughout the post. I hope you enjoy anyway.

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Redemption – The Sims 4 Seasons Review

Last time I talked about the Sims, it was maybe not in the most positive or optimistic of lights. It seemed like the game was stuck in a rut that I wasn’t sure it would ever be able to struggle its way out of.

And yet… things have changed since that post. Since I wrote about EA’s greed ruining a franchise I loved, huge news dropped regarding the newest expansion… one Sims fans have been asking for for a long time. Seasons.

It’s out now and… boy is it good. It’s good enough that it makes me feel better about this franchise’s future… and that’s really saying something, considering how the popular theory in the Sims fandom not too long ago was that Sims 4 was on its way out.

How did one expansion turn the fandom’s opinion around so totally? Well… it’s a lot of factors, from the quality of the expansion itself, to the context surrounding it, to the way it was advertised and released.

The Expansion Itself

I wanna start with this because I think it’s the most important. No amount of good PR for a below-average expansion could have saved the Sims from the My First Pet Stuff debacle, in my opinion. And though packs came out after MFPS that were good (I have since gotten Jungle Adventures and actually really enjoyed it), these packs still had that problem of nicheness. Sims needed a pack that would appeal to a broad range of simmers, and affect the game enough that it couldn’t be brushed off as a waste of money.

It also, of course, had to be good. And Seasons is really, really good.

Let’s start off with a little info on what I, personally, like to see in a Sims expansion. Ideally, expansions should have the most game-changing content of the three types of DLC for this game. That means they should have a broad assortment of new CAS items, new objects, and new gameplay. I also think the best expansions have broad appeal – that is, no matter what type of simmer you are, you can find something to enjoy in the new content. And finally, I feel as though expansions especially should really change how the game runs and improve upon the game to a degree that playing the game without that expansion would be markedly different.

I was very impressed with both the CAS and object selections from this new pack. We got a nice look at the new CAS items in the livestream, and then and now I was struck by how diverse the new clothing and hairstyles look. It’s clear the Sims team has been working hard on making their textures look more unique and realistic than ever. I like how the clothing items all have many color options and all look like something people would wear in real life.

Also, I have to give props to the new hairstyles in particular. The Sims team has commented that they’ve been working to make the Sims 4 more diverse and inclusive, and this pack’s focus on textured hairs really puts their money where their mouth is. The new hairstyles are gorgeous, and are different than anything I’ve ever seen from this series, and is a nice step forward toward more inclusivity. I hope the team continues to add content like this to the game.

The bulidmode objects are chock full of fun new decorations for all the holidays, which is something I, as a person who loves realism in their game, really appreciate. I can see people who wouldn’t be as excited about these as I am, because it may seem like a hassle to decorate your sim’s house for each new holiday and season, but for people who love to get into the weeds of all that detail, it’s a welcome addition. Plus, most of the decorations are versatile, with swatches for as many holidays and seasons as I can think of.

Discussion of decorations, though, leads me right into the gameplay features of this new pack. And there’s a lot of good stuff here.

On the subject of decor, I have to commend the attic box decoration feature. While I loved Sims 3 Seasons, one of the more annoying aspects of it was the lack of customization available for exteriors of houses, and how what customization there was was a really huge hassle to mess around with. Sims 4 has found a slick way to make exterior decoration much easier and more engaging, with a surprisingly dense selection of different decorations that are applied easily to the outside of sims’ houses. I also love how other houses in the neighborhood also decorate for each holiday… it really adds to the realism and makes the world feel connected, even if it’s not open.

Moving onto those holidays, though, huge props for making the giant improvement to allow players to create their own holidays. This is a feature I immediately wanted to use as soon as I got my hands on it, and it’s just so intuitive, versatile, and fun that I can’t imagine a Seasons pack without it.

The calendar function is useful for more than just these holidays, though. I absolutely adore the option to plan parties in advance – before, my sims rarely threw parties just because it was weird that you had to plan them the day of. Now, it’s easy to just throw a party out a few days before it happens, giving the player a chance to plan and prepare.

Weather is also a huge addition to the game, and it’s as gorgeous as I expected. I love how dramatic the weather can be – from huge blasts of lighting to vicious blizzards. Plus, it adds an element of risk to the game I haven’t seen anywhere except maybe in Jungle Adventure, because the weather actually is quite dangerous for your sims. Sending them out into the cold without the proper gear or letting them just run around outside during a storm puts their lives actually at risk, just like in real life, and there are moodlets to reflect that. I like that this pack adds stakes to decisions, and makes it so a player can’t just run around willy-nilly without any consequence.

Every season feels distinct and different from each other, and the weather is a big factor in that. Even summer, which is more or less the “default” season that the base game was stuck in eternally before this pack came out, feels different, with heat waves and bright colors that make it distinct from the darkness of fall and winter. And I’m not sure if this is true but it seems to me that the team also put hard work into retexturing the sky… I got this beautiful screenshot of Brindleton Bay in fall as soon as I booted up the game with Seasons for the first time, and I don’t remember the moon ever looking so bright and beautiful with this game.

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There’s a lot more to discuss in the gameplay, but I feel like I’d be repeating myself. Seasons seems to have touched every part of this game, to the point where everything feels new and exciting, and the level of realism has really been dialed up. I also love the changes to gardening and the scarecrow feature and scouting and the new objects sims can interact with and… if I praised everything I liked, we’d be here all day.

And I do want to touch a bit on the context surrounding this game, and its popular reception within the fandom, because I think that is another thing that set this expansion apart from the others.

The Context

Seasons was the first expansion pack for the Sims 4 I’ve felt legitimate excitement for. And that’s… huge. If you read my last post about my disappointment with how EA was treating the expansions in TS4, you’ll know that that’s huge for me. And while the expansion itself is great and that helped, I also can’t help but think that how the expansion was revealed to the fandom, and what was different about the marketing, did help.

First of all, it’s good to know that Seasons has been asked for for a long, long time. Seasons was one of the most popular expansions from both Sims 2 and Sims 3, and so people were clamoring for it for Sims 4 as well, basically as soon as the base game came out. But after much of the negativity that came along with My First Pet Stuff, I saw a lot of people joking that instead of a full Seasons pack, we’d be getting split gamepacks for each season or something to that effect.

But then, suddenly, with really only a bit of warning, the trailer dropped. And suddenly the mood in the fandom was like night and day. Suddenly, people were excited about this game again. It was cautious, in some cases, but the game just looked so good in the trailer, and most importantly, the announcement came only a month before the release date.

In a lot of ways, I think this was a huge positive for the reception of Seasons. Giving the fandom less time to speculate and tear the information we had to shreds before the actual expansion dropped and keeping that time dense with livestreams and gurus answering questions on Twitter. This kept excitement high and harsh critique to a low.

I think that overall improved the fans’ overall perception of this game pack. It was a sudden surprise, which is exciting, and the short month between the surprise and the actual drop of the pack was filled with even more exciting reveals. What disappointments there were (major ones I can think of only being the lack of snow depth and the lack of a new world), were overall not that big of a deal to most of the people I saw discussing the pack, and more often than not the tone was excitement.

And that coming from a group of fans that not too long ago was griping over a dying game series spitting out bad packs no one really wanted is a huge step forward. And this expansion, with everything its brought along with it, has really reinvigorated my love for this series, and made me hopeful for where it’s going to go in the next few years.

I’m so happy to be able to say that.

It Takes Effort – “Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino” Review

I originally had a different idea for this week’s post, but after I realized that Arctic Monkeys’ new album “Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino” was going to be released this week, I dropped everything to write a review of it.

This is Arctic Monkeys’ first album since their 2013 hit “AM.” I was introduced to the band by that album, like many people were, charmed by their swagger-filled alt rock sound behind the crooning, smooth vocals of lead singer Alex Turner. “AM,” I think, is a fantastic primer to the band’s work, accessible, catchy, and instantly understandable. I love “AM.”

This album is not “AM,” though.

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