I was worried about Sims 2: Freetime being too much of a time-sink. I thought that it’d be too much busywork for the player to have each sim engage in their hobbies for too little reward. What I found was that the hobbies that the sims can indulge in are not only fun for the sim, but it’s fun – and rewarding – for the player, as well. This may well challenge Open for Business for my favorite Sims 2 expansion pack thus far.

Your sims can engage in cuisine, fitness, music/dance, sports, nature, science, films/literature, gaming, tinkering, or arts/crafts as hobbies, and each path has rewards littered on it that can make your sim happier and more successful. For example, my current sim, Dusty Buster, is a cuisine buff. He loves food, be it cooking, eating, or talking about food. Thanks to being almost at the top of the cuisine hobby track, he can blog about food, search the web about it, read about it in the paper, get a weekly magazine, instruct others in the art, and even visit the hobby’s secret lot. He also likes to enter cooking contests. Similar events are available for all of the other hobbies.

Now, you might be asking how a sim could be a film or literature nut when the options are so threadbare. No worries, because the game has fleshed the TVs and bookcases out greatly. Now you can watch any of a number of different movies or read many different books, all with different themes. Your sims can now write books as well, and you get to pick the cover, theme, and story progression. Tinkerers can tinker on nearly everything, from the bathroom shower to a new fixer-upper car you can buy. Gamers get a slew of new games to play and there are many new sports-related things to do as well. One of the most fun is the arts and crafts path, wherein you can use the new sewing machine to make things for around the house or selling.

The new decorations are there mostly to extenuate your sims likes, such as paint on the floor or the like. There’s not allot new in the floor/wallpaper area, but you can paint the floor of your house – or anywhere else, for that matter – with a basketball court style, using the first large-print floor that needs to be laid out over a large area to see the whole print. You don’t change tiles, the tile just intelligently change with the location based on the other tiles. It’s a brilliant concept, and needs to be used more.

Perhaps the biggest improvement in this pack is in the area of the lifetime aspiration meter. Sure, your sims had them before, but not like this. Now, as it goes up, you get perks, a la Open for Business, that allow you to, for example, lower the demand of your needs (like comfort and energy), get more vacation days for your sim, or even get a secondary aspiration. Dusty is a Fortune sim with a secondary aspiration for Knowledge, which gets him even more potential bonuses. It’s a great addition, and can make the game more enjoyable by helping ease your sims burdens through these bonuses.

Of course, the graphics – aside from that wicked-cool basketball court tile – and sound haven’t changed, but that’s to be expected.

This is perhaps the most complete Sims expansion pack ever. It really does change the game. I don’t think that there’s allot that could have been done better, actually. I really think this is a highpoint in the Sims franchise, and sadly, that means that whatever comes next will likely be a letdown. That’s ok, though, because I’ll still be singing this pack’s praises even through the next expansion. Alphasim out.