When EA announced The Sims Social at E3, the reaction was one of bewilderment -- largely because the short snippet of gameplay they showed really didn't explain very much about how the game would work.
Now the game is up and running on Facebook, though it's a little temperamental as to whether or not it'll let you in right now -- sometimes it confronts you with a "BETA: COMING SOON" banner, and others it'll let you play without incident. Try it for yourself here.
Gameplay is actually more similar to traditional The Sims games than was originally implied. Players create a Sim, which doesn't have to share their name or even gender, and is then tasked with both taking care of their Needs and fulfilling objectives. Like most social games, the game holds the player's hand very firmly throughout its opening hours with a series of slightly patronizing "quests" to introduce you to the main concepts, but the player is free to ignore these completely if they so desire and pursue whatever feature they like for their Sim -- is it to romance as many players from their Facebook friends list as possible? To be the most loathsome, objectionable bastard the virtual neighborhood has ever seen? To get really good at writing? Or simply to have a massive house?
Mechanically, the game is pretty similar to most social games, with monetary, XP and abstract item rewards ("You gained 5 Fury!") flowing thick and fast for even the most mundane actions. Given the fact that The Sims series is based almost entirely around mundane actions, though, these mechanics don't feel nearly as incongruous as they do in games that attempt to forge an uncomfortable alliance between, say, war and socialization. There's the usual "get your friends to help you" type objectives for certain aspects of the game, but the game does have the added twist of allowing you to go and visit your friends' Sims and try to kiss them or slap them about a bit if you're in a bad mood. Relationship values are persistent, so if your friend visits your Sim while you're not playing, any changes to how much your two Sims like each other (or not) will show up when you next log in.
While the game's hardly revolutionary -- particularly in the crowded, derivative Facebook games marketplace -- the social concept fits well with the Sims franchise, so those who enjoy commanding little people to go to the toilet and cut the grass will probably find something to like, even if it's just the unlockable skill that gives you chronic flatulence.
This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as The Sims Social Up and Running, Mostly