The Sims: Bustin' Out! - Brave New World, Same Little Town


Every gaming platform has their watershed moment, their ‘killer app’, so to speak. Or at least, you’d hope so. Anyway, I’d say the PC is unique in that it has many, many kinds of these killer apps; in the realm of MMOs, you have World of Warcraft, MOBAs have Dota 2 and League of Legends, and there are endless strategy games that only exist in this medium. But I’d argue no PC game has had a great impact on gaming as a whole - and introducing new players in that sphere - then the Sims, the 2000 hit that to this day sold more than eleven million copies, and created one of the most iconic franchises of all time. Developers Maxis were keen to expand their slice of the pie, creating experiences close - but not quite - to the ‘classic Sims experience’ on consoles, and also dipping their toes into the handheld gaming space, giving us such titles as The Sims’ Bustin’ Out, games that are both akin to their parent title, but in other way, so much more different.

If I were to label Bustin’ Out with a genre, I’d call it something akin to a ‘social adventure’ game. The most basic tenets of The Sims’ are here; you have a place to call home, with the ability to buy furniture and build up a little place of your own. But whilst that is the focus of the parent series, Bustin’ Out has far different priorities in mind. Rather than just living in a sandbox, Bustin’ Out puts the player in a far more active role, pushing you to really explore the open environment of SimValley, providing a structure far removed from its original parent title - this is far more about ‘you’ than your house, or your job. Its focus on quests, the need to befriend other Sims and level up your stats gives this game far more of a ‘time management’ feel then other Sims games, which I’d argue felt far more relaxed then this title - not that this game’s more active pace is a bad thing!

Taking place in SimValley, the countryside adjacent to SimCity, your Sim is visiting your uncle for your summer vacation, to look at striking out on their own in a brand new town. Your Sim - who is customizable in the most basic sense of the world, with uniformly, hilariously ugly looks to choose from - starts small, doing odd jobs for your uncle, living in a farm, but Partaking in certain tasks, or studying up in the library, can allow you to level up your skills and stats, giving you access to new quests, new minigames, or even new interactions, creating a satisfying, if simple, gameplay loop to the adventure that feels fantastic to feed into. Slowly, you’ll rise through the ranks of the social hierarchy, beginning your life in a humble barn, and eventually living out your dreams in a goddamn mansion.

The social side of this ‘social adventure’ has a far larger focus than in other Sims’ games. Interacting with another Sim will pull you into a dating sim-esque menu where you can say a variety of phrases to either endear you to the Sim or simply piss them off. At the same time, time passes and your Sims’ needs will drop, ultimately forcing you out of the conversation if anything drops too low - though some of the dialogue, unique for each need, is quite funny. For some characters, find the correct dialogue isn’t too much of a problem - it’s pretty obvious calling your farmer uncle a ‘Country Bumpkin’ isn’t going to get you into his good graces, but as you find more and more characters, I found it harder to tell exactly which phrases would not tick them off. To make matters worse, sometimes there are no good options, forcing you to have to leave the conversation and pop back in to cycle the answers. This can be a boon later in the game, since later quests will involve you pissing the hell out of certain characters, but considering how early on the game emphasizes making friends and, y’know, not being a raging asshole, it’s kind of a weird decision.

The quest-based nature of the game was actually something I really appreciated about Bustin’ Out; I honestly struggle a bit with ‘self-directed’ games like The Sims, since I really enjoy having goals and whatnot to work towards, which is why I loved the console Sims’ games back in the day. Bustin’ Out takes this in a more narrative direction, tasking the player of slowly raising their social status and helping breathe new life into the town. You’ll be tracking down library books and squashing bookworms to re-open the library; bribing police and drumming up interest to set up a dance club (Which is name Club Rubb… is that a play on chub rub?), or even looking to run for Mayor itself.This, coupled with working towards slowly working your way from literally living in your Uncle’s barn, to moving into bigger and grander homesteads, gives the game a genuine sense of progression and excitement about said progression to work towards, giving new meaning behind earning the money needed to fund these quests and enterprises. Several quests are even focussed on just generally being beloved by the town, really cementing the character as part of the game’s landscape, and not just a no-name, all-but-narratively-insivisable avatar for the player of the game. Kinda like how I feel in real life sometimes. Hahahahha. Hah. Ugh.

A big caveat, though, is that a lot of the quests will task you with finding a particular character to talk or deliver something to them, and it can simply be a huge pain in the ass to find them. The game’s map will give you a basic layout of the town, where you are, and where your trusted scooter is, but that’s the limit of it. You can call characters you’ve met before, and they’ll give you a rough idea of where they’ll be, but there’s every chance they have absconded long before you actually arrive, or to make matters worse, they won’t answer at all, leaving you to wander the streets until you find who or what you’re looking for. And whilst driving the streets of the city on your scooter can be relaxing, navigating parts of the city can be a pain at the best of times, and the game quickly grows frustrating when you’re just hoping to find whatever you’re looking for by sheer random chance.

Just like the parent games, there are jobs you can partake in to earn money for quests, furniture, food, and whatever else you’ll need it for, but rather then your character going to work and essentially skipping until you’re done, these jobs take place in what is arguably the GBA’s most overused form - minigames. Depending on the job, you’ll be doing wildy different tasks; in one, you’ll be fishing in a rather simplistic minigame; in others, you’ll be sliding various smoothies down a bar table, using physics to riocett them into the hands of the correct hardcore biker… who just happens to love smoothies. None of the minigames are really that bad, though a couple drag on for a bit longer then they need to. All ‘points’ you earn in the minigames directly correlate to money earned, and if you’ve raised certain skills high enough, and earn enough money in a minigame session, you’ll get a promotion, making the minigames sometimes more challenging, but also earning you more money if you perform well. Outside of the quests, ‘leveling up’ in the minigames, and obtaining the skill points to level up said minigames, are the main gameplay loop of the game, for better or worse. I dunno, I like the minigames well enough, but leveling up your skills just takes so goddamn long. For a game that puts such an emphasis on time management, making the skills take so long after the first couple of points, sometimes causing your ‘needs’ to drop at a far faster rate, it just felt really frustrating overall. Maybe there were more efficient ways to do it, but I got most of my skill points from the gym or the library, maybe I just got it wrong. It’s not a huge caveat, but yeah, just my two cents on that.

I shouldn’t be too harsh on the game - it’s very clear that Bustin’ Out for the GBA is an experiment, and I think where it works, it really works. Where it succeeds, it’s a fantastic, more character-driven adaptation of the Sims’ franchise, with clearer, more concrete goals to work towards and a much more satisfying content loop. On the other hand, the way it leads you to Sometimes I just play games that don’t work for me. Everyone has their tastes, nothing wrong with that, but as I’ve played more and more games over the years, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at seeing a game’s pros despite not being too into it personally. It’s a cool game, and I enjoyed the six or so hours I spent with it. I probably will finish it one day, but for now, I’m happy with what I played, flaws and all.

Graphically… the game looks fine. In its main game world, the developers did a good job trying to replicate the uniquely… realistic? I don’t really know how to describe how the original Sims games look, now that I think about it. Anyway, the developers did their best trying to adapt the art direction to a much weaker and much weirder format. I’m just not really into the weird, dating sim conversation screen. The facial expressions of the various Sims are honestly kind of creepy, usually cycling through a few canned expressions that never look anything less than disconcerting. I dunno, I just really hate how the faces look, they drive me insane in a very specific way. Audiowise, I dug this game's vibes; any game that has such chill beats when I’m just wandering the streets at night is great in my book. Conversely, a lot of the music that plays during the character interaction segments have themes that, wonderfully, can only be described as ‘penis music’. I can probably elaborate on that, but I think it’s a lot more informative, and funnier, if I don’t. So I won’t. Just enjoy this selection below.

The Sims’ Bustin’ Out isn’t perfect by any description of the word, but it’s a bold and unique spin on the game that changed PC gaming forever. With a strong identity, well crafted and integrated minigames, unparalleled vibes and a genuinely fantastic gameplay loop, it’s the devil in the details that can bring this game down - little decisions, like the weird conversations, or the frustration in hunting down quest objectives, but they don’t irreversibly mark this little gem of a game. It fits the rare gem of being a game I didn’t quite love playing, but I can still see its rather notable qualities, especially of the time. If you like the Sims, even a little bit, I think this game is worth your time, fitting outside the niche the main games occupy. And if you’re not… Well, if anything I’ve said in this review has worked for you, give it a try!

Thank you so much for reading this review on the Game Boy Abyss. Bustin’ Out is a bit of a turning point for me, since I was kind of obsessed with playing a game through to the end, as long as it was good. That isn’t feasible, and trying that would probably burn me out in months, if not weeks. Anyway, next up will likely be Dynasty Warriors Advance, a franchise that I love dearly, and an entry that has fascinated me ever since I first laid my eyes on it. Look forward to it! As always, you can find me on Twitter @Lemmy7003 , or you can email me at Thanks so much for reading, and I’ll see you next time!