If you haven't heard of The Sims by now then you should probably have your Internet privileges revoked. It was a game in which you micro-managed and babied a family of petulant and unruly jerks, trying to keep them from burning or electrocuting themselves to death long enough to spend the hour it takes to pee. The Sims was fun until you had pretty much explored the limits of the game and got tired of your gibberish-screaming posse of louts and ordered them into the pool for a summary execution. The Sims 2, recently released by Maxis, brings us a much prettier version of the same, with all new and exciting ways to herd or harm your Sims. For the purposes of informing our readers, and because I love nothing more than being a sadist in computer games, I have detailed a week in the life of The Sims 2.

Quite a looker.The extent of the changes in The Sims 2 over its predecessor will become apparent before you have even begun your first game. Before you create your family of soon-to-be-headstones you will select one of the three preloaded towns which the game offers. There is the cheerily generic Pleasantview (a familiar town to anyone who played the original game), Strangetown, a desert landscape full of oddball characters like aliens and hillbilly yokels, and there is Veronaville, ripped from the pages of The Bard for you to find out what sort of damage you can inflict on the romance of Romeo and Juliet. There is also the option to import maps from Sim City 4 to be populated manually - the game includes a handful of stock maps for this purpose as well - but Christ only knows how long doing all that would take.

I decided to set up shop in Veronaville. My logic was that it's good fun to murder various generic Sims in Pleasantville so it should be a whole lot more fun to kill characters from Shakespeare. I entered the gingerbread hamlet of Veronaville and set about the task of creating the family that I would be wedging between the Capulet and Montague clans.

I wanted to be free to spend as little time as possible micro-managing a big baby so I opted for the bachelor approach. My family name was "Flayer" and my lone wolf was a dashing chap by the name of "Marduk the". Thanks to the truly amazing character customization options, which allow you to select from hundreds of facial features for pretty much limitless combinations, I was able to create the man of my dreams. Or nightmares as the case turned out to be. I created Marduk with a recessed nose, a face so thin the cheeks clipped through the polygons of his teeth, gigantic blue eyes, and impossibly elongated facial features. For finishing touches I added a large mustache that stretched out across his face until it resembled a wig for his equine mouth and about five pounds of glittering whore-paint makeup. When I was through Marduk the Flayer looked like a cross between a cartoon horse and a combat knife.

A king needs a castle.After you design the physical features of your Sims you move on to selecting their clothing for various situations. You have a default outfit, a formal outfit, underwear, a bathing suit, and athletic clothes. I decked Marduk out in a dapper red smoking jacket and made sure every other clothing option featured him in the most revealing attire I could select. With that finished I set his attributes and aspiration. Aspirations are new to the Sims and determine the daily goals of your character, think of them as mini-quests by which your Sims can earn reward points and stay happy. I made Marduk a lazy and slovenly Casanova with the romance aspiration. Luckily for him his hideous goddamn face would not factor into the many romances he would try to form.

After creating Marduk I had my run of Veronaville in which to set up shop. The pre-made houses seemed far too conventional for a free spirit like Marduk so I mapped out a plot and moved him in there. Marduk and I both surveyed the empty lot, contemplating what sort of structure, what edifice, would be appropriate for a man of his stature. I knew that the meager resources allotted a starting family would be insufficient so I called upon the shadowy powers of the dark gods to give Marduk the venture capital to establish himself adequately. Then I plunged head-first into the house builder.

Immediately I was disappointed by the lack of support for the non-Euclidian geometry of Marduk's hellishly indescribable home dimension. There would be no 5-D octagulon twisting and distorting in midair for Marduk to return home to after a hard day's work. Instead I began with a protective moat around the property, reinforcing it with a dismayingly small curtain wall which would hopefully keep out enraged mobs. For Marduk's abode I constructed a five story octagonal tower, built from sinister basalt, with all of the amenities necessary on the five internal floors and a fifth rooftop temple dedicated to Marduk's almighty grandfather Eridu. I furnished this with the dead-eyed stares of a cadre of pink-furred Bearlybutts, waiting for the harvest of souls Marduk was soon to reap.

"Oh, yes, I am listening to everything you are saying."No sooner had I turned Marduk loose in his new home than a neighborhood welcoming party arrived demanding his attention. Marduk seemed content to stare in wonder at the telephone on the fourth floor but I ordered him down to greet his guests. The first to greet the Flayer was an elfin (literally) woman named Titania, no doubt summering in Veronaville to escape the dreadful heat of the fairy world. She and Marduk seemed quite taken with one another, but I pressed him to greet the rest of the guests and he seemed similarly taken with the cleavage of a friendly blonde woman.

The visitors headed inside uninvited to waste Marduk's electricity while the Flayer tried to put the moves on the blonde. She was less than receptive, but luckily a passerby caught Marduk's attention. None other than smitten teen Juliet was wandering past the unholy tower of Marduk the Flayer and after an exchange of words they became fast friends. Much to Marduk's consternation romance was not to be found with Juliet, as statutory rape laws in Veronaville appear to be enforced by some sort of brain implant. It would not be unfair to surmise that Marduk, once he realized his predicament, earmarked the fair Juliet for darker pursuits than the so-called "Woohoo".

Since Marduk had dead-ended with Juliet I had him look for a job while he was still outside. According to his aspirations he wanted a job as a slacker and luckily for him the local slacker factory was hiring. After the guests had departed Marduk trained his surgeon's fingers on the piano and dined alone with insect-like efficiency on a TV dinner. Marduk then made the fateful decision to eat a second TV dinner, causing a fire in his oven that required his constant panicky attention. Luckily, a firefighter was summoned automatically by the smoke detector I had thoughtfully installed, sparing Marduk harm but costing him well over two hours of time as he watched enthralled by the fire and the firefighter.

No, the joke is on YOU Kent!By the time the fire had been extinguished and Marduk had calmed down a warning popped up informing me that a car would be arriving for Marduk in an hour. I rushed him to the bathroom to scrub off his accumulated filth just in time for him to finish and hurry down to the waiting car. When he arrived home the following morning he spent his first sleep in Veronaville sprawled across a curb, his eyes so large they would not close, his head lolling madly on the bare concrete.

After recuperating from his disastrous first day Marduk wanted to invite his underage friend Juliet over. Marduk called her and she insisted on bringing over a friend. I believe his name was Kent, although he and Marduk didn't spend much time together on account of Kent and Juliet's interest in playing SSX with each other. While Marduk was scheduling maid and gardening service Kent decided to take a little journey upstairs. I had almost forgotten about him, what with micro-managing Marduk's phone conversations, when I heard a toilet flush. I sprung into action, erecting a brick wall around Kent and the toilet with large observation windows so that Marduk and I could monitor Kent's "progress". I removed the toilet and placed it in an unoccupied area of the bathroom.

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