The Urbz is a game that has eluded most of the people I’ve mentioned it to. A weird spin-off of The Sims series, the game found its way to GBA, GameCube, PS2, Xbox, and Nintendo DS in 2004. The sim title turns 18 today, and I’m still amazed at how many people loved it. At some point I stopped playing it.
What also makes The Urbz as bizarre as some other titles in The Sims series is that both the console and handheld games are different. Regardless of which version you played, both versions of the game turn out to be pretty insane. They’re games I look back on fondly, and I don’t know about you, but I miss the days when Maxis released distinct spinoffs in the series. The handheld version of The Sims 2 had one of the most compelling stories of any The Sims title – and let’s not forget The Sims Castaways, MySims, and even The Sims Bustin’ Out.
I mean the soundtrack for the console version of The Urbz is literally the music of The Black Eyed Peas translated to Simlish. The group itself also appeared as guests in the game. As a bored kid with a keen interest in The Sims, did I just happen to play this? I could have sworn the Black Eyed Peas were all the rage when I was a kid…or maybe I had bad taste.
Anyway, what happens in the console version of The Urbz is that the Black Eyed Peas come over and kindly help you gain access to a club. You’re new to Simcity, just fled the nest, and the club decided they didn’t like your dance moves. But that doesn’t matter because the Black Eyed Peas are here. After that, you basically befriend the most popular person in town, Darius, and beat up some bad guys. The rest is history.
If you don’t attend to your Sim’s needs, you end up spending most of your time in The Urbz socializing. You travel through each area of Simcity to meet the respective cliques, tease them into submission (sometimes literally), and impose your friendship on them. Let’s put it this way, Sims in The Urbz don’t seem to care all that much about personal space, and you end up being the life of the party.
Once you’ve befriended every social group and banished three villains who wreaked havoc in the city, it’s no surprise that you love everyone and you’re the new star of SimCity. Darius then hands over the key to his penthouse and that’s it, you made it.
The handheld version of the game was intended to act as a sequel to the GBA release of The Sims Bustin’ Out. Unfortunately, this one didn’t feature The Black Eyed Peas, but you can build a large statue of yourself instead; I would argue that’s just as cool.
The handheld version of The Urbz is a more linear experience in which you follow a much more complicated story about thwarting capitalism and time travel. It’s great, the pixel art style lives on to this day, and I’d still recommend it if you have an NDS or GBA lying around somewhere.
The similarities between the handheld and console versions of the game lie in socializing and popularity, which is an overarching theme in many The Sims titles (with the exception of The Sims Castaways, where socializing is predictably hard to find). While the handheld version’s story is certainly more linear and detailed – and you meet even more unforgettable villains like Urangoo McBain, Kiki Blunt, and Harry Snivel – it’s still about adapting, gaining the Sims’ trust, and befriending them all in this city. You can also swallow swords, dance on a dance mat, and boil enemies’ piss with stink bombs. I wasn’t kidding when I said this game was completely bizarre.
As a result, you fall into a plan to bring down capitalism – through time travel – that most games would probably shy away from. But this is The Urbz, and nothing is too much trouble for a lonely Sim far from home. Ultimately, you’ll become the hero of the town, save Simcity’s King Tower from Daddy Bigbucks, and earn a place of respect in the hearts of every Sim you’ve met. This is where your Sim’s large statue comes into play.
It really shouldn’t surprise you that The Sims series as a whole is a satire of consumer culture. But never is this more evident than in The Urbz. With consumer culture fueled by money and materialism, it’s no surprise that Daddy Bigbucks is attempting to seize power over the city through a real estate takeover. Or when villains like Urangoo McBain steal money and capital from workers. The Urbz actually gives the player a chance to stand up against consumer culture, and it even opens the way for us to also look at societal countercultures and how they work.
Who knew The Urbz would turn into one big sociology lesson? For a spin-off of The Sims series, there’s a lot of The Urbz and all the socializing you need to do to create meaningful social change.
You could take the game with a grain of salt and see it as a crazier, urban take on The Sims 1 & 2. Or you can look at the game through a more sociological lens and see that The Urbz can actually teach us a half-decent lesson about the importance of counterculture and how mainstream society needs it to hold unchallenged social paradigms to account. The Urbz is perhaps an essential glimpse into the world of The Sims – the dirt under your fingernails of a world we don’t get to see in the neatly curated suburbs and commune-utopias of the sequels.
Anyway, The Urbz has to be Maxi’s best version of making a satire out of society. But I’m not sure what the Black Eyed Peas necessarily have to do with it.
https://www.vg247.com/the-urbz-at-18-eas-most-bizarre-spin-off-experiment-may-be-one-of-its-best The Urbz at 18: EA’s most bizarre spin-off experiment might just be one of its best