The idea of a tropical rainforest holiday seems like quite a good one at the moment, what with all this cold and snow, courtesy of Siberia. As temperatures across the UK plunge well below freezing and a thick layer of snow covers much of the country, it's the kind of weather where you really want to just curl up in the warm with a cup of tea and a good game. It's a handy coincidence, then, that EA have chosen to now to release its latest expansion for the Sims 4, titled Jungle Adventure, letting us trade blizzards for tropical sunshine, and snow-covered ground for lush rainforests filled with ancient temples and mysteries.
Essentially another mini expansion, Jungle Adventure adds a brand new holiday destination for your Sims to jet off to, much like 2015's Outdoor Retreat - only unlike the camping-themed area added then, Jungle Adventure has a distinctly Mayan/Aztec rainforest-y feel, with a dash of Indiana Jones thrown in for good measure. Taking a trip to Selvadorada, a remote little town surrounded by huge rainforests, you'll be able to venture into the deepest darkest jungle, machete in hand, and go exploring. With ancient baths, secluded spots and even (most excitingly), some hidden temples to explore, complete with puzzles, traps, and long lost treasure - along with a host of Mesoamerican-inspired bars, museums and market stalls for the less adventurous Sims - there's plenty of adventure to get stuck into, and plenty of scope for disaster.
Due to a random hard drive crash a while ago, we've unfortunately lost our little virtual recreation of ourselves, and so for Jungle Adventure we had to make a new
victim, er, Sim. Having clicked the randomiser a few times spent hours carefully crafting our perfect jungle adventurer, we eventually settle on a rather fly looking guy that looks a bit like Craig David in a pink pimp hat - a chap who we christened Papa Smurf, as the most street name we could think of at the time.
As with most of The Sims holiday expansions, Selvadorada has a selection of chalets, villas and holiday homes you can choose from (at several different price points), which you can rent as a base of operations for your time away from home. Lot Traits return too, giving each holiday home its own special feel, whether that's a Romantic Aura, putting Sims in the mood for lurve, Bracing Breezes that boost the effectiveness of exercises, or Creepy Crawlies, which is probably fairly self-explanatory, and one of the main reasons we refuse to visit Australia. Because Papa was a poor, newly-made Sim (albeit with a bit of a motherlode of holiday spending money in his pocket…), we popped him in the cheapest one going, and hit up the local bar, the Cantina "El Arbol del Jaguar" to try and pull some local lucky ladies, and sate his "serial romantic" heart.
And it wasn't too long before the old flirt got lucky. While Fidelina Ortiz' name may bring to mind strange violin-playing men on roofs, in Papa's eyes, she was the one - at least, for now. A quick flirt, a complain about local youths, a whisper seductively and a joke about penguins, and before he knew it, Fidelina was back at his place, staying the night, ready to the Willie to his Indiana. They even had plans to set off on their own jungle adventure bright and early the following day. Unfortunately, though, it seems little Fiddy's had other plans, as her idea of a sleepover involved a lot less sleeping, and a lot more dancing to the stereo and 3AM laps of the pool, before eventually collapsing on the sofa at around 6 - despite the fact there are two separate beds in the house she could have used instead.
Still, Papa wasn't about to let his zonko lover hold him back, and at the crack of dawn, the two were up and ready to go (albeit Papa a lot more so than the still shattered Fidelina). With jungle expedition's being a bit unpredictable, we're pleased that Papa decided to plan ahead, and got to work making himself a little packed dinner before he set out - namely a family sized, eight plate serving of Mac 'N' Cheese, all stashed safely in his pocket. Having heard the jungle is home to all manner of vicious wildlife - poisonous spiders, bats that can set you on fire, flies that like to electrocute you, all the usual suspects - we figured it was best to stop off for some supplies too, buying the local Cantina's market out of spider repellent, fire foam and bat bait in the process, before picking up some ready-to-eat cheese balls and extra machetes for the road. And with that - we were ready to go!
Actually heading up the jungle is a lot easier than you might expect, as all you need to do is fast-travel to the Belomisia Trailhead area of the map, where you'll find a slightly less woody area on the outskirts of the rainforest, equipped with only a few basic amenities - a ramshackle shed that houses a shower and toilet, and that most primitive of cooking appliances, a barbeque grill. But this is also where Jungle Adventure starts to differentiate itself a little from your average Sims expansion, because you (sort of) get to explore the jungle yourself.
Each area has a number of gateways covered in vines, and by cutting through the vines with your machete, you can gradually hack your way through the jungle, discovering all manner of locations - and perhaps even a hidden temple or two - as you go. For us, it ended up being somewhat slow going - perhaps Papa should have realised by the fact Fidelina seems to wear an evening dress everywhere she goes, but all of the hardcore jungle work seemed to fall to him and his machete, as she just looked on, wondering why she'd decided to go to the back end of beyond with a man in a pink pimp hat in the first place. Realising his romantic date was going south (and in the name of journalistic investigation), we decided to put Papa's needs before our own, and couldn't help but notice a new interaction pop up in the menu when we were clicking around - WooHoo in Bush - promptly deciding to test it out in the hope of reclaiming Fidelina's wilting heart. Unfortunately, it obviously wasn't quite as good for her as it was for us, as afterwards she simply walked off into the jungle alone, never to be seen again.
As you move from area to area in the jungle, some random choose-your-own-adventure style pop-ups will see you getting into all kinds of trouble in the wilderness, whether it's accidentally dropping your bag in a patch of quicksand, running into some strangely carnivorous vines, or helping out a poor bedraggled baby capybara. Each incident gives you a number of ways you can choose to solve it, a la a Career-related pop up back home, although each has their own risks associated with it, or requires the use of a particular item you may not have brought with you. For example, when retrieving your bag, you can sacrifice one of your machetes to fish it out, or take the risk of trying to reach in and get it with only your bare hands, with higher logic skills increasing your chances of a good result.
But arguably the biggest draw of the new Jungle Adventure Game Pack is the ability to explore temples, and play at being an adventurer/archaeologist. Unfortunately, by the time Papa had found his way to it (after hacking through many random patches of vines on his way), his bars were all looking a little on the low side, which is where the trusty bush comes in handy. While not exactly comfy, you can choose to nap in them to recharge your energy, as well as 'fertilise' them when your bladder gets too low, hopefully in that order. Hunger can also pose a problem, but thanks to Papa's foresight, he got to sit down to a lovely dinner of expired Mac 'N' Cheese ('N' pocket lint, probably). If your Sim doesn't plan ahead quite as much, you'll be left eating whatever you can find en route - perhaps some freshly picked avocados if you're lucky, or nothing but hunger-induced delirium if not.
So, the temples! Once you eventually find them, inside each catacomb, you'll be faced with a maze of passageways, ancient mechanisms and doorways blocked by forcefields, which you'll need to figure out how to get past if you want to explore deeper. Generally, each can be disabled by working one of the mechanisms you'll find round and about, although figuring out which button to press, lever to pull or pad to stand on requires a fair amount of skill - and luck.
Interacting with the pad/lever/button of your choosing will usually give you four potential options to choose from - and no real way of knowing which option is the right one. If you're feeling lucky, you could simply guess your way through - but with only a 25% chance of getting it right, the odds aren't exactly in your favour. Your other option is to "examine" the switch, which will eliminate a number of wrong answers (although not necessarily all the wrong answers), increasing your chances of guessing right, but at the cost of using up time. This is where things can get a bit more… interesting, as picking the wrong button can set off all manner of traps, perhaps setting your Sim on fire, electrocuting them, or making them pee their pants, because of course.
Interestingly, there's no chance of looking up a guide or anything here either, as every time you return to the temple, it'll be randomly generated afresh, with new traps, puzzles and treasures to discover. One variation we ended up playing through was particularly interesting, as it played into the Sims 4's mood system in quite a clever way.
Faced with a locked door, we were presented with a simple pressure plate to stand on, and a choice of several different ways to leap on - either confidently, flirtatiously, when inspired, or 'with energy'. However, as any Simmer knows, such moods can't be conjured up from thin air. Well, now they can, kind of. Scattered around the jungle are 'Trees of Emotions', whose berries you can harvest and eat to give yourself an instant mood lift, although it's largely pot luck whether you happen to have the correct berry for the puzzle. In our case, we only had the confident berry, and so we simply had to cross our fingers and hope, as Papa strode confidently onto the plate. Luckily the door unlocked - which is good, because a) it led to the treasure, and b) we're not sure Papa's ego could have taken it having been that confident and got it wrong.
As for the treasures, these are pretty cool too, ranging from simple trinkets and statues, to 'blessings' that give you a gift of Simoleans every day, or let you summon a 'Service Skeleton' for a couple of hours, who works much the same as good ol' Bonehilda, everyone's favourite creepy maid.
One mild annoyance is that, even when you've reached the temple, or found your way through the jungle to the baths, or whatever, there's no easy way to fast travel to that location again - instead, you'll start from the beginning of the jungle each time. There's also a bit of a learning curve when it comes to exploring the jungle, just because of how physically demanding it can be on your Sim, with comparatively little resources around to help restore your needs. Sure, there's a bush to sleep/toilet in, but even then they tend to give you negative moodlets for being so uncomfy, and a lack of food can get to be a real problem. Likewise, the myriad of poisonous creatures, electrocuting bats and fire-breathing fireflies all require their own antidotes, sprays and repellents, which can knacker your Sim if you're not too careful (or not stocked up enough) - and as the markets sometimes don't stock every type of repellent, it can even be impossible to be too careful.
A lot more happened between Papa Smurf and Fidelina Ortiz during their week long vacation than we can fit into a single review - there was a touch and go few hours following an encounter with a poisonous scorpion, meeting a friendly skeleton with whom we shared a dance and a joke, and getting hugely depressed when a trap backfired and made Papa cry from sheer loneliness. We also managed to burn down the kitchen in the holiday home, and had to pay 2,700 Simoleans to replace it so we could cook up a batch of flirty cookies to take with us into the jungle (hopefully less perishable than that damn Mac 'n' Cheese we lost). On the plus side, Papa is now well-versed in Selvadoradian culture (a new skill/conversation option), and a budding archaeologist too (another skill), thanks to all the patches of dirt he excavated whilst exploring the jungle. There's a whole host of different furniture and decoration options too, along with new outftits and hairstyles for your Sims which, as per usual, are all inspired by the Mayan-ish tribal theme.
All in all though, The Sims 4: Jungle Adventure Game Pack is an interesting change of pace from the usual daily grind of work and kids, giving you a taste of puzzle-solving and Indiana Jones-style adventure, all wrapped up in the light-hearted, and often times ridiculous, Sims format. Selvadorada is a lot more than just a themed holiday destination, and there's a surprising amount to do and discover out in the jungle, with some areas closed off for subsequent trips to keep you coming back for more. As for Papa Smurf, we can assure you it won't be long until he'll be back, hacking his way through the jungle - he just needs to amass a few more vacation days off work first.