Like many gamers I fell victim to the fiendish addiction that is The Sims. However, after a reasonably long period (about a month) of thrashing it the addiction was overcome and I haven't touched it since. Now the expansion pack Livin' Large is out and again I felt the urge to start meddling in the lives of little computer people. Would the expansion pack be enough to rekindle a full blown addiction, or would it just be a brief encounter? Ultimately for me it was a brief encounter but those who never gave up tending to the affairs of their Sims will have to have Livin' Large. Read on to find out why.

If you were to sum up the Livin' Large expansion pack in two words those two words would have to be "more stuff". To be fair it would really have to be "a lot more stuff", as there is plenty crammed into the expansion pack, but ultimately it does not change the way the game is played or introduce anything radically new. There is certainly nothing in Livin' Large that is likely to bring those who tired of The Sims back to the game, or attract those who found the concept unappealing in the first place. Fans are likely to do backflips for the expansion though, as it does introduce some nifty new decor and entertaining household items. One change which fans will appreciate is the ability to have up to four neighbourhoods at a time.

The new decor is certainly a lot more wacky than the original game. Your Sims can now settle down in a spooky castle or a '70s style pad (which you can design to look alarmingly similar to some of the Boogie Nights sets). There are also a stack of extra tile sets included that have been available for download at www.thesims.com. This actually takes a little of the sheen off the expansion pack as the extra tile sets provided are not really that much better than the ones that are available for free download. There are also plenty of new nik-naks to brighten up your Sims house. Again these are not a great deal more exciting than the items that have been freely available at www.thesims.com.

To be fair Livin' Large does include some novel items which can make for pretty entertaining situations. For example, Sims can now purchase a telescope and spend their time gazing into the skies to improve their logic skills (that is until they get abducted by aliens and have their personality irreversibly scrambled). Another of these whimsical items is the workbench. How can a workbench be whimsical, I hear you ask. Well if you have a Sim who is mechanically inclined he or she can put their skills to good use on the workbench and create garden gnomes. Yes, that's right...garden gnomes. Revisiting the Boogie Nights theme previously mentioned, a heart-shaped vibrating bed has been introduced for Sims of extremely questionable taste. Finally, if you think your Sim has a tendency to cackle madly and hide away in basements you should buy them the mad scientist lab. This allows your Sims to concoct potions to feed their friends with a variety of effects including invisibility or a personality scramble.

New entities have also been introduced in the forms of a clown, a robot and a genie. The clown will call in on your house if you have his portrait with the intention of cheering up any Sims who may not be feeling that chipper. Unfortunately, I found the clown seemed to do precisely the opposite by visiting at odd hours and depriving my Sims of their well-earned rest. The robot is without a doubt the best of the bunch and if you can afford its hefty price tag is well worth the purchase. This baby does everything. Never again will your Sims have to do anything other than concentrate on their jobs and bettering themselves, as the robot will cook, clean, garden, and even repair for your Sim family. The genie will show up if you purchase the magic lamp item. Like the clown the genie is not the most useful chap to have hanging around your house as he is just as likely to set something on fire as grant a wish.

Five new career paths are also available for your Sims to follow. All this really means is a new set of costumes and slightly different work hours when it comes to how your Sim earns his or her keep. Your Sims can now pursue a career as a hacker, a journalist, a musician, a slacker (!?) or become a practitioner of the paranormal. As with the existing jobs moving up the career ladder requires developing your Sim's particular skills and keeping them in a good mood.

So aside from the new jobs and assorted bits and pieces Livin' Large offers nothing that really expands on the Sims experience. The novelty items are amusing for a short time and do spice up the game to a certain extent, but ultimately Livin' Large should only be a high priority for those who can't live without their Sims.