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The Partners

Review by Old Rooster
March 2003

Ally McBeal Meets the Sims

Imagine, if you will, playing "sim god" with 20 lawyers. In your office, manipulation and control of your strange little people will center around relationships, with a heavy emphasis on sex, romance, rivalries, and domination. If you can contemplate such a setting, find a potential for chuckles in this peculiar work world, then you will likely find a good deal of enjoyment in The Partners.

Resembling, but moving well beyond, the framework of The Sims: Hot Date, The Partners is a stand-alone creation from Monte Cristo—the developers of such unmemorable titles as Airline Tycoon, Fire Department and Platoon. Looking very much like The Sims in terms of graphics, character depictions, interactions, and controls, The Partners presents three "campaigns," each with seven scenarios, all set in a particular law office.

Power, Lust, Ambition, Seduction

The Partners is Teen-rated, and appropriately so. Although not venturing as far into The Sims and its expansions as some of my colleagues, I've never found in Sims gameplay the kind of overt, expressive flirting and more obvious interactions as within The Partners. It's pretty seedy, and it is a far cry from Law & Order or CSI, but that isn't to say it's not rather fun! Here's a brief summary of the three presented campaigns.

  • Beauty and the Beast—The firm of Adios and Goodnight is run despotically by an embittered widower. Your goal is simply to increase the prestige of the firm.
  • Don't Cheat on Me—The husband/wife team of Gordon & Gordon heads a firm under a good deal of stress, largely arising from the cheating ways of Mr. Gordon. Your goal is to prevent the misunderstood husband from getting caught!
  • The Infernal Webcam—Sea, Tex and Sun is doing nicely due to the passionate endeavors of Eva Tex, a founder. Using a spying webcam, you must assure that Eva does not fall in love before Easter.

In addition to these campaigns, each including seven scenarios, we find Freeplay, or sandbox mode. This allows the creation of original scenarios where you can decide the frequency and difficulty of lawsuits, the appearance and personalities of your characters, and general relationship modalities.

The Partners presents with fine 3D graphics, much like those of The Sims series, both in its character depiction and animations. The interface is unobtrusive and efficient, allowing, unlike The Sims, rotation within your office areas and a very nice zooming feature using the mouse wheel, if available. Little pop-up menus allow the purchase of 100 pieces of furniture and 70 objects (such as a chocolate rabbit, bottle of beer, and game console), all designed to make the "work" of your lawyers more efficient and often their interactions more lively and saucy! Hundreds of independent and interactive actions can be performed.

Pleasant musical themes are in the background, and "voice acting," except for campaign introductions, is in the now classic "Sim-speak." Indeed, we have one FFC team member who is quite adept at translating Sim-speak, even employing it with her friends! Even when you can't understand it, though, the intent of the speaking character typically is very clear.

As to gameplay, campaign goals are as stated above, with your primary job being to keep everyone on task. With distracting action choices such as "charm," "lick boots," "flirt" and "bicker," you can see how this presents quite a challenge. During a campaign, a number of requests for legal representation will come to your firm, and you do have to choose some of these in order to keep the money flowing. Unfortunately, in spite of the novel and entertaining nature of most of these requests, you really don't follow them through, but rather just have to be sure that assigned staff lawyers stay on the job and aren't pulled away by the likes of Eva Tex or other office seductresses. A surveillance camera is available to help you out. The play, essentially, then is just to maintain through the day and "enjoy the moment" with your daffy staff.

Become a "Managing Partner" for Only $5

Behaving very much like an R-rated Sims expansion pack but independent of that series, The Partners is a silly and entertaining piece of gameplay fluff. There's no adventure here, none of the character building of RPGs, no real-time or turn-based strategies. Rather, much like the Ally McBeal series, The Partners aims to be a distraction from your more "serious" gaming and give you a few laughs. To that end, the game largely succeeds quite well. An effective tutorial gets you up and running, and from the included 21 missions in three campaigns to the enjoyable sandbox mode, The Partners is easy to get into and enjoy. I heartily recommend it, especially for its current low price, if you have any interest in knowing more about or experimenting with a new kind of "lawyer-sim."

What I Liked About The Partners

  • The developer took a chance, with an unusual twist on The Sims.
  • The campaigns, scenarios and free play are quite pleasant.
  • The rotating camera and zoom features are excellent.
  • One has to really stay on top of the silly, sexual interactions.
  • The price—cheaper than an expansion pack.

What I Didn't Like About The Partners

  • The engine (graphics, A.I.) isn't as polished as The Sims's engine.
  • It's existential gameplay-wise; it doesn't really go anywhere.
  • The romance/sexual themes can get a bit old (but I'm also a bit old!).
  • It can take a lot of monitoring to stay on top of developments. The End

The Verdict

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The Lowdown

Developer: Strategy First
Publisher: Monte Cristo
Release Date: September 2002

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
Pentium II 300
64 MB RAM
8X CD-ROM drive
16 MB 3D video card
DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
600 MB free HD space

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