- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - I knew I’d have issues with “The Sims 4” the moment I realized it wasn’t possible to buy a dishwasher for the fabulous couple I’d created to live their virtual little lives to the fullest in Oasis Springs, one of the game’s two idyllic neighborhoods. The cost wasn’t a concern. I was flush with Simoleons - the game’s goofy currency - from selling their novels and masterpieces in the mail.

It’s that the oh-so-convenient appliance was among dozens of features the developers had left out of the latest edition of Electronic Arts’ virtual dollhouse franchise. Despite crafting Oasis Springs’ next Jackie Collins and Damien Hirst, my couple was resigned to scrubbing their dishes in a sink. It’s at that point I knew “Sims 4” had let me - and Alma and Jimbo - down.

The problem with “The Sims 4” (Electronic Arts, for PC, $59.99) is that after nearly 15 years, “Sims” fans are keenly aware of EA’s business model of later releasing a dozen expansion packs. It’s been a successful formula for the quirky life simulator series, one that now feels cruelly antiquated in the era of downloadable instant gratification.

Despite that monumental deficiency, this “Sims” is remarkably more intuitive at the start. The developers at Maxis have made it easier than ever to get a household up and running by introducing streamlined tools to craft dysfunctional virtual cartoons, as well as build their homes. The controls are totally fluid, whether you want to stretch a Sim’s waistline or living room.

Unlike their predecessors, this breed of smarter, more emotional Sims are able to multitask and strive for various aspirations, ranging from finding a soul mate to becoming a best-selling author. When big aspirations are achieved or more simple whims are fulfilled, Sims are now granted points for much-needed rewards, like the ability to skip meals or get promoted more quickly at work.

It would be awesome - if it all flawlessly worked. In my review copy of “Sims 4,” I ran into many unforgiveable glitches, such as Sim babies resembling Freddy Kruger and Sims awkwardly swapping chairs while gathered around a table. In one instance, a bizarre Rip Van Winkle goof caused all of my neighbors to age faster when I wasn’t controlling them. They later died.

That last bug was enough to drive me to scream Simlish - the game’s goofy language - at my laptop. With such snags and so many features introduced in the previous three entries left out this time, there’s an unshakeable feeling while playing “The Sims 4” that even though the Sims have evolved, something still isn’t quite right about them, and it ain’t just their dishpan hands. Two stars.

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Online:

http://www.thesims.com

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang .