Just like Molly said when she covered the announcement of The Sims 4 High School Years expansion pack, I don’t exactly look back on my teenage school days with much fondness. For me high school was mostly boredom, getting bullied, and four consecutive years of French lessons that only prepared me to ask for directions to the library should I ever visit Paris.
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On the other hand, after attending a presentation about the High School Years expansion, I have to admit the school looks a lot nicer and the kids seem a lot friendlier than I remember them in real life. Hopefully high school will be more fun to play than it was to experience.
High School Years finally gives teenaged characters in The Sims 4 more to do and new ways to express themselves. Yes, they can attend class (which will raise their skills), take exams, and deal with homework (yuck), but outside of the classroom things get a bit more fun. Students can join the football team or cheerleading squad, or take part in the chess club or the computer club, giving you a basic choice of being a nerd or jock, basically. Socializing with classmates can take place in the cafeteria, hallways, and at a new town pier where there’s a ferris wheel, a tunnel of love, and other rides kids really loved back in, like, the 1950s.
You can skip class, too, but you should be mindful of your grades—screw up or slack off too much and you can get detention, or even get expelled or flunk out, which can leave you locked out of certain brainy post-high school careers. If you fail to graduate you will have the option of completing your high school degree online as an adult, however, so there’s still time to turn things around even if you’re a dropout.
The drama of teen romance is a central feature—you can’t WooHoo, but you can “Mess Around,” which I didn’t see in the presentation but I assume consists of some harmless smooching and hugging. You know, like high school kids do. A new sentiment involves getting a crush on someone, and you can now flirt over the phone via messaging instead of having to be face-to-face with someone which should save on travel time. You can even sneak out of your house at night by climbing through windows, which sounds like a useful skill to develop if you plan to be a burglar as an adult.
As a teen you can also try out some “side-hustles” to make money, which seems a little depressing—can’t kids in games just be kids without having to adopt the rise-and-grind philosophy that hangs over adulthood like an oppressive cloud? At least the teen jobs look fun, and they include becoming a videogame streamer, and more interestingly, a fashion trend-setter. While visiting the new store in town you can create ensemble outfits from the clothing available and put them up for sale, and if they get popular enough you’ll earn money and actually see other kids start to wear your outfits around at school.
I didn’t see the gnome costume I wore in The Sims 4 (until it literally killed me) as a teen clothing option, but as long as there’s some way to convince kids that dressing like idiots will make them popular, I’ll be happy.
The centerpiece of the school year—despite being called High School Years, you only attend for a single year—is prom, and you’ll be able to invite romantic partners or friends by performing a “prom-posal,” that embarrassing trend of holding up a big sign to invite someone instead of simply asking them. (You can also simply ask them). When prom day finally comes, you’ll be able to vote for which kids you think should be prom royalty and then hit the dance floor for some awkward, arms-length slow dances. Ah, the teen years. What an embarrassing nightmare.
And it wouldn’t be The Sims 4 without an occasional untimely death or two. While the expansion steers clear of flat-out bullying at school, you can play pranks on other students, like putting a stink bomb in their locker or trying to summon the infamous “Bloody Mary” by saying her name into a mirror. Most likely nothing will happen except a few laughs, but there’s a chance the victim of a prank may become so terrified they’ll legit die! Prank carefully, fellow kids.
For Sims builders, you can completely rebuild the school and auditorium if you like, and teenagers’ rooms at home will have lots of new features for decoration, design, and other customization. You know the ugly gamer chairs that have taken over the world? They’re in the Sims now, too.
I haven’t gotten hands-on with the expansion pack yet, but it looks fun and there really seems to be a lot to it. It’ll give teenage characters much more to do then simply leave the house, vanish into a void, and then return hours later. There are also some additional features like growable body hair and basic sexual preference options being added to The Sims 4 for free alongside the expansion. The Sims 4 High School Years expansion will cost an eye-watering $40, and launches on July 28.